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To be fair to Donald Trump

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Zaheer Bhatti

EVER since making public the contents of the felicitation call made by the Pakistani Prime Minister to Donald Trump over his successful claim to the Oval Office, one has come across several comments criticizing Nawaz Sharif and his media team for a non-diplomatic release of Trump’s blushingly reassuring comments about Pakistan and the Prime Minister’s person during the conversation. Perhaps Mian Sahib got carried away by the unexpected praise showered by the President-elect and thought it was a moment to cash on. The international press also in disbelief derided both the Pakistani news release and Trump’s overt gesture without a State Department briefing. Both may have erred but need to be supported as a sincere exchange. Agreed that perhaps the Pakistani Premier and his media advisors ought to have treated the news release more discretely and be chastised to involve the Foreign Office in future, but going through a rare read out by Trump’s transition team of his one-to-one chat with Nawaz Sharif, reiterating that both had a productive conversation on how the United States and Pakistan will have a strong working relationship in future, one must take the development as a positive one and something to build on. Trump’s desire and willingness during the conversation to help resolve outstanding issues between Pakistan and India has been reinforced by the US Vice President-elect Mike Pence during his ‘Meet the Press’ remarks saying that Donald Trump would be ready to mediate on the Kashmir issue by using his “extraordinary deal-making skills”. This is clearly more reassuring in the context of the core issue of Kashmir bedevilling relations between two nuclear-armed neighbours and rubbishes the Indian attempt as usual to misinterpret and deflect from Trump’s statement about ‘issues’ to mean ‘terrorism’ rather than the Kashmir issue. Knowing the Indian mindset which has been shirking third-party intervention knowing that it is on a weak wicket with the standing UN Resolutions for a plebiscite in Kashmir under UN supervision to determine its future, it will certainly bring up the bogey of terrorism in order to scuttle such an attempt at mediation when made. Pakistan must this time call its bluff by agreeing to also talk about terrorism in addition to Kashmir which was aptly termed its jugular vein by Quaid-i-Azam and whose importance to Pakistan, Modi has himself underscored by threatening to stop Pakistani share of waters flowing out of Muslim majority Kashmir.

Pakistan must pin down India on using riparian lifeline for blackmail adding water to State terrorism in IOK as well as its declared policy and open threats to destabilise Pakistan. Always self-staging events and blaming them on Pakistan, India blatantly indulges in organised State terrorism sending suicide bombers and infiltrators into Karachi and Balochistan through Afghan NDS and TTP’s Mulla Fazlullah from Afghan soil into Balochistan besides using fugitive Brahmdagh Bugti and Altaf Hussain in exile.
Trump must be presented with evidence of the shot-down Indian surveillance drone over Pakistani skies and its submarine caught in Pakistani waters but let off with a warning to avoid escalation. Also requiring to be brought up are the visually documented declarations of Indian civil and military leadership confessing Indian non-acceptance of Pakistan’s very existence by their role in segregating East Pakistan, besides revelations made by Kalbhushan Yadev the active Indian Intelligence officer operating a network in Pakistan, now in Pakistan’s custody. Many like this scribe must have been forced to review their thinking of Trump whose extreme pre-election rhetoric over some issues had raised concern followed by world wide protests including those from amongst the US allies, which was reflected disdainfully by the international media. Entering the Oval Office carries with it the responsibility of a magnitude realized only when crossing electoral barrier.
But to be fair to the man, what is wrong in a Country seeking to pack off illegal immigrants from its soil, or avowing to look inwards for a nationally integrated outlook amid an increasingly discordant America rather than blindly investing in the outside world? Similarly reviewing its security alliances around the globe would be universally welcome as they have thus far brought the US more flak than earned any goodwill leave alone any tangible benefits.
Trump’s call to mend fences with a Russia which it dismembered, points to that direction and there are reason to believe that he may do the same with small yet Sovereign States like Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan which have been made to suffer for the crime of opting for an ally several thousand kilometres away and out of their regional orbit. The US must not forget that it was Pakistan, which broke the ice between it and the People’s Republic of China in the seventies of the last Century.
As part of US review of security alliances Trump must contemplate making amends by gracefully pulling out of the Afghanistan basket case in which it was pumping countless billions of the US taxpayer besides installing India as a proxy, which was compounding the malady by exploiting the warring factions. Trump should instead help reconstruction in the battered country and allow the various Afghan factions to sort out their differences or at best use Pakistan’s traditional religious and cultural proximity and empathy with Afghanistan to negotiate peace for the afflicted people, since Pakistan not only shares a long border with it but had hosted millions of its refugees for over three decades. Pakistan therefore has a stake in peace like no one else.
The erstwhile Soviet Union and the US used different pretexts but the fact is that they have interfered in the affairs of Sovereign States. If there indeed is a change of heart now, the world would like to see both of them pulling out of these countries to let them sort their issues out themselves unless called for help by those governing them, be they Monarchies, Military dictatorships or Democracies. This will discourage those opportunist satellites of the big powers hedging behind them for the achievement of their nefarious designs against smaller neighbours; precisely what India is doing in deflecting world attention from its heinous crimes in Indian held Kashmir by raising the foul bogey of terrorism against Pakistan which it was itself perpetuating.
In doing so however Donald Trump’s America will need to walk a tight rope chastened by its experience of the distant and recent past. My expectation is that Trump’s transition team at first and subsequently its holiest arm of the State Department termed as the Foreign Office which unlike in Pakistan is believed to be the last word on Foreign Policy, will make him realistic and judicious in the days to come. Only if the US retracts from its policy of interference in vulnerable global entities and takes to the Chinese example of non-intervention in the affairs of sovereign states, it can help craft a new world order based on mutual respect and sovereign equality among all nations, where a 7-year old from Aleppo would not have to tweet saying, “when we die keep talking for the 200,000 still alive-bye”.
—The writer is a media professional, member of Pioneering team of PTV and a veteran ex Director Programmes.

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