Trump and South Asia

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Uncountable questions surfaced when Donald Trump was elected as 45th president of United States of America. He promised the nation to make America great again by briefing few steps he would take if he would be elected as a President.

One of the most controversial steps was to ban the citizens of few countries to enter the “GREAT AMERICA”. If not, then they would have to face the extreme vetting. Nonetheless, it was a dreadful slogan from Mr Trump and his supporters.

However, the political pundits are more concerned about Trump’s strategies when it comes to South Asian countries. The main question that pops up in everyone’s mind is whether he will maintain the diplomatic relations or not?

Recently, Sajid Tarar, a prominent Pakistani supporter of President-elect Donald Trump, said that Trump administration has no plans to “unfriend” Pakistan but its relations with India will be even closer than of Obama’s administration.

Trump has suggested he would like to see an improvement in relations between Pakistan and India. However, Trump has previously gushed about India, claiming he has a “great love” for the country because he has “so many friends” from there, he said in an interview. In addition,  India would get great benefits from the USA during the tenure of Trump.

China has been a campaign trail punching bag for Trump. He threatened an all-out trade war with Beijing. He has promised to bring the jobs back from China.

Moreover, Beijing has braced for Trump’s blows, at least initially.

“It is possible that in the initial stage of Trump’s presidency, he might bash China to establish authority as a new commander-in-chief.” An editorial in the state-run Global Times newspaper said.

However, Shen Dingli, vice dean of the Institute of International Affairs, Shanghai’s Fudan University, is sceptical that Trump will make good on his campaign rhetoric given the deep ties between the world’s two biggest economies.

“A trade war is inconceivable,” said Shen.

“Trump is a smart person. He said this to get the votes. Once he’s in power, he will continue to be smart and won’t want to hurt his chances to be re-elected.”

Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister has been quick to sense deep shifts in US interests.

He was the first ever Asian leader to meet Mr Trump en route to the APEC summit in Peru when he assured to safeguard the alliance between the US and Japan. The daughter of Mr Trump received the Japanese Prime Minister. He assured him about the certain relationships between the two nations.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte — himself nicknamed the “Trump of the East” — has been similarly admiring the American President-elect. Back in October, Duterte stated that he was seeking a separation from the US, a long-time ally. Nevertheless, following their first conversation, the Filipino leader described Trump as supportive of his anti-drug crackdown, saying he “could sense a good rapport” and “had assured him of our ties to America.”

The most unfortunate event happened on 15 April 2017 when the Trump administration bombed the “Mother of All Bombs (MOAB)” a non-nuclear bomb in Afghanistan. The main target of that bomb was the outskirts of ISIS in Afghanistan. The international news agencies claimed that the bomb killed scores of ISIS fighters. However, the bomb attack was just after a week of U.S. Syria air strikes. President Trump hailed the bomb attack as “Very very Successful”.

The frustrating conclusion is that it is hard to know what the next four years will mean for Southeast Asia with Mr Trump in office. Because Southeast Asia presents few acute security or economic challenges now, the region may be fortunate enough to see business as usual, with career diplomats in ambassadorial positions, trade and investment continuing, military-to-military cooperation as before.

Moreover, the Trump administration should not repeat the mistakes of former President of U.S. George W. Bush. It would be very risky for other countries of South Asia and for U.S. as well.

Hira Ahmed is a student Mass Communication at Karchi University. She tweets at @HiraAhmed20 and can be reached at [email protected]

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