Pakistan’s eloquent Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi needn’t watch enviously as US President Donald Trump gets a lavish welcome in neighbouring India. Our handsome chauffeur PM Imran Khan might be feeling quite dejected too at missing the chance to show off his skill of driving around dignitaries. More so as Trump claimed in Davos that the US and Pakistan have never been as close as they are these days. In the Motera Stadium in Ahmedabad, Trump even announced, “Our relationship with Pakistan is a very good one.”
However, Imran Khan should by now recognise a fellow U-turn maestro. He should know that words are not to be taken as facts and promises are not to be taken seriously. In that way, Imran, Trump and Modi have more than just rigid, radical views in common.
A hug and election campaign
Apart from hating the media that dares to question them, all three are flamboyant leaders who love the sound of their own voice and applause. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the smarter one because he gives very little in actual terms but is more convincing than the other two in making people believe that he is giving them everything. Modi’s bear hug in Ahmedabad as soon as Trump landed Monday was clearly far more persuasive than our Kaptaan’s shy demeanour in his meetings with Trump.
The promise of “10 million people” lining the route from the airport to the stadium in Ahmedabad was enough to lure Trump to a country he only recently stripped of special trade privileges. Besides, if India wishes to spend over Rs 100 crore on campaigning for Trump’s second term in the Oval Office, rather than on the slums of Ahmedabad, he would be a fool not to grab it. Unlike the ungrateful ‘sods’ of Great Britain who make inflatable blimps of Trump when he visits, even though PM Boris Johnson would really like the IMF position for his friend George Osbourne.
Change batting order
But Pakistan might take heart in the fact that a 21-gun salute or millions of people turning up for a glimpse of a visiting dignitary is historically not enough to change policy. Bill Clinton’s good looks and dancing skills or Canada’s PM Justin Trudeau’s full cultural immersion could not achieve what a low-profile visit of George Bush junior did. There is a real lesson to be learnt in the Trump visit to India, that is if Imran is not too busy ensuring Maryam Nawaz Sharif is kept on the exit control list.
To keep America happy, you don’t need to shield the unsightly views of the reality of people living in slums. You don’t need to show off traditional warm hospitality and inaugurate massive stadiums. All the US would really like from both Pakistan and India is to make sure China’s rapid trajectory is kept in check.
I’m hopeful that where the war hero Dwight Eisenhower failed, Trump cannot triumph and that India might want to keep its second-biggest trading partner China even closer now. For Pakistan, it’s decision time too. With the US exit from Afghanistan, we have no hope for peace or for any US aid coming our way. And if Trump’s buddy Imran is too indebted to defrost his stance on the CPEC, perhaps it’s time to change our batting order too.
Out with the old fast-bowling hero and in with the new ‘Shahbaz Speed’ who built a reputation on creating transport infrastructure and not one on driving dignitaries around. Could it be that Trump, sensing this, decided to delay his visit for a time where it becomes clearer who will be behind the steering wheel in Pakistan?
Reham Khan is a journalist, child rights activist, and a single parent. She authored ‘Reham Khan’, an autobiography. Views are personal.