From the modest visit to the 53 minute-long impromptu speech in front of over 30,000 Pakistani supporters in Washington DC, from investors’ meetings to a dignified arrival at the White House in his national dress and Peshawari chappal, from Trump’s acknowledgment of Pakistan’s key role in lubricating Afghan peace process to his pleasant offer for Kashmir mediation; it appeared as if everything went right for the Pakistani Prime Minister.

Both the leaders, in their signature style, spoke out bluntly without any diplomatic maneuvers. Trump and Khan seemed to be getting along and understood each other on a range of issues, converging on most of the agenda items.

Trump expressed hope that the two leaders would revive all aspects of the bilateral relationship, including expanding trade deals and strengthening military-to-military ties, as they continue to make progress toward bringing peace and stability to South Asia. Trump also desired to boost Pak-US trade 10 to 20 times more than what is happening now. He also offered mediation on the Kashmir issue on the request of PM Imran Khan. Both sides saw the historic meeting as a new opening in their bilateral relations, ushering in comprehensive engagements between the two states, preferably not limited to security only.

In a joint presser at the Oval Office, while responding to a question on Afghanistan, the US President anticipated that Pakistan’s active role would benefit the Afghan peace process substantially. According to him, Pakistan is going to make a big difference in the Afghan peace equation. Trump affirmed that Islamabad has a power that other nations don’t have with respect to Afghanistan. “As of this moment, they are working very hard and very nicely, and we appreciate it,” he added.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan on the occasion remarked, “I am one of those who always believed that there was no military solution, because anyone who knows the history of Afghanistan - there was always going to be a political settlement at the end. I have to compliment President Trump because he has now forced people to end the war, to have a settlement. That’s where I think Pakistan is playing a very important role.” He also urged the Taliban to come to the negotiating table and talk to the Afghan government.

Prior to Khan-Trump meeting at the White House, PM Khan had a power show at Capital Arena the day before which was attended by an overwhelming presence of thousands of supporters. It echoed an important message loud and crystal clear to US administration; US President would be meeting with a leader, not a puppet. Seemingly, it also gave Khan a confidence-boost. More importantly, in the wake, it would not be wrong to say that Islamabad also got more bargaining power before going into the bilateralism with the Americans.  

In a country that since 2001 was programmed by its fake news media to hate Pakistan, in a country where Muslim societies are often misjudged and whose arenas are usually filled with sporting or music events rather than anything remotely political, Imran Khan was at the center of the spotlight at Capital Arena. The power show, right in the heart of America also reinforced Khan’s popular legitimacy, demonstrating that he has grass-root support, military onboard and means ‘business’.

Meanwhile, Trump also stunned India by Kashmir mediation offer. He claimed that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also asked him to play the role of mediator between the two countries. As expected, the Indian government retorted promptly with a blunt denial of this claim. The first set of rebuttals is already out from the spokesman for India’s Ministry of External Affairs, but perhaps it shall necessitate renunciation from even higher levels, perhaps from Modi himself.

Trump’s remarks have caused an instant political frenzy in India, as they damage India’s long-standing position: that there is no room for a third party in the Kashmir conversation between India and Pakistan.  In contrast, Pakistan has long welcomed and sought outside mediation on the Kashmir equation.

Besides positive news pouring in, some analysts also seem uncomfortable with Trump’s reckless attitude. They are of the view that Trump’s ignorance was on full display in his meeting with Imran Khan where Trump crowed that he could wipe out Afghanistan and “win” the 18-year-long war “in a week” if the US intends to; a comment so absurd and ill-informed that it is unworthy of a rebuttal. Was he ill-informed or did he just want to display American supremacy as a face-saving in the backdrop of US failures and consequent exit from Afghanistan out of compulsion?

To conclude, Pakistan and America are like old-school cousins, who would compete in good times, but compelled to cooperate in bad times. At the moment, cousins are back. Let’s keep fingers crossed and hope that better sense prevails; resulting in joint working for positives rather than engaging against each other in grey areas.

If one has to sum up PM Imran Khan’s US visit in one line, it can simply be: The Pakistani PM stole the show!