Vice President-elect Joe Biden’s office announced Monday that he’ll take a “fact-finding” trip to Southwest Asia – amid reports in Pakistan that Biden would travel there to discuss India-Pakistan relations.
What’s unusual about the trip is that Biden’s isn’t going as vice-president-elect, but as the outgoing chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. His office didn’t say why.
But it did allude to the unusual nature of Biden’s visit, saying, “The fact-finding delegation will make it clear to foreign leaders that they are not there to speak on behalf of the U.S. government, or convey policy positions for the incoming administration.”
"The purpose of this trip is fact-finding: in the coming months both the executive and legislative branches will carefully review U.S. policy toward this region, and the trip will allow its participants to bring current and first-hand information to these reviews,” the statement said.
A number of Pakistani media outlets have been reporting that Biden will visit there. A Pakistani television station and a couple of newspapers in the region have reported that Biden will meet with President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to discuss the war on terror, India-Pakistan relations and a $15 billion aid package for Islamabad.
Biden’s office said members of the delegation who will join him include: incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry (D-MA) and Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
A source close to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said there have been discussions recently about Biden visiting Pakistan, although the source was not familiar with the reasoning behind the trip.
Biden has pinpointed Pakistan and Afghanistan as top foreign policy concerns for the incoming Obama administration. There is no word whether Biden also would visit Afghanistan, which President-elect Barack Obama has said he will make a top priority.
“[W]e have a situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan that is urgent. It implicates India. It also implicates a whole lot of other very complicated issues,” Biden said in a recent interview on ABC’s “This Week.”
“And so first and foremost I think if you want to talk about immediacy, I think that the Afghanistan-Pakistan track is a very immediate concern where we are in the process of getting down clearly what our priorities are, what our policy need be, from the day we are sworn in,” Biden said.sourcehe's looking tanner than usual