United States President Donald Trump stirred up a storm recently, when he castigated Pakistan for not doing enough for the war against terror and accused the Pakistani government of knowing Osama Bin Laden’s whereabouts, in an interview given to Fox News on Sunday. These statements elicited outrage in Pakistan, with a number of politicians condemning the US President’s damaging remarks. Most notably, our Prime Minister Imran Khan fired back on Twitter, the social media site which has somehow become the platform for world diplomacy these days, where he vociferously defended Pakistan’s efforts in the Afghan war, and asked the US not to make Pakistan a scapegoat for its own failure in the war against Terror.

Imran Khan’s reply was backed with logic and reason- the PM pointed out the sacrifices that Pakistan has made for the US war- our country has suffered 75,000 causalities, billions of dollars loss to the economy and devastation of the tribal areas. Trump’s comments come at an extremely crucial time- just as Pakistan released Taliban Leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, as part of efforts to advance peace dialogue which the U.S recently initiated with Qatar-based Taliban political representatives. It is befuddling why President Trump would want to antagonise Pakistan at a time where peace talks are being negotiated- in which Pakistan plays a large part.

The Premier’s strong yet poised response has drawn praise from the public. Defence Minister Shireen Mazari has doubled down on his response, saying Pakistan will no longer “appease” the US.

The astonishing speed with which international relations and diplomatic norms have changed in the last two years however does beg us to consider the question- how does a country react to statements by a world leader, who has proven himself to be a loose cannon? In any other era, such a statement by the US president would have been interpreted as aggressive and alarming; President Trump, however, has made on-the-spur statements which do not reflect his establishment’s policy, and has thrown all diplomatic pretences in the air, by going on Twitter rants and exchanging insults with world leaders. With such an unconventional player, it is difficult to assess the seriousness of his statements and thus, how one should react to it. While a strong response from Khan is being celebrated, we wonder if the further doubling down of aggressive rhetoric, by other government figures, will exacerbate already tattered relations with the US, when Trump has shown himself to be extremely unpredictable and his fiery statements, unreliable.