Pak­ista­nis worry - Pres­i­dent Trump may fa­vor ri­val In­dia In­dia may see an op­por­tu­nity to iso­late its neigh­bor

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Don­ald Trump’s sur­prise elec­tion as US pres­i­dent has Pak­ista­nis wary that he may ac­cel­er­ate what they see as a shift in Amer­i­can pol­icy to fa­vor arch­foe In­dia in the long ri­valry be­tween nu­clear-armed neigh­bors, an­a­lysts said yes­ter­day. His­tor­i­cal al­lies in the re­gion, Is­lam­abad and Wash­ing­ton have seen re­la­tions sour over US ac­cu­sa­tions that Pak­istan shel­ters Is­lamist mil­i­tants, a charge Pak­istan de­nies. They hit new lows in May when a US drone killed the leader of the Afghan Tale­ban move­ment on Pak­istani ter­ri­tory.

At the same time, Pak­istan’s ties with tra­di­tional ri­val In­dia have also de­te­ri­o­rated this year, with In­dia say­ing Pak­istan-based mil­i­tants killed 19 of its sol­diers in a Septem­ber at­tack on an army base in the dis­puted Kash­mir re­gion. To many Pak­ista­nis, Trump’s anti-Mus­lim rhetoric he once pro­posed ban­ning Mus­lims en­ter­ing the United States - and busi­ness ties to In­dia are signs that his ad­min­is­tra­tion could shift fur­ther to­ward New Delhi.

“Amer­ica will not aban­don Pak­istan, but def­i­nitely, Trump will be a tougher pres­i­dent than Hil­lary Clin­ton for Pak­istan,” said Hasan Askari Rizvi, La­hore-based for­eign pol­icy an­a­lyst. “I think In­dia will have a bet­ter and smoother in­ter­ac­tion com­pared to Pak­istan.” Trump has yet to lay out a de­tailed pol­icy for South Asia, al­though he re­cently of­fered to me­di­ate be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan in their dis­pute over the di­vided ter­ri­tory of Kash­mir. He also told Fox News in May he would fa­vor keep­ing nearly 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan “be­cause it’s ad­ja­cent and right next to Pak­istan which has nu­clear weapons.”

CON­GRAT­U­LA­TIONS, AS­SUR­ANCES

Yes­ter­day, a US diplo­mat in Pak­istan sought to as­sure the coun­try that Trump’s elec­tion did not sig­nal a dras­tic pol­icy change. “Our for­eign pol­icy is based on na­tional in­ter­est and they don’t change when the govern­ment changes,” Grace Shel­ton, US Con­sul Gen­eral in Karachi, told Geo News tele­vi­sion. Pak­istani Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif con­grat­u­lated Trump. “Your elec­tion is in­deed the tri­umph of the Amer­i­can peo­ple and their en­dur­ing faith in the ideals of democ­racy, free­dom, hu­man rights and free en­ter­prise,” Sharif said in a state­ment.

Still, the un­cer­tainty of a Trump pres­i­dency has many Pak­ista­nis on edge, even if the coun­try has leaned to­wards China in re­cent years for in­vest­ment and diplomatic sup­port. “Trump is a bit of a wild card,” said Sherry Rehman, a Pak­istani se­na­tor and for­mer am­bas­sador to the United States. “Pak­istan ob­vi­ously can­not rule out en­gag­ing with whomever Amer­ica elects, but his anti-Mus­lim rhetoric may cast a shadow on re­la­tions in times of un­cer­tainty.”

In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi also con­grat­u­lated Trump yes­ter­day. “We look for­ward to work­ing with you closely to take In­dia-US bi­lat­eral ties to a new height,” Modi said in a tweet. Trump has part­nered with In­dian busi­ness­men on a hand­ful of real es­tate ven­tures, but apart from court­ing the In­dian-Amer­i­can vote he has not ar­tic­u­lated how he would de­velop the bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship. In­dia-US ties have flour­ished un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and Modi, who came to power in 2014, with the two coun­tries strik­ing key de­fence agree­ments this year.

Modi’s govern­ment has also waged a cam­paign to iso­late Pak­istan diplo­mat­i­cally. Shau­rya Do­val, di­rec­tor of the In­dia Foun­da­tion, a think-tank close to Modi’s govern­ment, called Trump’s elec­tion “a very pos­i­tive de­vel­op­ment”, but added that In­dia and the United States would have con­tin­ued to grow closer un­der a Hil­lary Clin­ton pres­i­dency as well. “My sense is that In­dia-US re­la­tions are not de­pen­dent on in­di­vid­u­als - there are strong in­sti­tu­tions and processes there,” he said. One fringe Hindu na­tion­al­ist group in In­dia held a vic­tory gath­er­ing at New Delhi’s speak­ers’ cor­ner yes­ter­day. “He’s an Amer­i­can na­tion­al­ist. We are In­dian na­tion­al­ists. Only he can un­der­stand us,” Rashmi Gupta of the Hindu Sena, or Hindu Army, told Reuters. “We ex­pect him to sup­port us when it comes to ter­ror­ist at­tacks on In­dia from Pak­istan.”

Afghanistan war

Trump will also have to de­cide whether to main­tain the num­ber of US troops in Afghanistan or change the scope of the mis­sion, 15 years af­ter a US-led cam­paign top­pled the hard­line Is­lamist Tale­ban govern­ment. The United States has spent some $115 bil­lion in aid for Afghanistan since 2002, but the coun­try is still caught in con­flict, with a third of the coun­try out of govern­ment con­trol and thou­sands of Afghan civil­ians, sol­diers and po­lice dy­ing ev­ery year. Afghan of­fi­cials have voiced con­cern that the con­flict is be­ing for­got­ten in Wash­ing­ton, and warned pri­vately that the West will pay a huge price if that con­tin­ues. “The peo­ple of Afghanistan are tired of war. We want (Trump) to in­vest heav­ily in bring­ing peace to war-torn Afghanistan and sta­bi­lize our re­gion,” said Umer Daudzai, for­mer Afghan min­is­ter of in­te­rior.

Obama’s original aim of pulling out of Afghanistan en­tirely has been put on hold in the face of mount­ing gains by Tale­ban mil­i­tants, with US air power and spe­cial forces still reg­u­larly in­volved in com­bat. As re­cently as last week, two US Green Berets were killed near the north­ern city of Kun­duz. Al­though Afghan se­cu­rity forces have been fight­ing largely alone since the end of the main NATO-led com­bat mis­sion in 2014, their per­for­mance has been patchy and they con­tinue to rely heav­ily on US air power. The Tale­ban yes­ter­day urged Trump to with­draw all US troops. “They should not cause dam­age to their econ­omy and their mil­i­tary in this failed war,” Tale­ban spokesman Zabi­hul­lah Mu­jahid said of the Amer­i­can govern­ment in a state­ment. —Reuters

IS­LAM­ABAD: Pak­istani res­i­dent Dr Faiza speaks with an AFP jour­nal­ist about the US elec­tion, in Is­lam­abad yes­ter­day. Don­ald Trump has stunned Amer­ica and the world, rid­ing a wave of pop­ulist re­sent­ment to de­feat Hil­lary Clin­ton in the race to be­come the 45th pres­i­dent of the United States. —AFP

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