Americas are still amidst electoral shock. First post-election Trump-Obama summit showed a grim looking Obama trying to put-up a brave face. Hillary may never recover from the shock, her lifetime ambition stands shattered, with no possibility of a third attempt. In his victory speech, Trump shunned electoral rhetoric and tried to convey a reconciliatory message towards Americans as well as the world community. He has vowed to be the President of all Americans, he would soon begin to walk the talk through balanced statements and overtures. He will, most probably not pursue most of his electoral rhetoric. However, his erratic personality traits could come back in circles to haunt him, his voters, rest of Americans and the World at large.
Though he is beginning with a firm control over both houses of Congress—that has happened for the first time since 1928—his pathological inclination to walk the path of indiscretions may lead to regime change through impeachment or other means towards the end of his first term—his Vice President and dissident Americans would remain hopeful of this distinct possibility. However, if Trump is able to click and tick he may become another Ronald Reagan and accomplish a couple of marvels. It would soon become clears, whether he remains the President of “Trump Towers” or elevates himself to the President of “entire World”. With uncertainties abundant, the entire World is poised the keep the fingers crossed. Alongside rest of the world, Pakistan awaits to see how Trump unfolds his priorities towards Asia-Pacific in general, and South Asia in particular. For Pakistan, while a caution is in order, panic is not called for.
If he chooses to follow a domestically focused policies and displays tendencies to abdicate global commitments and responsibilities, then transition of super power status between the US and China would hasten. Hopefully, he would make a departure from some of erratic foreign policy pattern which became American face—albeit an ugly one—in post 9/11 settings. He would serve the world peace well if he brings Tony Blair’s ‘wrong wars’ to Obama’s ‘responsible end’. He may also do a right thing by restoring a balance between NATO’s mandate, mission and capabilities. We in this part of the world do not expect him to follow a just trajectory for solving Kashmir and Palestine conflicts; even though he may not just forget about these open ended conflict, as Obama did. Candidate Trump promised jobs and new economy—easier said than done. This single failure may trigger frustration driven agitation.
Like the entire World, no one took Trump seriously in Pakistan as well. Here, people overwhelmingly took Hillary’s presidency for granted. While Trump’s policy towards Pakistan and the region would unfold in due course, there is consensus among the government officials, foreign policymakers and independent experts that ‘divorce’ is not an option for either country. Lucky that Pakistani government held back the temptation to jump the Hillary bandwagon; foreign office had welcomed Trump’s offer during the campaign to play his role to diffuse tensions between India and Pakistan.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif promptly felicitated Trump: “Your election is indeed the triumph of the American people and their enduring faith in the ideals of democracy, freedom, human rights and free enterprise”. Immediately after the electoral results, US Consul General in Karachi, Grace Shelton, sought to assure that Trump’s election did not signal a drastic policy change. “Our foreign policy is based on national interest and they don’t change when the government changes.”
Trump too is adjusting to the reality; maybe he wasn’t sure of his victory either. A controversial message pertaining Muslims posted on his website on December 7, 2015 appears to have been removed. Now responsibility of safe steering the US rests with the Republican Party. Trump has often spoken of Republican Party leaders with staggering disdain when they failed to endorse him.
Republicans are known for their softer stance towards Pakistan. However, over the years a bipartisan consensus has evolved focusing on strategic partnership with India and a sort of transactional relationship with Pakistan. Some very important strategic concessions to India, like Agreement 123, and a country specific waiver from Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), were ceded by Bush Junior. And President Obama relentlessly pursued furtherance of these objectives. He bent backward by accepting the provisions of Indian Civil Liability Law, and made reckless effort to make India a permanent member of the NSG.
During the 2016 presidential campaign both parties had identical views about the US relation with India and Pakistan. Trump’s team may take a fresh look at the foreign policy options with regard to Russia and China. In case Trump decides to deescalate anti-Russia rhetoric and slow pace the “Contain China” objective, then it would have positive impact on Pakistan-America relations. If Trump decides to keep Obama like momentum on these two issues, then Pakistan should expect further erosion in relationship. In that case, Trump could easily pick-up the threads from joint Obama-Modi statements that have criticized Pakistan for allegedly providing sanctuaries to terrorists, and reinforce the bogie of nuclear terrorism to malign Pakistan’s nuclear programme.
Trump is not likely to operate under ambiguity, and may follow more transparent approach towards the entire world. Thus, rise of Trump may not, necessarily be a bad thing for Pakistan. Trump has yet to lay out a detailed policy for South Asia, although he recently offered to mediate between India and Pakistan regarding the Kashmir dispute.
Reaction to Trump’s victory, from the European Union, has ranged from cautiously neutral to stun with a German newspaper headlining ‘catastrophe’. There was no diplomatic Plan B in Europe in the event of a Trump win.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on Trump to work towards a Palestinian state. “We are ready to deal with the elected president on the basis of a two-state solution and to establish a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders,” said presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina. Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who also heads hardline Home party said, “Trump’s victory is an opportunity for Israel to immediately retract the notion of a Palestinian state”.
About Afghanistan, Trump had stated that he would favour keeping nearly 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan “because it’s adjacent and right next to Pakistan which has nuclear weapons.” Fifteen years after the invasion, Afghanistan is still caught in conflict. “The people of Afghanistan are tired of war. We want (Trump) to invest heavily in bringing peace to war-torn Afghanistan and stabilize our region,” said Umer Daudzai, former Afghan minister of interior. “They should not cause damage to their economy and their military in this failed war,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also congratulated Trump. “We look forward to working with you closely to take India-US bilateral ties to a new height,” Modi said in a tweet. One Hindu nationalist group in India held a victory gathering. “He’s an American nationalist. We are Indian nationalists. Only he can understand us… “We expect him to support us when it comes to terrorist attacks on India from Pakistan.” said Rashmi Gupta of the Hindu Sena.
There may be no cardinal change in the US policy towards Pakistan, however, Trump administration is likely to be more demanding in the context of war on terror. Pakistan-US cooperation in this domain has often been marred by misgivings and trust deficit. Like America, Pakistan too has its complaints list: lack of acknowledgement of its sacrifices in fight against terrorism and the grievance that the US is tilting the strategic balance in South Asia in favour of India. Pakistan will have to wait and see as the details unfold.