The recent meeting between US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not gone unnoticed in Pakistan. While chairing a high-level meeting at the Foreign Office convened to discuss Pakistan’s response to this growing cooperation, the Prime Minister oddly suggested that growing ties between the United States and India were not a threat to Pakistan – a contradiction in terms. Either it is serious enough to merit a special meeting or not serious at all. More than that however, the statement reflects that the government is in a state of denial about the changing global scenario, and it is unwilling to leave it.
While it may be reasonable to assume – hope would be the better word here – that saner heads in Washington and career diplomats at the State Department will dissuade the new President on going through with his foreign policy decisions as they have done on other instances, it is delusional to think that these foreign policy positions are not a threat in themselves. President Trump has radically changed positions after meetings with world leaders and has seemed to favour personal relationships with people over principle based policy stances. The meeting with Modi has evidently changed those positions – with Donald Trump parroting the Indian line of “Pakistani terrorism” like no other president has done before.
With the relationship with Afghanistan at an all-time low and the US showing signs of deferring to India in South-Asia, the antagonistic joint statement by Modi and Trump is problematic, and the government needs to recognise it as such.
Wishful thinking must be separated from policy goals and past relationships with the reality of the present. Pakistan has been extremely slow in reacting to the new global alignments, and it’s diplomatic outreach – especially to the new US administration – has been nonexistent.
The irony is that the government seems to be cognisant of that fact. The meeting was convened to remedy this deficiency and the rest of the remarks and directions were aimed at countering the propaganda against Pakistan.
Perhaps it is the lack of a dedicated Foreign Minister or a stale view of the US-Pakistan relationship, but the Prime Minister’s directions coming out of the meeting were uninspired and weak. Bettering our “soft image” and “emphasising our sacrifices in the war on terror” are old strategies that haven’t worked.
What we need from the government is an honest appraisal of the situation and personal leadership from the Prime Minister in line with the gravity of the situation – not reassuring fantasies.