United States President Joe Biden said Pakistan may be “one of the most dangerous nations in the world” as the country has “nuclear weapons without any cohesion”, it emerged on Saturday.
He made the remarks while addressing a Democratic congressional campaign committee reception on Thursday.
A transcript of the address, published on the White House’s website, quoted Biden as saying: “… And what I think is maybe one of the most dangerous nations in the world: Pakistan. Nuclear weapons without any cohesion.”
The US president’s remarks were made in the context of the changing geopolitical situation globally.
He said the world was changing rapidly and countries were rethinking their alliances. “And the truth of the matter is — I genuinely believe this — that the world is looking to us. Not a joke. Even our enemies are looking to us to figure out how we figure this out, what we do.”
There was a lot at stake, Biden said, emphasising that the US had the capacity to lead the world to a place it had never been before.
“Did any of you ever think you’d have a Russian leader, since the Cuban Missile Crisis, threatening the use of tactical nuclear weapons that would — could only kill three, four thousand people and be limited to make a point?
“Did anybody think we’d be in a situation where China is trying to figure out its role relative to Russia and relative to India and relative to Pakistan?”
Talking about his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, the US president termed him as a man who knew what he wanted but had an “enormous” array of problems.
“How do we handle that? How do we handle that relative to what’s going on in Russia? And what I think is maybe one of the most dangerous nations in the world: Pakistan. Nuclear weapons without any cohesion,” Biden said.
A day later on Friday, US Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was questioned about Biden’s comments to which she said that the US president viewed a “secure and prosperous” Pakistan as “critical” to its interests.
She added that there was “nothing new” to his remarks as he had made similar comments before too.
“But, you know, again, he believes in a secure and prosperous Pakistan, and so he believes that’s important to our own interests here in the US,” she reiterated.
Dawn.com has reached out to the Foreign Office for comment.
‘Responsible nuclear state’
Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, in whose administration Pakistan became an atomic power, also weighed in on the matter, saying Pakistan is a responsible nuclear state that is perfectly capable of safeguarding its national interest whilst respecting international law and practices.
“Our nuclear programme is in no way a threat to any country,” he said on Twitter. “Like all independent states, Pakistan reserves the right to protect its autonomy, sovereign statehood and territorial integrity.”
Meanwhile, leaders of the PTI, which has long claimed that the US was behind a regime-change operation against their ousted government, seized on Biden’s comments.
PTI chief Imran Khan said he had two questions regarding the US president’s statement. “On what info has Biden reached this unwarranted conclusion on our nuclear capability when, having been PM, I know we have one of the most secure nuclear command & control systems?
“Unlike the US which has been involved in wars across the world, when has Pakistan shown aggression esp post-nuclearisation,” he asked.
The ex-premier claimed that Biden’s statement showed the “total failure of the imported government’s foreign policy and its claims of a reset of relations with the US”.
“Is this the ‘reset’? This government has broken all records for incompetence,” Imran tweeted, adding that he feared the incumbent government would end up compromising national security
Former human rights minister Shireen Mazari demanded an apology from the US president for his “nasty remarks”.
“A nuclear US is a threat to the world because you have no control over your nukes. B52 bomber takes off with six live nukes in 2007 and no one knows for hours,” she tweeted.
Mazari went on to allege that the US was an “irresponsible superpower with nukes”. “Your proclivity to interfere globally with regime change agendas alongside militarising the oceans. Custodial torture in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram. Even your own people are not safe with gunmen going on killing sprees. Have some shame, Biden.”
In another tweet, the PTI leader also called out the Pakistan Army and “imported government” for choosing to stay silent on “Biden’s tirade”.
PTI general Secretary Asad Umar said that countries in glass houses should think before throwing stones at others.
“Nuclear country without cohesion? Is Biden referring to the US? After all his party is going after Donald Trump for trying to subvert the constitution and steal the last presidential election,” he tweeted.
Meanwhile, ex-minister Fawad Chaudhry demanded that Biden should immediately retract his statement, asserting that Pakistan’s leadership may be weak but its people were not.
At a press conference in the afternoon, Minister for Energy Khurram Dastgir rejected Biden’s statement, calling it “baseless”.
“International agencies have — not once, but several times — verified Pakistan’s atomic deterrence and said that our command and control system is secure. It has all the protection that is required,” he said.
Former Pakistan ambassador to the UN Maleeha Lodhi said that Biden’s statement was “totally gratuitous and unjustified”, adding that the US president needed to be briefed by his officials. “He seems ignorant about the safety/security of Pakistan’s nukes.”
Earlier this week, it emerged that Pakistan, once a key US ally, was not even mentioned in the US National Security Strategy 2022, which identified China as “America’s most consequential geopolitical challenge”.
The 48-page document does mention terrorism and other geo-strategic threats in the South and Central Asian region, but unlike the recent past, it does not name Pakistan as an ally needed to tackle those threats. Pakistan was also absent from the 2021 strategy paper.
In Washington, the omission is seen as reflecting a mutual desire to build a separate US relationship with Pakistan. Islamabad has long complained that the United States views Pakistan only as a tool to counter threats from Afghanistan and other nations.
In recent statements, both US and Pakistani officials emphasised the need to de-link Pakistan from both Afghanistan and India and give it the separate identity it deserves as a nuclear state of more than 220 million people.
US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price had said on Tuesday that the country “value[s] our long-standing cooperation with Pakistan”, adding that there were a number of areas where interests aligned.