As a Pakistan Army-approved Prime Minister, there is no reason for us to disbelieve Imran Khan’s claim that he and the army brass are on the “same page” when it comes to peace overtures to India. The only question we need an answer for is why is the Pakistan Army suddenly seeking peace, even if only temporary, when it has never allowed this to happen in the past.
Speaking yesterday (28 November) at the ground-breaking ceremony for the Kartarpur corridor, which will open a route for Indian Sikhs to visit the Gurudwara on the site where the founder of the faith, Guru Nanak, died, Khan had this to say: “I am telling you, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, the ruling party, other political parties and (Pakistan’s) armed forces are on one page… We want to move ahead. We want a civilised relationship with India…. If India takes one step forward then we will take two steps forward toward friendship.”
Khan’s rhetoric was in fine fettle, as he brought in the example of France and Germany burying the hatchet after fighting two bitter world wars, but added a tail-sting: “we have just one problem, Kashmir. If man can walk on the moon, what problems are there that we cannot resolve? We only need determined leadership on both sides.”
One wonders what walking on the moon has to do with Indo-Pakistani truce. His peace moves probably will not go beyond talk, for Khan also wondered aloud on whether he would have to wait for Navjot Singh Sidhu (Congress minister in Punjab) to become prime minister to talk peace with India. His past remarks on Narendra Modi also don’t raise hopes, for he tweeted negatively about him after India cancelled talks on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September after Pakistan released stamps to honour Kashmiri terrorist Burhan Wani. Khan tweeted: “disappointed at the arrogant & negative response by India to my call for resumption of the peace dialogue. However, all my life I have come across small men occupying big offices who do not have the vision to see the larger picture.”
Khan’s antipathy to Modi goes back even farther, when there seemed little possibility of either Modi or Khan becoming prime ministers of their respective countries. At a public meeting in 2006, where both Modi and Khan were present, Khan claimed he was “nauseated” when Modi strode towards him to shake hands. He tried to avoid Modi, but the latter did manage to shake hands.
So, for Khan to suddenly claim to be the one with the big vision is bogus.
But hypocrisy apart, and purely from the point of view of global optics, India has no reason to not talk. While we can ignore political buffoons like Sidhu, who waxed eloquent about “My yaar, dildar, Imran Khan,” for allegedly ending “70 years of wait (for the Kartarpur corridor)”, we need to talk in order to call Khan’s bluff, and especially if this round of friendliness has been sanctioned by General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
For starters, since Khan claims that the problem is only about Kashmir, let us ask him to ensure that no Khalistani element is allowed entry into Pakistan, and the route for Indian pilgrims will not be plastered with pro-Khalistan slogans. A pro-Khalistan outfit, Sikhs for Justice, plans to organise an event in 2019 to coincide with Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary, and is calling for a referendum on Khalistan in 2020.
When talks come to Kashmir, our stand should be to hold discussions on the handover of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and withdrawal of support to terrorist outfits who create mayhem on our side of the border in the Kashmir Valley. As far as we are concerned, this is the Kashmir problem we need to solve. We can agree with Imran Khan to this limited extent.
Khan also underlined the point that “both countries are nuclear-armed. We both have atomic weapons…It is madness for such countries to think (of a war). Only a foolish individual can think one can win a nuclear war.”
However, it takes only one foolish general to think that he can instead wage proxy war using jihadi terrorists. It is this foolishness that Khan needs to address, and not the threat of nuclear war.
As for Khan’s claim that if India takes one step, Pakistan will take two, maybe we should ask him how come Pakistan has not reciprocated the Indian decision to offer most favoured nation status? Where are the two steps for our one? And why did Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s several steps to Lahore end up in Kargil? And why did Narendra Modi’s overtures to the previous Pakistani prime minister end up with attacks on Indian Army camps in Uri and Pathankot?
The short point is this: India should never hesitate to talk to Pakistan. The only thing we need to do is stick to our agenda, and give Pakistan every opportunity to expose itself.
Talking to Pakistan is the surest way to call Khan’s bluff that everyone is on the same page on peace with India. This hasn’t been our experience, and if Pakistan’s generals have had a change of heart, we will know it once terror from across the border stops, jihadi elements inside Pakistan are corralled, the culprits of 26/11 are punished, and Khalistani elements are discouraged.
We need to give Imran Khan a long enough rope to hang himself on his own rhetoric.
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