WASHINGTON: In Pakistan, national politics seems to have pushed US elections out of focus while in India President Donald Trump dominates the narrative as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s friend.

These were some of the observations South Asian scholars, social activists and journalists shared during a Webinar in Washington this week. The participants at this Global Beat, Washington, debate also noted how Americans were not even discussing foreign policy issues this election season.

Ms Iqbal said that the Indian media’s “only interests is Mr Trump and his rhetoric resonates.”

“The Indian media are currently centered around Mr Modi’s ideology,” said Saima Iqbal a former BBC journalist who now works for a French media outlet in New Delhi.

“The coverage of the US election in India too is influenced by Mr Modi’s friendship with Mr Trump.”

The media also “continues to talk about “marrying of thoughts between Mr Trump and Mr Modi,” she added.

The Indians, however, did take notice of Kamala Harris’s nomination because her mother was an Indian but quickly moved back to the Trump-Modi friendship, Ms Iqbal said.

Farrukh Pitafi, a Pakistani journalist in Islamabad, said that initially the US election generated some interest in Pakistan but as “our politics heated up, the focus too moved almost entirely to national politics.”

Most Pakistanis believed that both Mr Trump and his Democratic rival Joe Biden had similar views on Pakistan, and so “whoever comes to power, things are going to remain the same,” he added.

Misbah Azam, a Pakistani American scholar, said if Mr Trump was re-elected, the US administration would continue to push for an early withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. Washington would also keep seeking Pakistan’s support for the Afghan peace process, he said.

Azam said that if Kamala Harris got elected, she could uncrease pressure on India to stop human rights violations in Kashmir.

Meriam Sabih, a Pakistani American journalist, said that a Biden-Harris White House would be more interested in strengthening democracy in Pakistan while “a Trump presidency would be more careless on this issue.

She urged Pakistani Americans to focus more on “our issues here” and not to oppose Kamala Harris just because she was an Indian. “This is a terrible thought,” she said.

Fareeha Rehman, another Pakistani American who works for a US news channel, said she was excited that this election there’s a South Asian, Ms Harris, on the ticket. “A lot of South Asians are excited about someone from their own family being there one day,” she said.

Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2020

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