By Spy Uganda Correspondent
A barely-noticed comment by President Joe Biden at a fundraising event describing Pakistan as one of the most dangerous countries in the world triggered a diplomatic spat on Saturday, when the nation’s foreign minister summoned the U.S. ambassador for a dressing down.
Biden’s description ruffled feathers in a country that considers itself a staunch ally of the U.S., giving tens of thousands of lives in the war on terror.
But it is a reminder of the fragile relations between Washington and a nuclear-armed nation that has been accused by successive administrations of harboring the Taliban.
It began with comments made by Biden on Thursday evening.
In front of a select group of donors in Brentwood, a well-heeled neighborhood of Los Angeles, Biden turned his focus to foreign policy.
As he discussed threats facing the U.S., Biden described Pakistan as one of the most dangerous countries in the world, adding that it had ‘nuclear weapons without any cohesion.’
The event was not public. And the mention was buried in a pool report sent to journalists who cover the White House. It initially made few waves outside the foreign policy world.
But commentators said it was strange that Biden would bring up Pakistan like that when it had not even merited a mention in a new national security strategy unveiled during the week.
At a press conference on Saturday, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said he was surprised and that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal was secure.
‘As far as the question of the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear assets are concerned, we meet all – each and every – international standard in accordance with the IAEA,” he said, referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors safety.
He instead pointed the finger at India, which he said had accidentally fired a missile into Pakistani territory.
“‘This is not only irresponsible and unsafe but raises genuine and serious concerns about the safety of nuclear-capable countries,’ he said.
He added that Biden’s comments were exactly the sort of misunderstanding that could happen when the two countries were not communicating.