Donald Trump has hailed Nawaz Sharif as a “terrific guy” during a phone call with the Pakistani Prime Minister and offered to help resolve any challenges the “fantastic” nation faces.
According to a Pakistani government account of the conversation, the US President-elect also told the embattled leader, who is currently embroiled in a corruption case, that he has a “very good reputation”.
“You are a terrific guy. You are doing amazing work which is visible in every way,” it quoted Mr Trump as saying.
“I am looking forward to see you soon. As I am talking to you Prime Minister, I feel I am talking to a person I have known for long.
“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. It will be an honour and I will personally do it.”
Mr Trump also responded to an invitation to visit Pakistan by saying he would “love to come to a fantastic country, fantastic place, of fantastic people”, according to the Pakistani transcript.
Some people were surprised by Mr Trump’s apparent tone given the anti-Muslim rhetoric of his election campaign.
“Get it straight: Pakistan is not our friend. We’ve given them billions and billions of dollars, and what (cont) http://t.co/O5S4cQV3
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 17, 2012
When will Pakistan apologize to us for providing safe sanctuary to Osama Bin Laden for 6 years?! Some “ally.”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 5, 2012
Four years ago he called for the US to “get tough” with Pakistan, which relies heavily on US aid and is likely to get around $1bn in economic and security assistance in the 2017 financial year.
On 17 January, 2012, Mr Trump tweeted: “Get it straight: Pakistan is not our friend. We’ve given them billions and billions of dollars, and what did we get? Betrayal and disrespect – and much worse. #TimeToGetTough”
Months later, on 5 July, 2012, he wrote: “When will Pakistan apologize to us for providing safe sanctuary to Osama Bin laden for 6 years?! Some “ally.”
Twitter users reacted to the press release with optimism and scepticism.
“Fantastic diplomacy” wrote Pakistani journalist Waseem Abbasi, based in Washington.
“But Mr Trump do you know most Pakistanis are Muslim – how can they be ‘brilliant and exceptional’ as well? Won’t you stop them entering?” wrote journalist Omar Quraishi.
Mr Trump courted Indian-American voters during the race for the White House.
He spoke with Indian PM Narendra Modi last month and has met with Indian business leaders since winning the election.
But Mr Trump do you know most Pakistanis are Muslim – how can they be “brilliant and exceptional” as well? Won’t you stop them entering? pic.twitter.com/zHorc17Hgo
— omar r quraishi (@omar_quraishi) December 1, 2016
He has also offered to mediate between India and Pakistan, as tensions continue to flare in the disputed region of Kashmir between the nuclear-armed rivals.
The Indian press reacted with some consternation to the reported phone call, with Oneindia News questioning whether Mr Trump’s “new found Pakistan love” is “a concern for India”.
The Diplomat, an Asia-Pacific online news magazine, asked: “Did Donald Trump just raise the odds of war between India and Pakistan with one phone call?”
Mr Trump’s transition team confirmed the call from Mr Nawaz, but gave a more toned-down account, saying the pair had a “productive conversation about how the United States and Pakistan will have a strong working relationship in the future”.
They added: “President-elect Trump also noted that he is looking forward to a lasting and strong personal relationship with Prime Minister Sharif.”