By Shaza Arif
After the thunderbolt of Brexit, the world was again taken by surprise on November 8, 2016 when America astonished the world by choosing the billionaire, Donald Trump as their president.
In Pakistan the overall perspective was that Hillary would win the election leaving Trump empty handed. Pakistanis, along with the rest of the world, were stunned to learn about Trump’s victory. Following his victory speech, the billion dollar question in Pakistan was “How will Trump’s policies affect Pakistan?”
Republican’s history with Pakistan has not been constant. Traditionally there have been many ups and down. President Nixon supported Pakistan over India in the 1971 War because it needed Pakistan as back channel for Nixon’s trip to China. In 1990 during the tenure of George H.W. Bush, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited the US, but was given a cold shoulder and was asked to halt the uranium enrichment program.
Two years later, American diplomat Nicholas Platt advised Pakistani leaders that if Pakistan continued to support terrorists in India, “the Secretary of State may find himself required by law to place Pakistan on the state sponsors of terrorism list”.
When it comes to South Asia, Trump’s policies are very ambiguous, but it appears he is very anti-Pakistan and Pro-India. Following the shooting in San Bernardino in California in December 2015, Trump said that he wanted to ban all foreign Muslims from entering the US. He also seems to have a concern for Pakistan’s nuclear program, and has termed Pakistan as a “vital problem” for US, “because they have a thing called nuclear weapons.” He added, “They have to get a better hold of the situation”.
In 2011, NDTV reported that Trump wanted an immediate pull back on aid to Pakistan, unless it did away with nuclear weapons .“They are not friend of ours. (There are) plenty of other terrorists in Pakistan, we know that,” he is reported to have said.
On the other hand, Trump seems to have a very soft corner for India and has repeatedly said that he loves India. “I am a big fan of Hindu and I am a big fan of India ,big, big fan,” said Trump. Moreover Trump praised Indian Prime Minister Narender Modi as a great man, and said he looks forward to deepening diplomatic and military ties with India. Trump wishes to promote trade with India and strengthen the relationships even further by providing them with jobs, scholarships, etc. He intends to make the Indian-American politician Nikki Haley the ambassador of United Nations.
Trump has showed his willingness to mediate the Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan. The adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said, “Trump deserves a Nobel Prize if he resolves the Kashmir dispute”, but his tilt towards India might be an obstacle for the process.
His policies will also be affected by the cabinet he selects, which until now seems to be very hawkish. He is choosing millionaires who have funded his campaign and who were previously loyal to him. He intends to include James Mattis (Mad Dog) as Secretary of Defense who expressed very harsh comments during the Afghan war. “It is quite fun to shoot them, you know. It is hell of a hoot. It is fun to shoot some people,” Mattis is reported to have said.
In view of all the above, considering his love for India and his cabinet picks Pakistan may have to see some tough times in near the future, but Trump cannot do away with Pakistan as Pakistan shares a border with Afghanistan where the US maintains forces. So whether Trump likes it or not the strategic position of Pakistan does not favor Trump. Islamabad reports that in 2013-16 relations have improved between United States and Pakistan, if the same continues or not will largely be determined by Trump’s new policies.