Pakistan relations with Trump
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Moeed Pirzada|

Donald Trump has finally moved into the White House. Given United States’s role of a global hegemon, in every capital of the world, from Mexico City to Berlin, from Kabul to Tbilisi it is being discussed: What does it mean for us? Pakistanis are thus not alone or exceptional in this intense brainstorming.


And like people elsewhere in the world – Pakistanis also look around at their neighborhood and reflect as to how Trump administration will deal with issues here. While Indian or western press can talk of anything from Haqqani network to ISIS, from Kashmir to Mullah Masood Azhar and from Iran to Saudi Arabia. But cutting all this to bare bones, the real issues are: US stakes in Afghanistan, Indo-US strategic nexus and Pakistan’s developing trade corridor, CPEC.

Being painfully aware of the growing Indo-US nexus of the past one decade, Pakistanis are anxious to know how will Trump and his new administration deal with all these issues.

Since all kinds of opinions have been up in the air, it is important to understand how Donald Trump is – and the America he is set to rule – are now both radically different from almost all presidents and political eras that preceded him, at least from the end of Second World War.

 

 

Trump’s Vision for America? 

To understand Trump’s mind and the motivations of his support base – the people who have elected him and put him in White House – its important to analyse Trump’ inauguration speech, step by step. After the initial formalities he said:

Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves. These are the just and reasonable demands of a righteous public.
But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.
This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.

Inaugural speeches are different from ‘off the cuff comments’; these speeches are written, debated, edited and discussed with key members of the new team. Trump’s speech was immediately  criticized by pundits of all sorts on American media as “too populist” but no one can blame him for diverting from what he promised in his campaign trail. His inauguration speech thus accurately reflects the political position he took to rouse the poor and the lower middle class white voters – people who have rebelled against the traditional political elite and brought him to White House. So, while Obama, Bush and Clintons listened, he continued:

For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished — but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered — but the jobs left, and the factories closed.

The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.

These are not just few isolated lines from his inaugural speech. Most of his speech resonates with these or similar ideas and their extensions. And as we hear him – as I have done, repeatedly, playing forward, pause and rewind buttons – it becomes obvious that he is not merely defining the problem, the domestic American problems, the challenges, he is also offering solutions. And here is a glimpse of those solutions:

“For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military; we’ve defended other nation’s borders while refusing to defend our own; and spent trillions of dollars overseas while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay” 

Woes of Globalization? 

So Trump clearly thinks or at-least telling his supporters and to the whole world that what happened over the years is not necessarily an organic, uncontrolled phenomenon of ‘globalization’, is not an inevitable evolution of industry, technology or capitalist mode of decentralized production, but a failure of the US Presidents, Congress and ruling or corporate elites before him who have somehow abandoned the interests of the common poor Americans for their own profits and comforts.

Read this carefully:

We’ve made other countries rich while the wealth, strength, and confidence of our country has disappeared over the horizon.
One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores, with not even a thought about the millions upon millions of American workers left behind.
The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed across the entire world.

End of Eisenhower and Kennedy Eras? 

While we can endlessly debate the accuracy of Trump’s assumptions, soundness of his world view or understanding of history, but its obvious that Trump sees America very differently from what post-war, post II Word War leaders like Truman, Eisenhower, Dean Acheson, John Foster Dulles or Kennedy had seen- or how Obama and Clinton and many others continued to see: An America with a global hegemonistic role of Wilsonian urges mixed with all kinds of ‘real politick’ (like we have seen since 9/11)

Read more: Indian-American Businessman tells Trump how to deal with Pakistan

America: An Aggrieved Superpower? 

Trump is casting America’s new role in the world as one of an aggrieved superpower, a superpower that has been cheated, bled, exploited by others; his repeated emphasis on making “America great again” means that he and his supporters don’t see America of Eisenhower or Kennedy. They see America’s greatness somewhere in the past and intend to restore it. It sounds like Muslims all across the world who keep on remembering Ottoman period, or Abbasid and Ummayad era glories. True, Trumpians’ grievances could not be identical to Muslims who lost their pride several centuries ago, but their feeling that “moment of greatness has somehow passed or slipping” and that it needs to be restored is clearly palpable.

Trump is not talking of changing the world, not talking of defending the post-war liberal order which United States had erected meticulously – through UN, through Marshall plan, through NATO, through IMF and massive loans to countries like UK – and that was defended, if not in spirit then at least in theory, by every president that followed Truman and Eisenhower. Contrast his speech with the famous words of John F Kennedy in 1960’s that America would:

  “bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

Contrast could not have been more sharper, more radical. If anyone still has any doubts, then kindly read carefully, the following lines: this is how he had concluded his speech.

Together, We will make America strong again.
We will make wealthy again.
We will make America proud again.
We will make America safe again.
And yes, together, we will make America great again. Thank you. God bless you. And God bless America.

Costs of Defending Europe & Japan, NATO, UN, IMF and Wars abroad? 

It should be obvious that Trump, and perhaps the America that elected Mr. Trump has concluded that their America is no longer as strong, as wealthy, as proud and safe as the America of their previous generations. And they somehow want to harken back to that era, reconstruct it and they are not talking of wars, of conquering and punishing other nations. They, speaking through an elected Trump, are talking of domestic reconstruction, of renovation, they are saying that we are no longer willing to bear that burden of spreading democracy, human rights, free trade and so on.

Read more: Trump may cause fresh spike in Pakistan-India tensions

Trump’s America would rather like the world to take its own burdens and relieve America of its over-stretched responsibilities. Trump will expect all the world -especially the allies like Europeans and Japan Germany – to be contributing more to NATO, UN, IMF, Iraq and Afghanistan and for the defense of sea lanes. To what extent and for how long will this President be willing to put up the costs of financing Afghan government budgets or paying for the small but expensive US presence there? These are the kinds of questions that come to mind, while Trump is telling the world:

We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power.
From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land.
From this moment on, it’s going to be America First.
Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.

America, China and India? 

More you listen to him and more you realize that his focus is weak US economy, aging US infrastructure, loss of jobs inside through skilled workers programs like HIB, loss of jobs due to production moving abroad, (iPhones & laptops manufactured in China for US market) closure of factories, airports, bridges and so on; listen carefully:

We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams.
We will build new roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways all across our wonderful nation.
We will get our people off of welfare and back to work — rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor.
We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American.

Going by the popular imagination who are the countries and the regions that have taken away the jobs of American factory workers, standard office jobs? Where US companies have relocated in search of cheap skilled labor and higher profits? If Trump could follow his logic, or may be his rhetoric then he would soon be breathing on to China to reduce its trade deficit with the United States and he will be pressing upon the US companies to sharply reduce their use of H1B visas. (work visas)

read more: How Trump’s Cabinet will view South Asia? Michel Kugelman

Will he will be demanding upon the US companies – banks, insurance companies, hospitals, health providers etc – to bring back the US jobs that have gradually shifted to India in the form of back office services, computations and consulting? Given the composition of his team – with Rex Tillerson and Nick Halley’s etc – that remains to be seen.

Will he will be demanding upon the US companies – banks, insurance companies, hospitals, health providers etc – to bring back the US jobs that have gradually shifted to India in the form of back office services, computations and consulting? Given the composition of his team – with Rex Tillerson and Nick Halley’s etc – that remains to be seen. Admittedly it won’t be easy, because these trade imbalances and job migrations are not conspiracies but deep seated economic models of efficiencies, competitors and profits. But his logic is clear.

Where will India & Pakistan fit into?

Pakistan thus simply does not fit – neither positively nor negatively – into Trump’s larger scheme of things. Obama had once said that the country he most worries about is nuclear Pakistan. That kind of exaggerated sentiment has become the received wisdom to talk about Pakistan. But Trump has a different agenda; he is not a starry eyed idealist; he is not coming from a university or think tank; he is a practical result oriented businessman -and almost 71 years of age. Unless Pakistan is seen disturbing, hurting US interests and creating problems Trump will not be thinking of Pakistan. His plate is full. He is looking for a different kind of legacy.This presents both Pakistan and India and their foreign office, elected governments, military, diasporas and academia with new opportunities and challenges.

Rao Doctrine in mid-nineties stipulated that world must be made to look at Pakistan through the lens of ‘terrorism’ – but India’s need to “fix Pakistan” and “correct history” is old and deep seated.

Rao Doctrine in mid-nineties stipulated that world must be made to look at Pakistan through the lens of ‘terrorism’ – but India’s need to “fix Pakistan” and “correct history” is old and deep seated.

Pakistan is New Delhi’s existential problem since its very creation through division of imperial British India; Pakistan is territory and influence lost to the “Raj”; for Delhi Pakistan is the wrong country; a country that should not have been and a country whose mere existence is a symbol of deep seated inner humiliation for it represents “vivisection” of “mother India”. Strategy of “Isolating Pakistan” is not Narendra Modi’s creation. Its deep seated, its real and has genuine reasons rooted in history.  So Indian political establishment – Modi or no Modi, does not matter – has to find or create issues and popular narrative through which Pakistan has to be defined in American conscious as the problem, “the real problem”. The only thing, that too in a passing manner, which Trump said which provides India with an opportunity to link or import Pakistan in Trump’s defined agenda is:

We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones — and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth.

Remembering the US internal debate of past 18 months, Trump is referring towards the entities like ISIS, various blood thirsty hounds bleeding middle east and attacking European cities; in terms of new allies he is thinking of Russia and not India; he is not thinking of Pakistan or Kashmir. It will now depend upon the ingenuity of Indian strategists to define issues – or create issues – that will bring Pakistan and its agencies in the center of Trump’s concerns on “Islamic terrorism”. Pakistani challenge is to conduct itself in Afghanistan, and within the US, in the circle close to Trump in such a way that it can dispel some of the negativity spun around it, over the past 15 years. Its Pakistan’s opportunity to cultivate a new image. India’s challenge is the opposite; it must exercise its world wide influence and use “innovative ways” and keep defining Pakistan within the ambit of terrorism.


Unfortunately many in Pakistan – especially in country’s media and civil society – still don’t understand that its India’s strategic need that world continues to see Pakistan as the epicenter of terror, of instability and chaos. If Pakistan were to rescue itself from this defined circle then India will be compelled to engage Pakistan on equal terms – something which New Delhi strategists don’t want to do.

 


India has over the past 15 years, since 9/11, gradually built a deep seated, multi-dimensional relationship with the United States. This not only stems from the US need to contain China, and US need to grow profits in foreign markets but also from the presence of very capable and articulate Indian-American community. The fact that Trump team thought of replacing Rahul Verma – the current US Ambassador to India – with Ashley J Tellis, another American Indian testifies to the depth of that relationship.

Trump is referring towards the entities like ISIS, various blood thirsty hounds bleeding middle east and attacking European cities; in terms of new allies he is thinking of Russia and not India; he is not thinking of Pakistan or Kashmir. It will now depend upon the ingenuity of Indian strategists to define issues – or create issues – that will bring Pakistan and its agencies in the center of Trump’s concerns on “Islamic terrorism”.

 

How Trump will interact with Pakistan depends not on Trump’s inherent world view, or his biases towards Muslims or Islam; it will depend upon how Pakistani and Indian circles of influence will put forward their respective cases and how Pakistani government, foreign office and military are able to understand the moment and capitalize upon it. Having said this, unfortunately Indian political establishment and its linked lobbies have far greater understanding of issues and abilities to deal with any international or regional transition than Pakistan.

 

 

Moeed Pirzada is TV Anchor & Editor Strategic Affairs with Dunya News. He is a known columnist and blogger. He tweets at: MoeedNj & his website is: www.moeedpirzda.pk 

Moeed Hasan Pirzada is a Pakistani political commentator, geostrategic analyst, and a television news journalist. He is an anchor at Dunya News and hosts TV programs. He has interviewed many politicians around the world. Moeed Hassan Pirzada has also been a Director World Affairs and Content Head of PTV News and hosted the famous talk show Sochta Pakistan, a program that discussed national, regional, strategic, social and educational issues with politicians, analysts and policy makers. He has worked with Dunya News-TV channel as a Director World Affairs and hosted the current affairs talk show Dunya Today. He has written for Dubai-based regional paper Khaleej Times. His columns have appeared in major Pakistani papers such as Dawn, The News International, Daily Times, Friday Times and blogs. He has attended national and international conferences, seminars and policy workshops and had been a member of the Prime Minister's Education Task Force that collaborated with the British Council to produce the Next Generation Report. He has contributed policy papers to Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) and also written several policy pieces for Pique Magazine. He is an Executive Director of Governance & Policy Advisors (GAPA) that provides consultancy services to the government institutions, development organizations and corporate bodies on issues related to media, governance, health policy, and regional peace.

7 COMMENTS

  1. He is the doctor of conspiracy theories… Not a Pakistan but also in India have a great anchors and so called doctors who have a PhD in imagination.. World knows very well that where in Pakistan the found hafeez saeed, OBL…they r sending state terrorist in Kashmir..making zehadi lab in Kashmir..

      • This whole part is crappy and comes under conspiracy theory. // Pakistan is New Delhi’s existential problem since its very creation through division of imperial British India; Pakistan is territory and influence lost to the “Raj”; for Delhi Pakistan is the wrong country; a country that should not have been and a country whose mere existence is a symbol of deep seated inner humiliation for it represents “vivisection” of “mother India”. Strategy of “Isolating Pakistan” is not Narendra Modi’s creation. Its deep seated, its real and has genuine reasons rooted in history. So Indian political establishment – Modi or no Modi, does not matter – has to find or create issues and popular narrative through which Pakistan has to be defined in American conscious as the problem, “the real problem //

        Mr. Moeed Pirzada, please Read more and more to understand India. It’s India, you can’t understand and pass your sweeping remarks on it. It’s even more complex than whole middle-east. So please take some time and start knowing India. Start reading about it.

  2. This whole part is crappy and comes under conspiracy theory. // Pakistan is New Delhi’s existential problem since its very creation through division of imperial British India; Pakistan is territory and influence lost to the “Raj”; for Delhi Pakistan is the wrong country; a country that should not have been and a country whose mere existence is a symbol of deep seated inner humiliation for it represents “vivisection” of “mother India”. Strategy of “Isolating Pakistan” is not Narendra Modi’s creation. Its deep seated, its real and has genuine reasons rooted in history. So Indian political establishment – Modi or no Modi, does not matter – has to find or create issues and popular narrative through which Pakistan has to be defined in American conscious as the problem, “the real problem //

    Mr. Moeed Pirzada, please Read more and more to understand India. It’s India, you can’t understand and pass your sweeping remarks on it. It’s even more complex than whole middle-east. So please take some time and start knowing India. Start reading about it.

Comments & Discussion