United States president-elect Donald Trump has wasted no time in involving himself in the politics of the Indian sub-continent, but his apparent eulogising of Pakistani President Nawaz Sharif and of Pakistan in general, has raised some eyebrows in New Delhi.
When Sharif called in to formally congratulate Trump on his election win, he was unexpectedly showered in praise, Trump telling him he was ready to play “any role desired” to resolve the country’s outstanding problems.
He told the Pakistani President, who he has never met, that he thought him “a terrific guy with a very good reputation who is doing amazing work”; that Pakistan, which he has never visited, was “amazing with tremendous opportunities” and that Pakistanis are “one of the most intelligent people”.
This storm of appreciation was all the more perplexing to analysts across the border in India who had just been digesting Trump’s earlier campaign rhetoric in which he described Pakistan as probably the most dangerous country in the world that only India could keep in check.
“India is the check to Pakistan,” Trump said then. “You have to get India involved...They have their own nukes and have a very powerful army. They seem to be the real check...I think we have to deal very closely with India to deal with [Pakistan].”
With US-India experts trying the make sense of all this, one possibility is that Trump’s suggestion he play “any role desired” to help with Pakistan’s problems might refer to an attempt to help broker a solution over Kashmir, long a thorn in the side of Indo-Pakistan relations. However, another commentator took a more pragmatic line.
“Trump is casting about, saying anything that comes into his head at any one time,” the commentator said. “I would suggest we take everything with a grain of salt until after January 20 when he gets his hands on the leavers of power.
“Then, if he continues to make pronouncements like this, we will really have to start sitting up and listening.”