During his cricket playing days, Imran Khan was one of the biggest personalities to ever take the field. His style and confidence made him the icon of the nation. When he stepped into politics and rose to become the prime minister of Pakistan, he did it with a similar charisma and flamboyance. However, Imran Khan seemed to have lost all that swagger and confidence when he sat down in front of US President Donald Trump on Monday.
During the joint media interaction after their meeting, where Trump did most of the talking, Imran appeared to be in a quiet and somber mood.
Compare this to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's confident appearance with Trump during the 'Howdy, Modi!' event in Houston. Modi appeared and treated Trump like an equal while Imran seemed more like a supplicant in the presence of a superior personality. Imran did not appear too eager to speak and let Trump take lead in the conversation.
When Trump was answering questions from reporters, Imran was seen nervously looking at the US president. His discomfort was clearly visible during an exchange between Trump and a Pakistani reporter.
A Pakistani reporter, while asking a question on Kashmir to the President, went on a rant about Kashmir. In his question, he called Indian as an aggressor in Kashmir while categorising Pakistan as a protector.
After hearing his question, Donald Trump turned to Imran Khan asking 'where do you find reporters like these?'.
Trump then questioned the reporter, "Are you from his (Imran) team? You are making a statement, not asking a question."
One of the other things that caught attention was Imran counting prayer beads while Trump talked about Kashmir and other issues. Many users on social media noticed it. Imran was carrying a mini Misbaha, with 33 beads used by many to help count the 99 names of Allah and recitation of prayers.
Many associated this with recent attempts to position Pakistan closer to the Islamic world and present the cause of 'Kashmir' as a Muslim cause. The attempt was also visible during Imran Khan's speech during his comments on Islam during an interaction at Council on Foreign Relations.
During that interaction, Imran said, "There is only one Islam. There's no such thing as moderate Islam or radical Islam... In my vision of Islam, all human beings regardless of their religion are equal."
Some also believe that it to be a sign of the increasing influence of Bushra Maneka, the third wife of Khan. Khan started seeing Bushra, a faith healer, for 'spiritual guidance' a couple of years ago and then married her in 2018. He became Prime Minister of Pakistan six months later. There are many who believe that Khan has turned more spiritual due to Bushra's influence and the prayers beads are an indicator of that changed outlook.
Whatever may well be the reason, it is clear that Imran Khan was not in elements during the meeting. Khan, who was praised for his body language during his first meeting with Trump in July, did not look in the same comfort zone.
It is said that optics is very important in international diplomacy. A look at the optics of last couple of days in United States suggest that India and PM Modi are way ahead of Pakistan and Imran Khan in this diplomatic race.