The travel dilemma

The possibility of being added to the list is a Damoclean threat

Editorial February 03, 2017
US President Donald Trump. PHOTO: REUTERS

Despite not being one of the seven countries on the ‘banned’ list issued by President Trump, the possibility of being added to the list is a Damoclean threat. Whilst the American heartlands, the core vote that saw Trump into the Presidency, cheer his actions to the rafters much of the rest of the world is distinctly glum. Pakistan is in a position that may best be characterised as ‘finely balanced’; and how the government handles relations with the USA in coming weeks and months is going to determine the quality of that relationship for possibly years to come.

The Foreign Office has trod the neutral path and said that it is the right of every country to determine its immigration policy. Indeed it is. Despite threadbare protestations to the contrary by the Trump administration it is difficult to see the visa/refugee ban as directed anywhere other than at the Muslim world, and not only those countries singled out for punishment. Tens of thousands of ordinary Pakistanis travel to and from the USA every year. Unknown numbers hold dual nationality or Green Cards. Another unknown number are at least second-generation Pakistani-Americans. Uncertainty has entered the lives of all these people.

America has concerns about balances as well, and will be weighing the impact of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as well as the Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean. There is nothing for America to gain from disturbing the moves towards economic stability that Pakistan is making, and if Pakistan can stay on-side with the Trump people in terms of being proactive against terrorism and extremism whilst at the same time having a care not to upset the applecart with India — then the other shoe may not drop. Extreme vetting is going to make it no easier to get a US visa, and any Green Card holders thinking of visiting the motherland would be advised to sit tight. A modicum of subtle diplomacy can be made to go a long way.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 4th, 2017.

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