Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump listens to his mobile phone during a lunch stop, Feb. 18, 2016, in North Charleston, S.C.
Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

Trump has 'bizarre' conversation with Pakistani leader

— Updated
A week after the presidential election, Donald Trump spoke via phone with British Prime Minister Theresa May, though it seems no one prepared the president-elect on the basics of diplomacy. Trump apparently told May, for example, "If you travel to the U.S., you should let me know."

The casual invitation "left civil servants amused and befuddled." In Trump's mind, the British prime minister might have plans to swing by America for a visit, in which case, the president-elect hoped May would give him a heads-up. What Trump doesn't realize is that May would only come if invited.

Yesterday, the Republican had another chat with a foreign leader, and as the Washington Post noted, no one prepared Trump for this conversation, either.

Pakistan's Press Information Bureau on Wednesday released a readout of a phone call on Monday between Pakistan's prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, and the U.S. president-elect, Donald Trump. The readout is unusual in that it focuses almost entirely on Trump's contributions to the conversation, and reproduces them in a voice that is unmistakably his.
The report from the Pakistani government is online in its entirety here, and it really must be read to be fully appreciated: "President Trump said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif you have a very good reputation. You are a terrific guy. You are doing amazing work which is visible in every way. I am looking forward to see you soon.... Your country is amazing with tremendous opportunities. Pakistanis are one of the most intelligent people. I am ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems."

Of particular interest, the readout added, "On being invited to visit Pakistan by the Prime Minister, Mr. Trump said that he would love to come to a fantastic country, fantastic place of fantastic people. Please convey to the Pakistani people that they are amazing and all Pakistanis I have known are exceptional people, said Mr. Donald Trump."

Oh my.

It's worth noting that Trump hasn't always had such a friendly attitude towards Pakistan.  In recent years, Trump published tweets in which he insisted Pakistan "is not our friend," and shouldn't be considered an "ally" of the United States.

But more pressing in this situation is that Trump told Nawaz Sharif he's prepared to help resolve Pakistan's problems and would love to visit Pakistan in person as president.

Time magazine had a good piece on this yesterday, explaining why the president-elect's comments were "reckless and bizarre."

There are few foreign policy topics quite as complicated as the relationship between India and Pakistan, South Asia's nuclear-armed nemeses. Any world leader approaching the issue even obliquely must surely see the "Handle With Care" label from miles away, given the possibility of nuclear conflict.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, however, doesn't seem to have read the memo, injecting a pronounced element of uncertainty about the position of the world's only remaining superpower on this most complex of subjects in a call with the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.... Trump's intervention could have serious consequences for both regional and global stability.

Tensions between India and Pakistan have intensified, which leaves the United States in an awkward position. The Obama administration has made a concerted effort to strengthen U.S./India ties, while also delicately maintaining financial support for Pakistan.

Note, however, that President Obama is the first American president to ever visit India twice during his term, while Obama has not set foot in Pakistan.

Trump, who probably isn't aware of the diplomatic balancing act, apparently signaled to Sharif a very different U.S. posture towards Pakistan -- up to and including a presidential visit to the country.

If Trump does go to Pakistan, it risks alienating Indian allies. If Trump doesn't visit after telling Sharif he would, it will further complicate an already difficult Pakistani relationship. And I can't wait to hear what this means: "I am ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems."

Electing a president who doesn't know what he's doing carries real consequences.