Trump, the negotiator

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Trump, the negotiator

Wednesday, 11 September 2019 | Pioneer

Trump, the negotiator

For a man who says he is a master of deals, US President Donald Trump seems rather desperate this time

Every American President wants to leave his/her mark on modern world history, usually by altering global politics for better or worse. Some do it with economic policy, others militarily. Yet others want negotiated settlements to troublespots in and around the world, which has been the preferred method in the recent past. Usually, each administration builds on the work done by its predecessor as is the code of statecraft. However, that is something that modern political leaders, built up by social media gimmicks and rhetorical ramblings, seem to have lost. Many politicians, particularly the current US President, Donald Trump, have been elected on the express promise of undoing the work done by their predecessors. So he promptly ripped up the US-Iran nuclear deal, tried to banish former US President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare policy, ‘Obamacare’, and rendered asunder the global trade system.

But that does not mean Trump wouldn’t want to be remembered in history. One could safely argue that he is desperate for a deal. His attempts to win over Kim Jong-un have been rather epic but ultimately fruitless. He has sent his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who understands more about real estate than he does about much else, to deal with the Middle-East. One result has been the shifting of the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, upsetting the long-standing status quo. Trump also wants to dip his fingers into the India-Pakistan muddle, something the Americans have wisely steered clear of for decades. Maybe he was persuaded by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to do something but his desperation to be remembered as a “dealmaker” is leading him to make some really bad calls such as his ill-thought out strategies in Syria and Afghanistan. In the latter, he wants to make a deal with the Taliban. He even called its leaders to the US the week of September 11, the terrorist attack that has defined that country’s modern history and one that almost certainly was orchestrated with the support of the Taliban. The terror outfit should be remembered for what it is — a morally and ethically corrupt group of bandits. Trump’s dealings with the Taliban were deeply worrying for India and almost certainly played a part in the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir as there was a fear that the Pakistani establishment, having tasted blood in Kabul, would want to do the same in Kashmir. Thankfully, even some of Trump’s sycophants have called him out for his crazy dealings and the Taliban leaders, themselves no masters in statecraft, thought they could come to the bargaining table after having attacked American interests. Of course, some observers believe that the move to cancel peace talks with the Taliban could be a tactical one, with the US President probably trying to get more for the Afghan government. These experts also pointed to the US-North Korea engagement where he cancelled talks with Kim Jong-un only to reschedule them days later. Reports say Trump is isolated in his quest for a withdrawal deal, with senior peers opposed to it. The Taliban said the US move will lead to more losses to that country, with US credibility eroded. The problem is that Trump, unsure whether he will win re-election in a year’s time, might make some more fatal compromises over the next few years. India and the world should be wary of his deal-making. For now, India can take heart from the fact that it would perhaps reduce US dependence on Pakistan just a bit, the latter being the bridge between administration officials and the Taliban. But if Trump is indeed keen to bet his stakes as peace-maker here, we could have an unsteady backyard.

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