US forced to backpedal after Biden calls Pakistan ‘one of most dangerous nations’

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The US has emphasised the importance of a “secure and prosperous” Pakistan in an attempt to stave off backlash from the south Asian country after an off-the-cuff remark by president Joe Biden stirred a diplomatic row.

US State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel has said Washington is “confident” of Pakistan’s ability to secure its nuclear assets, just days after Mr Biden referred to Pakistan as “one of the most dangerous nations in the world”, while talking about its nuclear arsenal.

“The US has always viewed a secure and prosperous Pakistan as critical to US interests. And more broadly, the US values our longstanding cooperation with Pakistan,” Mr Patel said at a press briefing on Monday.

“The US is confident of Pakistan’s commitment and its ability to secure its nuclear assets,” he added.

The clarification from the State Department spokesperson comes after Mr Biden’s comments led to Islamabad summoning the US ambassador on Saturday to give him a demarche – a petition or protest presented through diplomatic channels.

Mr Biden had made the remarks at a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reception on Thursday.

“And what I think is maybe one of the most dangerous nations in the world: Pakistan. Nuclear weapons without any cohesion,” Mr Biden said, according to the transcript of the address.

“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,” Mr Biden added.

The statements created an uproar within Pakistan, with the country’s foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari declaring Mr Biden’s remarks as “irresponsible and unsafe”.

“We are fully capable of safeguarding our nuclear weapons and they meet each and every international standard in accordance with the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] as far as security and safety is concerned,” Mr Bhutto Zardari said, according to Geo News.

“Pakistan is adamant about ensuring its integrity and safety. Security questions, if any, should be raised on the nuclear weapons of India, which recently fired a missile into Pakistani territory by accident,” he said.

“This is not only irresponsible and unsafe but raises serious concerns about the safety of nuclear-capable countries. Biden’s remarks came as a surprise. I believe such misunderstandings are a result of a lack of engagement,” the foreign minister was quoted as saying to Geo News.

Mr Bhutto Zardari said he didn’t think the decision to summon the US envoy would negatively affect relations with the US.

“We will make sure our engagements with the US continue in the right direction,” he said.

Former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan said current PM Shehbaz Sharif was responsible for Mr Biden’s statement because it showed the “total failure of the government’s foreign policy”.

The US and Pakistan have had a long history of diplomatic relationship, especially during US operations in Afghanistan. Ties between them have been strained off late, but the two countries continue to cooperate on various issues.