When Donald Trump was still to become the president-elect, right-wing Hindu nationalists in India and the United States prayed for him. It was understandable because of the similar conservative-nationalist ideology of the two sides and radical Islamic terrorism which has posed a threat to both big democracies of the world. Besides, the common challenge called China has also given the two countries a platform to come closer. In short, everything was looking perfectly set for New Delhi and Washington to take things forward from where President Barack Obama had finished.

Did Trump ruin the South Asian script?

But one telephonic conversation between President-elect Trump and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday (Nov 30) looked to ruin the entire script, especially from India’s point of view. According to a press release by the Pakistani government, Trump praised Sharif and his country through terms like “terrific," “amazing," tremendous," and “intelligent." He also said that he was ready to play any role that Pakistan wanted him to, to find solutions to outstanding problems.

These remarks caused much discomfort in American circles and one can well assume how New Delhi would feel, especially after all the hard work Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi did to reach out to Washington several times even before completing half of his term in office.

Trump, knowingly or unknowingly, certainly didn’t do a favor to the policy that Washington has been pursuing vis-à-vis New Delhi over the last few presidencies. If one goes by Pakistan’s version, Trump spoke like a businessman and not a statesman.

India said it was looking forward to Trump helping Pakistan address the “most outstanding of its outstanding issues”, i.e., terrorism.

A sharp reaction in disguise, showing that India is not really impressed with what Trump said.

Pakistan can't be dealt with in isolation

There are certainly a lot of dangers associated with Trump’s latest flirtation with Pakistan. If the president-elect thought Pakistan was just another country to speak casually to, he made a big blunder.

Pakistan is not a country that can be treated in isolation, whether it's “amazing” or not. Being the next president of the US which has a lot of stake in Afghanistan and India, both of which are disgruntled neighbors of Pakistan, Trump cannot afford to speak as if he is an amateur. This was the same man who had spoken against Pakistan in 2011 and 2012 over the latter "providing safe sanctuary" to the late terror mastermind Osama bin Laden. Didn’t he or his team understand that Pakistan is not a country that the US can take casually, even if it is not doing good politically or economically?

It was perhaps because of this reason that Trump’s team tried to control the damage by saying the president-elect had not used such “flowery language," even if the talks were "productive." But, does such a defense really make any difference?

Will Trump be another Robin Raphel?

Trump’s unthoughtful remarks can easily take the situation back to what it was during the early 1990s. It was seen how the then assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs, Robin Raphel, had helped widen the gap between India and the US, and encouraged elements from across the border to carry out terrorist activities in Kashmir. Today, if Trump makes enough careless and casual remarks about Pakistan, Kashmir, or India, he would be disturbing a sensitive situation already prevailing in the state, it could be a disaster for the entire South Asian region.

There was a lack of clarity in Washington’s policy toward India and Pakistan during Obama’s time as well, but still there was some policy.

In Trump’s time, it seems we are witness to entertainment rather than policy. That, to say the least, could lead to danger.

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