Donald Trump’s transition team on Wednesday issued a bland workman-like readout to counter Pakistan’s gushy account of a conversation between the US president-elect and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, which created ripples on social media.
The two leaders “had a productive conversation about how the US and Pakistan will have a strong working relationship in the future” and Trump was “looking forward to a lasting and strong personal relationship with” Sharif, the transition team said in a rare readout of the president-elect’s conversation with a foreign leader.
The reason for the rare move, said a Trump adviser, was the “flowery” account of Sharif’s phone call to the president-elect to congratulate him on his election that was released by the Pakistani Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday.
And also the reaction at home. Questions were raised about Trump’s understanding of the region and his position on Pakistan, about whom he has been brutally critical in the past. He had tweeted in 2012: “Get it straight: Pakistan is not our friend.”
- Donald Trump has issued a statement after his talks with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif
- A Trump transition team official called Pakistan’s account of the conversation “inappropriate”
- A Trump adviser said Sharif made a customary phone call to the president-elect to congratulate him on his election win
Critics said Trump showed little or no awareness of relations with Pakistan and India. “With one phone call, Donald Trump might have upturned America’s relationship with both Pakistan and India,” said New Republic.
Others described the call “unusual” and “surprising”.
But Pakistan was clearly delighted by the effusive praise it heard from Trump. The foreign ministry said on Thursday it welcomed the fact that Trump called Pakistan “amazing” and its citizens “one of the most intelligent people”.
Though Trump did not mention the Kashmir issue, foreign ministry spokesman Nafees Zakaria said Pakistan would welcome his inputs on resolving the matter.
In his call, Trump had offered to play “any role” Pakistan wanted to resolve the country’s outstanding problems. During an interview with Hindustan Times in October, Trump had offered to act as a mediator between India and Pakistan, but only if both sides asked him to. But the Pakistani readout of the conversation seemed to have committed Trump to more than he meant, sources said, prompting the rare counter.
When Indian external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup was asked about the conversation, he said, “As far as the ‘fantastic’ conversation is concerned, I have seen a bit of a rejoinder from US side.”
India, Swarup said, has noted Trump’s willingness to address Pakistan’s outstanding issues. “We believe that the most outstanding of outstanding issues is Pakistan’s support of cross-border terrorism. India would welcome the US having a dialogue with Pakistan on this support for cross-border terrorism,” he added.
The Trump transition team has only released readouts of calls he had received from Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, but never to counter their account of the conversations. Pakistan was the first to get a it-wasn’t-so response.
According to the Pakistani readout of the conversation, Trump told Sharif “you have a very good reputation. You are a terrific guy. You are doing amazing work which is visible in every way.”
It quoted Trump as saying: “As I am talking to you Prime Minister, I feel I am talking to a person I have known for long. Your country is amazing with tremendous opportunities. Pakistanis are one of the most intelligent people.
“I am ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems.”
On being invited to visit Pakistan, Trump said he would “love to come to a fantastic country, fantastic place of fantastic people”.