Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chairman Asif Ali Zardari’s visit to the United States to attend the inauguration of the new president Donald Trump has been built up with much fanfare by the party at home. And while the dubious honour of being the only Pakistani politician attending such a momentous event doesn’t mean a lot in the larger scheme of things – and neither has it been received by the Pakistani masses as such – Mr Zardari has been an effective diplomat while he has been in Washington.

While giving an interview to the Washington Times, the former president urged Donald trump to recognise that South Asia is a volatile and crucial region, and that the new US president should take a proactive approach to solving matters. His suggestions seemed measured and reasonable; do not let partisan politics let the region spin into imbalance, appoint a permanent high-level envoy to South Asia – he even suggested individuals who had experience in the region – and sit down with the involved parties to chalk up a strategy on how to deal with terrorism. A menace that is very much alive and thriving in Afghanistan, and seeping into the rest of South Asia.

His most important comment was one that voices the genuine complaint of many Pakistanis. He urged Donald Trump to “[do] what [President] Obama never did. Obama never had proper interaction with any Pakistani chief executive.” Despite the fact that Zardari visited the White House during his time as president, the Obama administration never fostered close relations with the Pakistani government, which is partly why the relationship between the two countries deteriorated to the extent it did. While he tried to avoid criticising the previous president, the implications were there, the previous government failed to connect with Pakistan, and partisan politics with regards to India made things worse.

He hoped that the new president can revitalise relations with Pakistan, and play a meaningful role in dealing with tensions of the region. Another thoughtful act of diplomacy was to defend Donald Trump against a hostile media while in Washington. He reminded everyone that it is too early to judge his performance as president, and that we “must give him at least 90 days”, and that critics should not write him off.

Whether Zardari’s message resonates within the White House remains to be seen, but he has conveyed a succinct summary of the South-Asian problems, and Pakistan’s perspective on how things can move forward.