If India takes one step, I shall take two, says Imran Khan. That will only take him in circles on the vexed Kashmir issue as the key is with the Army.
Islamabad: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan on Thursday raked up the Kashmir dispute, saying the only way to solve the decades-old crisis was through dialogue with India.
That is an old talk that keeps coming back like one from a broken record.
After proclaiming victory in the general elections, the cricketeer turned politician said “If they take one step towards us, we will take two, but at least need a start. Kashmiris are suffering for long. We have to solve Kashmir issue by sitting across the table. If India’s leadership is willing then the both of us can solve this issue through dialogue. It will be good for the subcontinent also.”
He asserted that the mudslinging between the two neighbours was detrimental to the sub-continent and should stop.
But the big question is will Khan get a free hand to deal with India. He is perceived as a creation of the Pakistan Army and the ISI who have a different agenda on Kashmir. He is also dependent on hardline fundamentalists who are keen on fomenting violence in Kashmir.
Hence, the one-step-two-step that Imran suggests would take him nowhere except walking in circles.
Imran’s two recent predecessors — Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League and President Asif Ali Zardari of the People’s Party — were strong leaders with some mass support. Both were committed to improving ties with India through dialogue. However, they could not overcome the Army’s apparent veto on normalising relations with India. Imran Khan, therefore, may have even less of a chance of orchestrating any new thinking on India.
Claiming that he had a better understanding of India due to his cricketing career, Khan said improving ties with India was one of his priorities. “This blame game that whatever goes wrong in Pakistan’s Balochistan is because of India and vice versa brings us back to square one,” he said.
Despite all the talks of solving the Kashmir issue through dialogue, India does not see any significant change in Islamabad’s policy towards New Delhi. The Indian security establishment has few expectations that normalisation of relations with Pakistan is possible.
Whether Khan is at the helm or not, it makes little difference to Islamabad’s policy, which is controlled by the Army and the so-called state institutions.
One advantage that Imran Khan has it that he has had intensive contacts with the Indian elite. A fantastic cricketing career, huge fan following in India, and his frequent visits across the border have probably given Khan a rare familiarity with the Indian elite. That might suggest greater sensitivity on Imran’s part to Pakistan’s many suppressed possibilities with India.
While in cricket he was the master in field placement, as a PM, Imran Khan might have little wiggle room to innovate on India-Pakistan relations. He can neither contribute to the improvement nor the deterioration of Pakistan’s relations with India. Pakistan’s prime ministers have long lost influence, what little they had three decades ago in the immediate aftermath of Gen Zia-ul-Haque’s death, over the direction and shape of Islamabad’s foreign policy. Over these decades, Pakistan Army has gained absolute control over important national security issues relating to Afghanistan, United States, China, Jihadi forces and India.
Khan also said that after 22 years of struggle he finally got an opportunity to serve the nation and his party envisioned creating a Pakistan “that Jinnah dreamed of”.
The PTI chief said he was dejected at the way Indian media projected him. “I was saddened by the way Indian media recently projected me. I am one of those Pakistanis that wants good relations with India, if we want to have a poverty-free subcontinent then we must have good relations and trade ties,” Khan said.
Stating that Pakistan’s democracy had strengthened after the vote, Khan said, “I want to clarify why I entered politics. Politics could not have given me anything. I wanted Pakistan to become the country that my leader Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had dreamed of.”