Relations with America have played a part in the fortune or misfortune of Pakistan. Those relations have become less easy to predict — seemingly — since President Trump took office. He has a whimsical approach to foreign policy and is following through on the nationalist promises of the campaign trail. His exclusion of refugees and immigrants from seven mostly-Muslim countries has received considerable support internally from those that voted for him, and the opprobrium of much of the rest of the world. Not-so-veiled inferences that Pakistan might find itself added to the list have fuelled anxiety, but recent reports suggest that a pre-emptive move to protect our diplomatic flank may have paid off.
A month before Trump took office the PM’s special assistant on foreign affairs spent a week in Washington. It was reported that he had been unsuccessful in meeting the Trump team. Not so, it now transpires. The Pakistan delegation did meet with members of the Trump team but was asked to keep the meetings and their details quiet. The special assistant was assured that the new American administration would not resort to any ‘drastic measures’ against Pakistan, the consequence of which was a decidedly cautious response to the executive order — and this from a country that might have been expected to adopt a robustly negative position on it.
Whilst the Interior Minister was condemnatory the ministry that matters in this respect was altogether more measured, and the Foreign Office was careful not to lay any rocks in the road that leads to the bilateral relationship. It is not in our interests to run a-foul of a President who can be capricious, and we note that there are already members of the Trump cabinet that have an acquaintance with Pakistan. In this instance a pre-emptive diplomatic move appears beneficial. These early steps now need to be concretised, because President Trump is going to want to see something in return, his end of the deal. We await developments.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2017.
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