In Zia Mohyeddin’s readings of Ghalib’s letters there’s a heartrending one about the wholesale eviction of Muslims from their homes in Delhi by the colonial winners of 1857. Donald Trump is passé.
Moreover, unlike his predecessors, by his own campaign assertions, Trump will be a foreign leader of no integral purpose to the world, including South Asia. Analyse him dispassionately and South Asia would seem among the leading vestigial zones spread across the continents that are less than crucial to anything Trump plans to do in his allotted four years. He is not sending Richard Armitage to the region. Stay blessed.
Trump wants to cancel or change international pacts, both economic and security, which he sees as costly obligations. He wants to stay home in his own version of Brexit. Being a builder, he plans to refurbish his country with more tunnels, flyovers and highways, to use his words, to generate a few extra jobs. All this is predicated, of course, on giving the world the boot. So why is there such commotion as if we have seen a nationalist ogre for the first time?
Trump has problems with China. Are the Chinese showing signs of nervousness? If anything, for better or worse, they have just unveiled a stealth bomber. Let the Pentagon figure that out. An inward-looking America will be good for Sino-Indian rapprochement. Should Sino-US economic ties hit the doldrums under Trump, China has presciently cast its net wide for the contingency, including the trade highway through Pakistan to Africa and beyond.
India should stop worrying about Uttar Pradesh elections and find a way to join the Pakistan-China bonhomie. Imagine Kashmiri carpets in Africa via Gwadar. Imagine leather and tea heading to the vast Central Asian markets via Afghanistan. What has Trump got to do with that?
If the dislike of Trump can turn on South Asia’s rusted faucets of collective struggle we will owe the president-elect a debt of gratitude.
The new president will be inclined to repair relations with Russia. Some of my more knowledgeable friends in the anti-nuclear war camp have seen this with relief. Regardless of its potential to calm things down in the Middle East or Ukraine, is Vladimir Putin jumping with excitement in anticipation of the imminent rendezvous with Trump?
Are the Iranians jittery? Yes, President Rouhani could lose next year’s election if Trump tinkers with the nuclear deal. Interestingly, while the president-elect is hostile to the treaty with Iran, he must be the first American leader in years who didn’t genuflect before the omnipotent American-Israeli club. On the contrary, on occasions, his campaign was dubbed anti-Semitic.
He has problems with the militant Islamic State group and Nato. He should be encouraged to put his foot on the accelerator. One excels in slitting throats and commandeering religion for mass rape; the other threatens to annihilate the world over any untenable ruse.
Trump is particularly paranoid of extremist Muslims of whom there’s a troubling whole lot in Pakistan. Pakistan has to fix it, and we are told the army is doing precisely that already. Where does Trump come into the picture if Pakistan and Afghanistan and Bangladesh among others can do the cleaning up by themselves?
Terrorism needs to be attended to, urgently, doesn’t it? Any help in this regard, even loose change, will go some distance in preventing a future massacre in a Dhaka restaurant, in the streets of Mumbai, in a Sufi shrine in Pakistan. What’s the consternation about? Don’t we need help to fight fanatics who are killing our people?
Trump has problems with African Americans, and also with Mexicans in his country. They will fight him, as they should. But when did Indians or Pakistanis or Bangladeshis join hands with the cause of the blacks, leave alone Mexicans in America? If they feel compelled to join a just fight for any refreshing reason they must go ahead with full force, but that would be against their selfish tradition. The Palestinians have been pummelled perennially regardless of who sat in the White House. Did we lift a finger for the ghettoised inhabitants of the West Bank or Gaza?
If the dislike of Trump can turn on South Asia’s rusted faucets of collective struggle and we join the gathering chorus for justice worldwide we will owe him a debt of gratitude. Remember that when Bush’s ratings were rock bottom everywhere, India defied the pattern by embracing him. There may be a chance here for it to abandon its grocer-like foreign policy of seeking petty advantages.
Strangely, so many of us have started counting the worry beads, unnecessarily pulverised by the Israeli flags at Trump’s victory rallies. It smacks of hypocrisy. Who is fighting Israel — not with worry beads but with their lives on the line? Are they India and Pakistan? Trump ignorantly said: “I love Hindu.” His minders told him he meant India. He looked puzzled but agreed. The question in either case is the same: will his love result in more visas for the techies? Live in hope.
If anything, the Indian prime minister’s ‘Make in India’ distress call is on a head on collision with Trump’s ‘Make in America’ mega project. Craven analysis sees Trump resembling Narendra Modi. Look again. Modi’s campaign was sponsored by a system that owns TV channels. Trump’s election exposed the media pundits and their contrived predictions. Moral of the story: the media is cat’s paw of the system in America as it is now in India. Trump defied the system; Modi was shored up by it.
Trump has made somersaults in his view of the world. He was unhappy with the criminal removal of Saddam and Qadhafi. He saw them as useful sheet anchors against the IS and Al Qaeda. After clearing up the terror mess at home, Pakistan should refurbish the Gaddafi Stadium and invite Trump and Clinton there. She will regret her victory dance at Qadhafi’s gory death. He will thank Qadhafi’s spirit for blessing his victory.
The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.
Published in Dawn November 15th, 2016