Why Nawaz-Trump phone call set world media abuzz

Published: December 2, 2016
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ISLAMABAD: Many might have thought it satire initially, but it was not. In a rare development, a telephone conversation between a Pakistani leader and an American one became a headline the world over.

Such was the exchange between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and US President-elect Donald Trump that even the entire western media had to cover it prominently.

Would love to visit ‘fantastic’ Pakistan, says Trump

At the heart of the first-ever telephone contact between Nawaz and Trump is the official readout issued by the Pakistani government. In what can be described as a remarkable and unprecedented conversation, Trump heaped praise on Pakistan and its prime minister.

Telephone conversations between world leaders are usually reported carefully using diplomatic language. But in this case, the Prime Minister’s Office released the transcript showing how Trump was all praise for Pakistan and its people.

It appears that Premier Nawaz was not even expecting such warmth from Trump. His office apparently was so overwhelmed by the ‘flowery language’ purportedly used by the president-elect that it released the official statement in a hurry, only to issue a revised version later after correcting the typos and other mistakes in the first version.

The Trump office, in a separate statement, would not say if the president-elect used all these words. But it did confirm that he had ‘productive conversation’ about how the United States and Pakistan will have a strong working relationship in the future. “President-elect Trump noted that he is looking forward to a lasting and strong personal relationship with Prime Minister Sharif,” it said.

Pakistan’s handling of the telephone conversation, however, was not taken well by the mainstream American media, which insisted that Islamabad breached protocol by releasing the transcript. CNN said readouts of phone calls between world leaders are usually summarised in order to protect leaders from incidental backlash – like the one the Trump team put out. They’re dry and diplomatic statements recapping conversations using carefully chosen buzzwords.

The things Trump has said about Pakistan

And political insiders say the calls themselves are usually quite formal. “A president wouldn’t gush over a foreign leader the way that Donald Trump did. He wouldn’t volunteer to do all these things,” said CNN political analyst David Gergen, who has served as an adviser to four presidents.

But former ambassador Ali Sarwar Naqvi said the Trump office would have contested the Pakistani version if it was not reported accurately. Although Naqvi agreed that normally telephone conversations are not reported like this, he added that a transcript can be released if the discussions are not confidential or the other side has no issue with it.

Trump’s unexpected praise for Pakistan and its prime minister has also attracted attention globally because the president-elect had previously taken a tough stance on some of the policies Islamabad had pursued.

For example in 2011 he tweeted “Get it straight: Pakistan is not our friend” after Osama bin Laden was killed in a secret US raid in Abottabad. “When will Pakistan apologize to us for providing safe sanctuary to Osama Bin Laden for 6 years?! Some ‘ally’,’” he tweeted in 2012.

Trump’s pledge to work closely with Pakistan’s premier will certainly not go down well with India. In October, Trump said the US and India would be ‘best friends’ if he was voted to power.

A Trump Tower in Islamabad?

An American national currently working with an international NGO in Pakistan said Trump had no experience in foreign policy. “I doubt if he is even aware of the complexities of this part of the region. So, his flip flop is not shocking,” the American national told The Express Tribune without being quoted on the record because of the nature of his job doesn’t permit him to do so.

Moeed Yousaf, a Washington-based commentator, described the Trump-Nawaz phone talk as positive development. Moeed said it was too early to assume that US under Trump would be tough on Pakistan and closer to India.

Asked to comment on the unusual telephone talk, Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said Pakistan attaches high importance to its relationship with the US and would like to see it strengthen further.

“We look forward to closely working with the new administration. The president-elect’s intention to visit to Pakistan would be warmly welcomed,” he told reporters here at the weekly news briefing. “Pakistan welcomes Mr Trump’s willingness to play a role in resolving the outstanding issues between Pakistan and India, including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir,” Zakaria further said.

Contrary to public perception, foreign policymakers of Pakistan are not that pessimistic about the future of Pakistan-US ties under the Trump administration.

But, Ambassador Naqvi has a word of caution saying the government must not read too much into the warmth shown by Trump towards Pakistan. “These are still early days and we cannot predict what policies he will ultimately follow,” Naqvi stressed.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2016.

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Reader Comments (16)

  • Faz
    Dec 2, 2016 - 10:00AM

    This is what happens when you have a PM who’s so weak that he needs approval from Trump to show other institutions of Pakistan that he has strong friends. Get it together Pakistan. If Nawaz Sharif was popular in Pakistan, he wouldn’t need acceptance from anyone else. He’s weak and dragging the whole country down.Recommend

  • Pakistani
    Dec 2, 2016 - 10:23AM

    Obviously the PMO did it deliberately to please H.E. Nawaz Sharif. The real and the sad part is that this would have been taken as a ‘stroke of genius’ by the people who came up with us idea and worse, those who approved it. PMLN treats and behaves with the rest of the world the same way, as they treat the country.Recommend

  • Raj - USA
    Dec 2, 2016 - 10:39AM

    I have a different take on this. I do not think that Nawaz Sharif’s office releasing the transcript of what Trump said to Nawaz Sharif was wrong because what Trump said was exceptional, unexpected and totally unexpected of any leader, and if it comes from the person who is going to become the President of USA, it is all the more extra ordinary. I am sure had it been any the PM or President of any other country, even UK, Canada, Germany and also India, they all would have done the same. As Trump’s office has not disowned the statements that Trump has made, Pakistan’s claim that Trump has made these statements should be true. What I do not understand is why Trump said that Nawaz Sharif could call him any time before Jan. 20. What is the significance and why Trump gave this window of opportunity to Nawaz Sharif till Jan 20 only?Recommend

  • Haris
    Dec 2, 2016 - 11:03AM

    Look like when the trump received the actual and the secret briefing that the president of US receives after they are elected, about how important and strategic ally Pakistan is; his opinion is now completely changed.Recommend

  • junglee
    Dec 2, 2016 - 11:34AM

    Well only India is taking notice, judging by the traffic here. The rest of the world has moved on.Recommend

  • Tyggar
    Dec 2, 2016 - 11:36AM

    *But former ambassador Ali Sarwar Naqvi said the Trump office would have contested the Pakistani version if it was not reported accurately.*

    If you put out statements saying that “Trump said Nawaz Sharif is a fantastic guy and Pakistani is a fantastic nation”. Do you think the White house will come back and say “Nawaz is not a fantastic guy and Pakistan is not a fantastic nation”.

    But then your credibility goes down a notch further with the White houseRecommend

  • Raza
    Dec 2, 2016 - 12:45PM

    In my opinion it is high time to realize what President Trump said about Pakistan and we should take it as it is no need to feel embarrassed or elevated. Donald Trump is better than what the media was and is propagating about him. The people of America proved it by electing him. Now this telephone call to Mr. Nawaz asking him to tell Pakistani people about his sentiments about Pakistan and Pakistanis is another good gesture towards a time tested ally, who helped them whenever they need them.

    Actual test for Pakistan will be when Mr. Trump will take office, if he continue to care about his ally then that will be what we wanted.

    If he could help Pakistan and India in resolving the Kashmir issue it will be a great thing. As it is quite clear now, after almost seven decades of independence, that we are unable and incompetent for resolving this or other issue bilaterally. If this has not been the case the issues may have been resolved by now.

    In the end I will say God bless Pakistan and The USA Recommend

  • Omer
    Dec 2, 2016 - 12:47PM

    Y cant Pak tell truth..y pak has to lie and boast for everything…this has only made pakistan laughing stock of the world !Recommend

  • Pakistani
    Dec 2, 2016 - 2:01PM

    This why Pakistanis prefer Marshall laws over democracy. Though Marshall laws is bad itself and haven’t gave anything to the people of Pakistan. But still it’s better than this democracy and this government. Just because of the these so called politician, whole Pakistan are feeling embarrassed.
    Everyday this government issue such statement and very next day other party backs out. It’s just not about this phone call. But overall.Recommend

  • lkhan
    Dec 2, 2016 - 2:19PM

    It is shocking to read what Indians have to write about the conversation between Trump and Pk PM. I who would not vote for either or Modi God forbid, hypothetically speaking, yet must say,Trump’s words of praise are long overdue from the US. Let’s say they are for the 60,000 plus lives of innocent civilians, armed forces, police, and the loss of $100 billion plus to our GDP, fighting the world’s war on terrorism that has changed our nation 180 degrees for the worse, ever since fighting others war in Afghanistan against the Soviet occupation. That he has offered to help solve regional differences is welcome as well.
    As for accusing Pakistanis of being liars and other such slander written in the comments above, I must say one ought to look at themselves before such accusations…. poor souls.Recommend

  • Adil
    Dec 2, 2016 - 2:24PM

    Any positive statement from US is very welcome. Friendly visits to Pakistan by US presidents and US citizens are most welcome from all Pakistanis’ perspective and friendly Pak-US relations would be the best thing if president Trump could somehow arrange that.Recommend

  • Raza
    Dec 2, 2016 - 3:03PM

    @Pakistani:
    Sorry for this instance you are wrong Recommend

  • Raza
    Dec 2, 2016 - 3:05PM

    @Tyggar:
    Be happy do not be Jealous Recommend

  • Raza
    Dec 2, 2016 - 3:08PM

    @Faz:
    Again Wrong dear, I am not his supporter but he has more support than any body else Recommend

  • auginpk
    Dec 3, 2016 - 5:12AM

    We are jealous.Recommend

  • JKhan
    Dec 3, 2016 - 8:24AM

    “Why Nawaz-Trump phone call set world media abuzz”

    Because none could catch what were they talking about! Accent poles apart.Recommend

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