As Prime Minister Imran Khan met President Donald Trump at the White House, positive vibes have emerged from both sides and it is felt that Pakistan succeeded in confidently presenting its case to the Trump administration.
Although a comprehensive assessment of results of this historic meet will take a while, initial reports suggest that the Pakistani politico-military leadership has been able to reset the relationship with the US on a positive trajectory.
Unfortunately, some sections of the Pakistani media, in cohorts with their Indian counterparts, were trying hard to downplay the visit much before the Trump-Khan meet-up. For instance, Indian media made a satire out of Imran Khan not being given protocol and that the Trump administration had called Imran Khan to publicly shun Pakistan, etc.
The opposition parties in Pakistan tried hard to exploit any loose balls tossed by Imran Khan, and their social media teams launched a sinister campaign to scuttle the visit. However, this visit broke many stereotypes and Imran Khan’s charisma dominated the White House and Capitol Hill.
To start with, Khan’s address to the Pakistani American community at Washington’s Capital One Arena conveyed a strong sense of belonging and bondage between the Pakistani diaspora and Pakistani leadership. This became more significant as Trump looks ahead to the 2020 Elections, and the Pakistani-American community displayed political maturity through a display of unity and purpose. The address at the arena also became historic and record breaking as very few foreign leaders have been able to address such a huge crowd of expatriates on American soil.
I had made a humble effort to project the factor of the IK-Trump chemistry in my previous article in this newspaper, where I stated, “President Trump and Imran Khan have some commonalities, both being populist, sincere to their cause but unorthodox. Their chemistry could iron out many crests and troughs in the US-Pakistan relationship.” Looking at the meeting between both the leaders, I can confidently say that this chemistry has worked beyond initial assessment.
Pro-India and anti-Pakistan spoilers and lobbies in the America and Indian press have started a charade of a media offensive against President Trump and Prime Minister Khan. This was already expected and should not be given much attention, as trivia cannot erase hard facts and public statements.
The biggest thing is Trump’s frank views on Afghanistan and Kashmir and his gut feeling about Pakistani people and the US accepting the pivotal role of Pakistan in Afghanistan. The icing on the cake was Trump’s significant disclosure that Narendra Modi had asked him for mediation on Kashmir. The Indian politicos, media and Twitterati are already stupefied and are asking Modi about this faux pause.
The Indian lobby in the US media and some of the politicians started blaming Trump for a possible omission of the K (Kashmir)-Bomb while social media ran a campaign titled #TrumpKashmirLies. Interestingly, they received an immediate rebuke from a Trump aide.
As reported in the Indian press and Huffington Post, Director of the National Economic Council Larry Kudlow was asked by a reporter outside the White House whether Trump fabricated his recent comments on the longstanding Kashmir conflict between India and Pakistan. Larry Kudlow insisted that President Donald Trump “doesn’t make things up”, and that it’s “very rude” to suggest that he does.
While the media may try to miss the forest for a tree, the Pakistan-US relations have taken a positive turn. Major takeaways and upshots can be summarised as follows:
Imran Khan’s confidence at the Capitol Arena, the presser with Trump, address to the US Institute of Peace and meetings with Secretary Pompeo and Nancy Pelosi have been widely appreciated and have paved the way for a new beginning between Pakistan and the US. PM Khan’s Q&A sessions at different occasions have displayed a confident and charismatic leader who knows how to present the case of Pakistan in the international arena.
Meanwhile, the Pakistani politico-military leadership has been able to sell four major narratives: Kashmir needs a permanent solution and South Asia cannot afford a conflict in a nuclearised environment; there was no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and all stakeholders had to sit at that negotiating table; Pakistan has a central position in the region and would make all-out efforts to bring the Afghan Taliban onto the negotiating table for a lasting peace in Afghanistan.
The international community has to acknowledge the sacrifices by Pakistan in men and material – 75,000 killed and $150 billion in financial loss is a big price paid by Pakistan. After Afghanistan, Pakistan, as a nation, is most interested in peace in the region.
Pakistanis are a hardworking community and would like to increase trade with the US. This was acknowledged by President Trump who said that the Pakistan-US trade could increase by 10 to 20 times, while PM Khan stated Pakistan would prefer trade over aid as aid brings in a “dependency syndrome”.
Another major factor that needs to be mentioned is that this tremendous diplomatic success came about through a quiet but resolute role played by the military leadership of both countries. General Bajwa and his team had painstakingly worked with their counterparts at Pentagon to develop the contours of this new relationship.
The apparently silent but critical role played by the top military leadership of Pakistan and their winning strategy has created a conducive environment for the Pakistan-US relations. No wonder the outcome came as a surprise to many critics and Pakistan’s haters.
This visit has also put to rest the disinformation campaign by Pakistan bashers and chaos generators within and outside Pakistan, especially those who have been playing on the Indian tune for far too long. The voice of 30,000 Pakistani-Americans in the Capital One Arena was too loud to be subdued by these distractors and so-called-activists.
While this epoch-making visit will continue to resonate in the international and domestic media, Pakistani politico-military leadership has proved that sustained hard work, good preparation for such visits, and sticking to principles while appreciating the sensitivities of the host can produce great results.
President Trump is a man of his words and a frank negotiator, his “The art of the deal” and unorthodox approach to tackle complex challenges, has shown a new approach in international relations. The chemistry between Trump and Khan has struck many chords and this new orchestra of cordiality between the US and Pakistan is the best recipe for a lasting peace in the region.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 30th, 2019.
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