Reportage from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, the Maldives and Bangladesh.
The Western media has been full of stories about US president-elect Donald Trump’s victory – from reports on his unorthodox campaign and analyses of what happened to disbelief on the results that hardly anyone predicted.
But how did the South Asian media report on the victory of a candidate with a contentious foreign policy?
Tolonews published an article on Thursday titled ‘Question Remains Over What Trump’s Afghan Policy Will Be’. Trump’s victory raised questions, the article said, because Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was reportedly closer to Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton. With her loss, the future of Afghan-US relations remained unclear.
“Some reports indicate that Afghan president Ashraf Ghani had closer ties with the democrats rather than the republicans and even Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta was lobbying to further promote relations between Ghani and the American officials.
The reports say that Ghani was paying $50,000 USD per month to Podesta’s firm.
An article published on the New York Times last year says that Ghani had assigned the Podesta Group to lobby for Afghanistan in the United States.
…But with Trump’s entry in the White House, it is uncertain that these lobbying could continue for Afghanistan in US.”
Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai issued a statement after Trump’s victory, reported Khaama Press. Karzai has often expressed his distrust of the US government’s interventions in Afghanistan. While congratulating Trump, he said: “With respect to the will of the American people for bring political changes, the Afghan people hope that the approach of the country towards the Afghan people and fight against terrorism will change based on the realities and coordination with the demand of the Afghan people.” He also added that Afghan people expected that US interventions would focus on “sanctuaries of terrorism” and lead to an end of the killing of Afghan people.
The News reported the Pakistan foreign office’s offer to mediate on Kashmir:
“”We welcome this. Mr. Trump during his election campaign had said that he would like to play the role of a mediator or arbitrator between India and Pakistan. Mr. Sartaj Aziz also welcomed this offer,” Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakaria remarked during the weekly media briefing here.
However, only time will tell about Trump’s interest in Kashmir because during his election campaign eight years ago President Obama had also talked about addressing the Kashmir issue, but geo-strategic realities cleared his vision and his interest turned to capturing the huge Indian markets and using the Modi government to curb an ambitious China.”
Express Tribune published an opinion piece by People’s Party of Pakistan vice president and former Pakistan ambassador to the US Sherry Rehman. Rahman’s piece looked at the changing nature of American politics and government, and what this could mean for Pakistan.
“Trump’s interest in developing stronger relations with India should not alarm Pakistan, but the China-ambiguity in Washington may deepen into responses the Pak-China relationship does not need.
…Almost all point to hardline positions on South Asia and terrorism, including a dangerously narrow lens through which Pakistan may be filtered. Senator Corker, for instance, heads the Foreign Relations Committee and was a key voice in blocking Pakistan’s F-16s by calling for a special hearing while seeking a terrorist state label for Pakistan.
…Given that any administration in the White House would have a tough time dealing with an anti-Pakistan agenda emanating from an all-Republican Congress, Senate and now judiciary, Islamabad should be working up a plan to stave off a bigger chill from DC than we see today. Any such transition should raise the level of time and focus the Pakistan government has been giving big-ticket foreign policy issues, but so far for Islamabad, engagement with America remains quite boilerplate, pivoting still on old-school tactical diplomacy.
Absent serious foreign policy focus, which stems partly from having no empowered foreign minister, the beleagured government in Pakistan is more than likely to react with more of the strategic muddle-through it has exhibited all term. No forward-planning or substantive action drives key ministries, or a partisan-politics, media-obsessed PM House. Unfortunately for Pakistan, with far-right governments changing the fundamentals of global and local governments all over the world, Islamabad is in no position to meet the head-on challenges of the perfect storm already hanging on its regional skyline.”
On November 10, Express Tribune carried reportage suggesting that Trump’s win may be a “blessing in disguise” for Pakistan.
“Interaction with senior foreign office and security officials suggested that Islamabad may not be that pessimistic about the Trump’s victory.
“I look at it a differently. There may be surprises but they could be positive ones,” a senior official in the Foreign Office remarked when asked to comment on the possible fallout of Trump’s victory on Pak-US ties.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Express Tribune that Trump’s administration may be less intrusive given his priority areas would be domestic issues.
While what policy Trump would have ultimately on Pakistan and the region unfolds in a due course, there is consensus among the government officials, foreign policymakers and independent experts that ‘divorce’ is not an option for either country.”
On November 11, Dawn published an editorial about Pakistan President Nawaz Sharif’s actions after Trump’s election.
“In congratulating Mr Trump on his election victory, Mr Sharif has struck a sensible note: recognising the essential democratic nature of his soon-to-be American counterpart’s victory; noting the long-standing relationship between the two countries; and mentioning the need for the US and Pakistan to work together for the common causes of peace, stability, security and prosperity in this region.
…Complicating that issue are at least two factors. First, there is a government in India that may not only see a natural ally in Mr Trump, but could move quickly to try and cast Pakistan as a common rival of India and the US. Second, Mr Trump’s campaign rhetoric on China and his need to perhaps reassure the world about some policy continuity could translate into a quick embrace of the current Indian government’s priorities.
…However, policymakers here should prepare for both possibilities — that a Trump presidency may seek to positively influence the Pak-India relationship, help defuse regional tensions and possibly nudge India towards addressing the Kashmir dispute, or that it may veer towards seeing Pakistan as a problem rather than part of regional and international solutions.
Vital as the White House may be in steering US policy, the role of Congress should not be disregarded. With Republicans controlling both the House of Representatives and the Senate, Pakistan could be set to face more difficulties there.
The US Congress has in recent years seen a growing hostility towards Pakistan among its ranks and some congressmen have already achieved notoriety with their vocal and visible hostility towards this country. Policymakers and diplomats here may have contributed to the problem with their lack of outreach to Congress, but policy tensions go potentially deeper than simply trying to improve the interfacing between the two sides.
The US is a vital country for Pakistan’s security and prosperity; policymakers here must approach the months and years ahead sensibly and with sensitivity.”
The top story in the Sri Lankan paper Daily Mirror the day after the US election focussed not on the results or the future but on bringing out an old connection Trump had with the country – “America’s President-elect Donald Trump had acted in a film co-produced by the veteran Sri Lankan film-maker Chandran Rutnam along with Bo Derek”. Trump acted in the 1989 film Ghosts Can’t Do It directed by John Derek. “John Derek wrote a scene especially for Donald Trump to play himself in a cameo role. We shot the scene in the board room of the Trump Tower. It was a one-day shoot and a delightful experience,” Chandran said. “But the negative got scratched and we had to do it again. Trump happily agreed,” Chandran told Daily Mirror.
An opinion piece in the same paper by Dinesh Weerakkody dealt not with what Trump would mean for US-Sri Lanka relations but on trying to understand Trump’s victory. “Trump’s victory is a clear message that when disillusioned voters are pushed to the wall they are willing to take a chance to go with an untested leader or even an unconventional person outside the regular establishment to champion the rights of the economically-downtrodden and the hardworking people,” he wrote.
An editorial in Ceylon Today talked about what could be taken away from Trump’s surprising victory – “Don’t ignore the majority!” – and what Sri Lanka could learn from it.
“…the lesson for Colombo from the recent happenings in the West, beginning with ‘Brexit’ and seemingly continuing (not ending), whatever Dohmen may say, though he admitted to the rapid rise of the far right movement in France (which is anti-immigrant) in the last 10 years, is not to be insensitive to the voice of the majority.
It may have been this seeming insensitivity of the Ranil Wickremesinghe Government of 2004, which was then walking a tightrope, policing a fragile ceasefire with the Tamil terrorist leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, while at the same time seemingly ignoring the majoritarian Sinhala fears, a race that comprises 75% of the island’s population, that led to his defeat at that parliamentary poll, despite getting economic indicators, like low inflation, a low interest rate regime, etc., right.”
The Kathmandu Post looked at what Trump’s win would mean for Nepal. The article was not optimistic about what the election results meant for US investments in Nepal. John Narayan Parajuli wrote:
“US’s relative disengagement from global issues may also mean that countries with little strategic value may be put very low on US foreign policy priority. Nepal is already feeling the impact of similar right-wing surge in Europe. Denmark’s right-wing government decided to close it embassy in Nepal by the end of 2017 and is subsequently ending its development support.
So could this result in removal of US preferential trade treatment for countries like Nepal, including reduction in development assistance that Washington provides through USAID and Millennium Corporation Challenge?
“We are still working for President Obama and his administration. He serves as President until January 20, 2017. Until then, it wouldn’t be appropriate to speculate on the policy initiatives of the next administration,” said Ineke Stoneham, spokesperson at the US Embassy in Kathmandu, in an email statement.
The Obama Administration had earmarked $106.6 million for Nepal for this year. The $130 million that the US committed at the June 2015 donor conference for reconstruction has already been provided, according to embassy officials.”
República published an article by Shiwani Neupane, comparing the economic disenchantment in rural US, which pushed Trump to victory, to the with what led ex-Prime Minister K.P. Oli to win.
“What made CPN-UML’s ex- prime minister KP Sharma Oli wasn’t just the anti-India rhetoric. Oli represented the vein of poor, impoverished Nepal, which is the large majority that could not understand the rhetoric of “hill-elite” presented by Madheshi leaders.
…Trump’s victory is quite relevant to us as Nepal as we recently faced a Madhesh andolan where an ethnic group, mostly along the border of Nepal, felt discriminated by the constitution and in-turn supported a border blockade by India as a means of revolt against the state.
…While the scale of isolation with the use of the term “hill-elite” may not be as widespread as the isolation felt by rural America, it is something to be aware of. Trump’s win is sobering to a lot of people, and should be for us too. Most of us must take the lessons seriously, the first being to stop vilifying other people based on categories.
….Not all white people are made of money, nor are all white people racists. The same way, it’s time to recognize the isolation the label “hill-elite” can have on people. Not all people with origins in the hills of Nepal feel privileged. In fact, they may feel more isolated with labels meaning to vilify. It is no surprise that Oli rose to fame during the Madhesh andolan. Rhetoric then was heavily polarized, with one side demonizing the other, sometimes so brutally that it mirrored the rhetoric of hate.”
The Maldives Independent wrote about the Maldivian government’s “happiness and satisfaction” at Trump’s victory. Speaking at a function, the newspaper reported, Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen appreciated Trump’s stance that the US “cannot be the policeman of the world”.
“Every country should be a state with full sovereign power and independence. Someone else shouldn’t spread around the world to police everything we do,” he said.
“So if the president that has been elected now acts in accordance with this policy, the world will become much more peaceful than at present. Otherwise what we have seen so far is that some powerful imperialist has some kind of interest in anything that happens anywhere in the world. But if such powerful imperialists stop policing the world, the people of the world can live the way they want.”
The Dhaka Tribune published two articles on Trump’s victory. An editorial titled ‘A dark day for democracy’ took a strong stand against many things the Trump campaign has been seen to perpetuate.
“In the wake of Trump’s shock election, we are now likely to see the rise of demagogues using xenophobia, bigotry, unapologetic dishonesty, and appeals to the lowest common denominator to come to power, and the consequences for the comity of nations are potentially catastrophic.
We fear that dark days lie ahead for the entire planet and can only hope that the 45th president-elect of the US proves us wrong and our fears unfounded.”
An article by Ibrahim Hossain Ovi looked at US-Bangladesh ties and how they may change under Trump.
“Few can argue that maintaining good trade relations with the incoming Trump administration will be critical for Bangladesh. The US is the single largest destination for Bangladeshi products after the European Union and in the last fiscal year alone, Bangladesh exported US$6.22 billion worth of goods to the USA, of which $5.62 billion came from the ready-made garments (RMG) sector.
…“Bangladesh has to set a new economic diplomacy for better economic ties with the US government for regaining the GSP, as the new government usually is keen to give within first few months,” said Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) President, Abdul Matlub Ahmed.
…Since we are not enjoying duty-free access to the US market, there is nothing to be worried about in the change in the US administration,” Abdul said.
BGMEA Senior Vice President Faruq Hassan, however, said the Republican is better for business and so there would be no negative impact on bilateral trade. “The good thing for Bangladesh is that Trump does not want to sign the Transpacific Partnership, which would really hurt Bangladesh’s export to the US market, leaving us facing tougher competition,” Hassan said.
…Trump will try to boost the US economy but it’s a matter of time to see if there is a positive or negative impact on Bangladesh.”