The Pakistan government is believed to have made up a phone conversation between Donald Trump and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Pakistanis may have sugarcoated the tone of the conversation. On Thursday, Pakistani media outlets joyfully proclaimed Trump their country’s friend after the U.S. President-elect allegedly showered the Pakistani PM with compliments during the phone call on Wednesday.
According to details on the call officially released by The Prime Minister’s office in Pakistan, Trump praised Sharif as a “terrific guy” and called Pakistanis “one of the most intelligent people.” Trump’s sugary sweet remarks about Pakistan raised eyebrows all around the world, as the U.S. President-elect previously accused Pakistan of “betrayal and disrespect.”
ValueWalk’s Chief of Operations, Sheeraz Raza, confirmed with Philip Crowther, White House correspondent for France 24 and RFI, that Wednesday’s phone conversation between Trump and Sharif actually had a different tone.
That's an official readout sent to the media by the transition team. It's their official view.
— Philip Crowther (@PhilipinDC) December 1, 2016
In the version sent to the media by Trump’s transition team, it can be seen that the phone call between the two leaders had “a productive conversation about how the United States and Pakistan will have a strong working relationship in the future.”
Here’s the description of the call presented by Trump’s transition team:
Contradictions in the U.S. and Pakistan versions
The readout presented by Trump’s team didn’t mention anything about the U.S. President-elect praising the Pakistani PM as a “terrific guy” with “a very good reputation.” While Trump has never been enthusiastic about partnering with Pakistan and has even accused the nation of “betrayal and disrespect,” it’s rather doubtful that the U.S. President-elect would suddenly praise Sharif for his “very good reputation.”
The Pakistani PM and his family are said to be linked to a corruption scandal after the revelations of the Panama Papers. Sharif’s reputation within the country has also taken a hit lately, as he’s facing uncertainty among the public about his position.
In addition to that, this isn’t the first time Sharif has served as PM of Pakistan, as he was in power in the 1990s before he was ousted in a military coup. Trump, according to the Pakistani government’s version of the call, also offered the Pakistan PM to “play any role that you want me to play.” The phone conversation comes at a time of ever-increasing tensions between nuclear-powered Pakistan and India.
Trump has always been full of surprises, but showering the Pakistani PM with compliments while taking India’s side in their territorial disputes over the Kashmir region would be too surprising and confusing, to say the least.
“I am ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems,” Trump allegedly told Sharif, according to the Pakistani government. “It will be an honor, and I will personally do it.”
Here’s the full summary of the call presented by the Pakistani government:
Terminology used by Trump perfectly suits his style
While Pakistanis claim Trump has promised to help Pakistan solve its problems abroad and praised Sharif for his “very good work which is visible in every way,” the summary from Trump’s transition team only said that the U.S. President-elect “is looking forward to a lasting and strong personal relationship with Prime Minister Sharif.” Expressing interest in having “a strong working relationship in the future” (Trump’s team) is a far cry from promising to “play any role that you want me to play” (Pakistan’s version).
Republicans have been rather unfriendly in their remarks about Pakistan, and the U.S. has been favoring India in its dispute with Pakistan, so such a sudden shift of opinion understandably raised eyebrows in India. As tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbors have risen to a dangerous level, the U.S. has been more friendly towards India while accusing Pakistan of sheltering ISIS militants.
According to the Pakistani government’s version, Trump also said, “as I am talking to you, prime minister, I feel I am talking to a person I have known for long.” Sharif then asked the U.S. President-elect to visit Pakistan, and Trump responded that he “would love to come to a fantastic country, fantastic place of fantastic people.” Trump also called Sharif’s country an “amazing” country with “tremendous opportunities,” according to the Pakistanis.
The terminology allegedly used by Trump (according to Pakistan’s version of the call) actually fits with Trump’s style; he’s a fan of such words as “tremendous,” “fantastic,” “terrific” and “exceptional.” But even Pakistanis changed their tone by the end of the day. Pakistani media outlets reporting on the phone conversation became more circumspect, and people were skeptical that Trump could turn U.S. foreign policy in South Asia upside down within just one phone call.
Trump, who has close business relations with Pakistan’s traditional enemy India may have little experience in politics, but he knows a thing or two about U.S. foreign policy, like that it cannot be changed like that during a phone call.
Is Pakistan sugarcoating the Sharif-Trump call?
Although the U.S. and Pakistan had been allies in South Asia for decades, their relations took a serious turn for the worse when the U.S. claimed Pakistan is responsible for the surge of ISIS militants in the region. Pakistan has strongly denied the accusations, but the U.S. remains more favorable towards India, which has long accused Pakistan of being a terrorist state and urged the world to turn Islamabad into a pariah state.
Trump’s allegedly saying that Pakistanis are “one of the most intelligent people” and calling them “fantastic people” also doesn’t fit with his infamous anti-Muslim comments. During his presidential campaign, Trump said he would ban Muslims from entering the U.S. Trump, who enjoys deeps business relations with India, is expected to keep shifting further towards New Delhi during his presidency.
America’s shift towards India resulted in a significant improvement of their relations. The only problem is that India still has deep economic and military ties with Russia, which remains New Delhi’s key weapons supplier. The U.S. and Russia have locked horns ever since Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea in 2014. But Trump seems to be interested in amending ties with Moscow, as he has previously said that he respects Putin’s leadership values and said he could deal with Russia.
To make things even more confusing, Russia has enjoyed warming relations with Pakistan lately even though the two nations were Cold War-era rivals. Last month, Russia carried out joint military exercises with Islamabad and supplied the nuclear-powered nation with new weaponry.
So which is it? Is the Pakistani government’s version of the call actually true? Or have the Pakistanis sugarcoated the tone of the conversation? If yes, why would they do something like that?
Stay tuned for more updates on ValueWalk!