Trump calls India a terror victim, avoids Pakistan

Krishnanand Tripathi
President Donald Trump poses for photos with King Salman and others at the Arab Islamic American Summit, at the King Abdulaziz Conference Center, Sunday, May 21, 2017, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

President Donald Trump poses for photos with King Salman and others at the Arab Islamic American Summit, at the King Abdulaziz Conference Center, Sunday, May 21, 2017, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

US President Donald Trump described India as one of the victims of terrorism among other countries like US, Russia, European countries in his important speech on Islam in Saudi Arabia but he did not mention close ally Pakistan as one of the victims of terror.

Trump’s decision to describe India as a terror victim and his decision to omit Pakistan as one of the terror victims is seen as a rebuke to Pakistan government and its powerful military as Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif was among the leaders of Muslims and Arab countries who were present in Riyadh to listen to Trump’s speech on Islam.

Urging the Muslims to come forward to fight the scourge of terrorism, Trump said: “Few nations have been spared the violent reach of terrorism. America has suffered repeated barbaric attacks from the atrocities of September 11 to the devastation of the Boston bombings to the horrible killings in San Bernardino and Orlando. The nations of Europe have also endured unspeakable horror. So too have the nations of Africa and South America. India, Russia, China, and Australia have all been victims.”

Trump also called on Middle Eastern leaders to combat a “crisis of Islamic extremism” emanating from the region, casting the fight against terrorism as a “battle between good and evil,” not a clash between the West and Islam.
Trump’s address Sunday was the centrepiece of his two-day visit to Saudi Arabia, his first stop overseas as president.

During a meeting of more than 50 Arab and Muslim leaders, he sought to chart a new course for America’s role in the region, one aimed squarely on rooting out terrorism, with less focus on promoting human rights and democratic reforms.

“We are not here to lecture – we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship,” Trump said, speaking in an ornate, multi- chandeliered room. “Instead, we are here to offer partnership – based on shared interests and values – to pursue a better future for us all.”

President Donald Trump and Saudi King Salman pose for photos after a ceremony to mark the opening of the Global Center for Combatting Extremist Ideology, Sunday, May 21, 2017, in Riyadh.

President Donald Trump and Saudi King Salman pose for photos after a ceremony to mark the opening of the Global Center for Combatting Extremist Ideology, Sunday, May 21, 2017, in Riyadh.

Even as the president pledged to work alongside Middle Eastern nations, he put the onus for combating terrorism on the region. Bellowing into the microphone, he implored Muslim leaders to aggressively fight extremists: “Drive them out of your places of worship. Drive them out of your communities.”

The president has been enthusiastically embraced in Riyadh, where the ruling royal family has welcomed his tougher stance on Iran, its regional foe.

Trump slammed Iran for spreading “destruction and chaos” throughout the region. His comments were echoed by Saudi King Salman, who declared, “The Iranian regime has been the spearhead of global terrorism.”

For Trump, the visit has been a welcome escape from the crush of controversies that have consumed his administration in recent weeks. He’s been besieged by a series of revelations about the ongoing federal investigation into his campaign’s possible ties to Russia and his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, who had been overseeing the Russia probe.

Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia also served as something of a reset with the region following his presidential campaign, which was frequently punctured by bouts of anti-Islamic rhetoric. He once mused that he thought “Islam hates us” and repeatedly slammed former President Barack Obama for refusing to use the term “radical Islamic extremism.”

Yet Trump himself backed away from the term today as he stood before the region’s leaders. He condemned “Islamists” and “Islamic terror of all kinds,” but never specifically referred to radical Islam.

And only a week after taking office, he signed an executive order to ban immigrants from seven countries – Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen – from entering the United States, a decision that sparked widespread protests at the nation’s airports and demonstrations outside the White House.

That ban was blocked by the courts. A second order, which dropped Iraq from the list, is tied up in federal court and the federal government is appealing.

But today, Trump was full of praise for Muslim world’s history and culture. He declared Islam “one of the world’s great faiths.”

U.S. First Lady Melania Trump poses for a photo with Saudi women on a visit to an all-women's business services center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, May 21, 2017. General Electric and Saudi Aramco are key partners in the center, which provides career opportunities for well-educated Saudi women.

U.S. First Lady Melania Trump poses for a photo with Saudi women on a visit to an all-women’s business services center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, May 21, 2017. General Electric and Saudi Aramco are key partners in the center, which provides career opportunities for well-educated Saudi women.

White House officials said they considered Trump’s address to be a counterweight to President Barack Obama’s debut speech to the Muslim world in 2009 in Cairo.

Obama called for understanding and acknowledged some of America’s missteps in the region. That speech was denounced by many Republicans and criticised by a number of the United States’ Middle East allies as being a sort of apology.

(With input from agencies).