Donald Trump’s astonishing victory in the US presidential election, against the predictions of most analysts, was like a powerful seismic event which has sent tremors across the global geopolitical landscape. This was not only because of the importance of the US as the most powerful nation in the world with worldwide interests and power projection capabilities. The election of its president, therefore, is always a matter of deep interest for the rest of the world. But, more importantly, it was because of the unorthodox policy views on internal and external affairs expressed, many a time in a crude fashion, by President-elect Trump during the election campaign. Internally, Trump sought to challenge liberal democratic values to be replaced by inward-looking conservativism. Externally, his views reflected narrow nationalism at the expense of free markets and multilateralism, which formed the basis of the existing world order ironically put in place by the US itself. Those views, if implemented literally, have the potential of bringing about radical changes within the US and upsetting several important segments of its population. Externally, they would have extremely disturbing repercussions on the global order and US relations with its friends and others.

Trump’s victory represents a huge rightward shift in the US politics. He was able to mobilize in his favour the grievances and anger of the low-paid, the unemployed or other disadvantaged Americans, especially the whites, who felt that they had been neglected and exploited by the establishment in Washington. In their view, the US establishment’s policies had favoured the rich at the expense of the poor, led to the transfer of the US jobs to foreign countries through the liberalization of external trade, and allowed the immigrants to take away the jobs that otherwise might have been available to them. Trump’s election rhetoric promised to make a wall along the US-Mexican border, to be paid for by Mexico, to stop illegal immigration from Mexico, renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiated by the Obama administration, discard the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), impose high duties on imports from China and Mexico, and expel illegal immigrants from the US. He also made a commitment to encourage infrastructure investment and lower taxes to raise the GDP growth rate of the United States.

Trump called upon the US allies in Europe and Asia to bear greater burden of the cost of safeguarding their national security instead of placing most of that burden on the US. In general, Trump expressed his intention to deal with foes and friends abroad with greater firmness in the light of narrowly defined US national interests than had been the case so far. He questioned the utility of the nuclear deal with Iran, which had been negotiated by the Obama administration in coordination with the EU, Germany, Russia and China. In his view, “radical Islam” was the true cause of terrorism, thus, maligning Islam, a religion of peace, and the Muslims, and called for special restrictions on the immigration of Muslims into the US. Reflecting xenophobic tendencies in his thought processes, he made disparaging remarks about people of Hispanic origin who had migrated into the US from Latin American countries,. This was over and above the nasty sexist remarks that he was reported to have made against women in general.

The fact that despite his extreme conservatism, xenophobia, misogynism, anti-Muslim bias and narrow nationalism, Trump was able to win the US presidential election tells us a lot about not only Trump himself but also the state of affairs of the American polity. It is interesting to note that as long as liberalisation of trade served the economic and commercial interests of the US and other Western countries, developing countries were given lectures by the economists and representatives of the West on the advantages of free trade. Now that several developing countries like China and India have been able to compete well internationally through the right mix of internal and external economic policies, there has been a reconsideration of the Western position on free trade as reflected by the latest US presidential election. Similar views are being increasingly expressed in other Western countries where right wing parties are gradually gaining ground for the same reasons. In short, the lesson for the developing countries like Pakistan is that moves towards liberalization of trade should be taken carefully taking into account all the relevant considerations, particularly the mutuality of benefits, level playing field, adequate protection for domestic infant industries, effect on the sectoral and over-all health and progress of the domestic economy, and the ability of the domestic economy to make necessary adjustments in the face of external competition.

Some analysts had expressed the hope that Donald Trump following the assumption of the presidency of the US will moderate his policy positions on internal and external issues to move towards the centre in the US political spectrum. This may well happen over time as the countervailing internal and external forces come into play forcing Trump to revisit his views purely for pragmatic reasons. Unfortunately, however, his initial appointments do not give weight to this prognosis, particularly his appointment of Stephen Bannon and Reince Priebus, well-known members of the ‘alt-right’ extremist organizations with racially insensitive rhetoric, to top positions in the White House. Similarly, his nominees for the positions of CIA chief and national security adviser reflect narrow nationalism and a degree of anti-Muslim bias. It would be reasonable to expect, therefore, that the Trump presidency would have a disturbing effect on the existing global order as the US, in projection of the domestic shift towards extreme conservatism and narrow nationalism, questions its underpinnings of liberal values and free markets. So we may witness a period of uncertainty and instability internationally after the inauguration of President Trump.

Under President Donald Trump, the past US policies of enhancing strategic partnership with India to contain China, pressure on Pakistan to do more in combating terrorists without any exceptions, and seeking Pakistan’s assistance in encouraging the peace process in Afghanistan will continue. Further, the US will remain focused on ensuring the security of our nuclear weapons and preventing nuclear proliferation. It would also continue to encourage Pakistan and India to engage in a bilateral dialogue to resolve their outstanding disputes. It is doubtful, however, that it would be prepared to play any mediatory role in the resolution of the Kashmir dispute in view of India’s well-known opposition. In recognition of the importance of a politically stable and economically progressive Pakistan for the regional peace and stability, and as a voice for moderation in the Muslim world, the US will continue to extend limited economic and military assistance to Pakistan. Such assistance will also help maintain the US leverage on Pakistan for the fulfillment of the latter’s policy goals vis-à-vis Pakistan and the region. Our policy objective should be to strengthen our friendship with the US while reducing our dependence on it.

Things can, however, take an ugly turn in Pakistan-US relations if Washington under Trump comes to the conclusion that Pakistan is not cooperating whole-heartedly in combating terrorists, if we withhold our cooperation in encouraging national reconciliation and a political settlement in Afghanistan, or if we indulge in any activity which raises US concerns on issues of nuclear safety or proliferation. These developments may evoke a robust US response under Trump to the detriment of Pakistan.