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Why was Trump in a hurry to please Imran?

July 24, 2019 12:14 IST

'Trump's new discovery is that Pakistan and its army are virtually god's gift to mankind.'
'They are required to facilitate a relatively orderly American exit from Afghanistan,' points out Ambassador G Parthasarathy, who served as India's high commissioner to Pakistan.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, centre, flanked by United States President Donald John Trump and his wife Melania Trump. Photograph: Kind courtesy FLOTUS/Twitter

IMAGE: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, centre, flanked by United States President Donald John Trump and his wife Melania Trump. Photograph: Kind courtesy FLOTUS/Twitter

President Donald J Trump claims Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi asked him to intervene and mediate in resolving the Kashmir issue when they met on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka on June 28. This claim has predictably raised shackles in India and ecstasy in Pakistan.

Interestingly, the statement issued after the Osaka meeting, by no less than Trump's favourite child Ivanka, merely spoke of the two leaders discussed issues pertaining to 5G communications and technology and its security implications, apart from Iran and bilateral trade relations.

There were no references at all by Ivanka to any 'revolutionary' offers made by Trump to mediate on the Kashmir issue, allegedly in response to a plea from Prime Minister Modi for such intervention.

Statements issued by both the US state department and the White House after the Trump-Imran Khan meeting on July 22 pointedly made no reference to any offer of mediation on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir.

 

Trump's comments predictably raised hackles in Parliament. There were strong demands for a response personally from the prime minister. Not surprisingly, Mr Modi refused to oblige as his personal relations with his counterparts in major world capitals are important and indeed crucial.

These personal relations need to be handled sensitively, but firmly. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, therefore, voiced the official response to the Trump comments in Parliament. Mr Modi will, no doubt, respond to Trump's outrageous comments at a time, place and manner of his choosing.

Trump's comments, after all, outrageously alleged that Prime Minister Modi had sought his mediation on an issue affecting India's unity and territorial integrity.

Why was Donald Trump in such a hurry to please Imran Khan for whom he had strong words of praise for his qualities of head and heart?

Trump has, after all, in the past, been scathingly critical of Pakistan for hosting Osama bin Laden for years in Abbotabad, a cantonment town near Islamabad. Osama lived in a house located close to Pakistan's military academy.

Imran Khan now claims that if the Pakistan army knew where Osama was hiding, they would have handed him over to the US immediately!!

The reality that drives Trump's behaviour is his domestic agenda of keeping his white, racist, vote bank happy. Trump is now predominantly focused on preparing for the next presidential election on November 3, 2020.

His white supporters, given to hurling abuse at religious and ethnic minorities like Muslims and African Americans, are tired of their 'boys' dying in combat in inhospitable and difficult conditions in a distant Islamic country.

The War in Afghanistan, which commenced after the terrorist attacks on New York, has now lasted nearly 18 years. While some masterminds of the 9/11 terrorist strikes, like bin Laden, have been eliminated, others like Ayman al-Zawahiri are still around, evidently with ISI support, living and moving along the Pakistan/Afghanistan border.

American estimates in 2018 indicate that 2,372 American soldiers have been killed and 25,320 wounded in the Afghanistan conflict which has cost the US exchequer over $2.4 trillion.

Trump's new discovery is that Pakistan and its army are virtually god's gift to mankind. They are required to facilitate a relatively orderly American exit from Afghanistan.

In seeking to achieve this objective, Trump has extensively used the services of an ambitious Afghan American, Zalmay Khalilzad, who has sought to appease the Taliban, by excluding the Afghan government, led by President Ashraf Ghani, from the talks he holds with the Taliban.

Ghani himself assumed office thanks to some deft diplomacy by then US secretary of state John Kerry!!

What we are now heading for in Afghanistan is an American withdrawal, with large tracts of the country under Taliban control. This will inevitably be followed by conflicts between militias backed by different ethnic groups.

China will need to deal with radical Islamist groups who will, for Beijing, hopefully and with some Pakistani assistance, not make common cause with their oppressed fellow Muslims in neighbouring Xinjiang province.

Thanks to its imaginative aid programme, India has won immense goodwill in the minds of the Afghan people.

Pakistan will, nevertheless, move to immediately ensure that the Indian consulates in Jalalabad, Kandahar, Herat and Mazar e Sharif shut down. The Lashkar e Tayiba and Jaish e Mohammed have earlier carried out attacks on our consulates in Jalalabad, Herat and Mazar e Sharif and even on our mission in Kabul.

We will, therefore, have to see how we can manage diplomatically and in terms of security arrangements. One can only hope that the Afghan national army remains firm, disciplined and united.

Ambassador G PARTHASARTHY
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