COLUMN: What does Trump mean by finding solutions to ‘outstanding problems’?
NEW YORK: By now, the new normal is to be surprised by President-elect Donald Trump. It’s futile to try second guess some of his tactics, and outbursts. So, it’s hard to fathom what exactly he had in mind when he purportedly lavishly praised the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan and Pakistanis, in a phone conversation the two had.
Pakistan’s Press Information Bureau (PIB), on Wednesday, released the transcript of a conversation between Trump and Sharif, after the latter called to congratulate the former on his win in the presidential elections.
Here’s the text of conversation between Trump and Sharif, according to Pakistan’s PIB:
‘Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif called President-elect USA Donald Trump and felicitated him on his victory. President Trump said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif you have a very good reputation. You are a terrific guy. You are doing amazing work which is visible in every way. I am looking forward to see you soon. As I am talking to you Prime Minister, I feel I am talking to a person I have known for long. Your country is amazing with tremendous opportunities. Pakistanis are one of the most intelligent people. I am ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems. It will be an honor and I will personally do it. Feel free to call me any time even before 20th January that is before I assume my office.
On being invited to visit Pakistan by the Prime Minister, Mr. Trump said that he would love to come to a fantastic country, fantastic place of fantastic people. Please convey to the Pakistani people that they are amazing and all Pakistanis I have known are exceptional people, said Mr. Donald Trump.’
Now, one thing is for sure, before one could even try and analyze some of the rather strange words uttered by Trump, as per Pakistan’s PIB. If there were to be a list of countries to be ranked on the basis of trustworthiness of their PIB, its likely Pakistan and China would be hot contenders for the last spot on that list.
Without calling the government media personnel of Pakistan outright liars, it might be better to call them wily obfuscators of truth. One often sees that cunning display of deception in speeches at world bodies, including the United Nations.
Trump’s spokesman Sean Spicer, however, did confirm that the call took place. He did not comment on the contents of the transcript itself.
It’s also likely that Trump, being the consummate marketer and savvy businessman that he is, in a few minutes of banter has taken into confidence a man like Sharif who is crucial to the war on radical Islamic terrorism, and the gateway for US to make further inroads into eradicating terrorist organizations in Afghanistan.
It’s also possible Trump is now reversing his course of gameplay on how to teach a lesson to his opponents and adversaries.
Unlike how went on to belittle some of his critics in the campaign primaries, including Gov. Nikki Haley and Mitt Romney, and then made friends and loyalists out of them in a flash – which liberals and even conservatives are still reeling from – he might be now inversing the pyramid: offer the hand of friendship and build up confidence, before spanking the bottom hard, with a Muslim registry, which would include Pakistan on the list of countries requiring extreme vetting.
Be as it may, what should worry, or least be of concern, to India, are these lines from that transcript: ‘I am ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems. It will be an honor and I will personally do it.’
The first line of reasoning would be that it’s just Trump being Trump; the star personality with the larger-than-life image, who want to pat Sharif’s head in a fatherly way and assure him that the US will be a messiah for all of beleaguered Pakistan’s misery and problems (read: ‘the US won’t cut off aid for you poor, downtrodden lot as long as you keep your guns trained on those blasted terrorists’).
But if indeed, if Trump did say those words, one could also construe that Trump might intervene in Pakistan’s domestic affairs, including their call for an intervention to the issue of Kashmir. Needless to say, the mere fact that Pakistan’s PIB did not add the word Kashmir in the transcript suggests that the topic did not come up at all in the conversation.
But India should be wary of Trump trying to strike a deal with Pakistan in his zeal to root out terrorism and give in to Sharif’s likely demand down the road that he talk to India on the Kashmir issue. That, if it comes about, would be a diplomatic disaster, and the biggest deal-breaker for India with Trump and his new administration.
India may likely acquiesce to stringent US policies on immigration and protectionism. But if there is one thing that could hurt Indo-US relations the most, it would be the mere talk of Kashmir by Trump.
(Sujeet Rajan is Editor-in-Chief, The American Bazaar. Follow him @SujeetRajan1).