Imran Khan Has A Point

In a statement that has taken India by surprise, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has said he believes “there may be a better chance of peace talks with India and settlement of the Kashmir issue” if Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s  BJP wins the general elections. He also said that the  other parties would be afraid of right-wing backlash in case of settlement on  Kashmir, which he termed as the central issue between the neighbours. And in a statement that would  be looked at approvingly in India and also internationally, Khan  said  Pakistan was taking action against all militants groups including the JeM.   Pakistan government, he said, had taken the religious schools of these groups under state control in a serious effort to disarm them as it “was important for the future of Pakistan”.

However, Khan’s statement on Modi is significant. By seeking the return of Modi as the PM, Khan has only acknowledged the truth of India’s politics. He doesn’t think the secular opposition would be in a position to hold a sustainable dialogue with Pakistan, let alone agree to settlement of their bilateral issues, particularly Kashmir. And it is apparently true. While the BJP has been belligerent about its Kashmir policy, choosing to do whatever it likes, Congress and the wider opposition has been singularly pusillanimous. Congress has uttered fewer words on the situation in Kashmir, let alone articulate a conspicuous, bolder policy on the state. The BJP, on the contrary, has made Kashmir a centerpiece of its national security and ideological agenda. True, during Congress Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s time, India, Pakistan came closest to a Kashmir settlement but New Delhi baulked long enough to translate the understanding with Pakistan into reality until it was too late. 

But there’s no guarantee Modi will be different.  From the looks of it, Modi’s image doesn’t lend itself easily to political concessions and a political resolution.  His Hindu nationalist pedigree will not sit well with the effort to bargain for peace with Pakistan or for that matter with Kashmiri separatists unless it is on New Delhi’s terms. 

Also, Modi has created too many new redlines for Islamabad to adhere to for the dialogue to be sustainable. Will Modi be able to, say like his BJP  predecessor Atal Bihari Vajpayee  that  the dialogue with Pakistan and Kashmiri groups will be held within the “ambit of Insaniyat”? Unlikely.  There is no knowing as yet.  What is needed is Vajpayee-like ingenuity to forge a diplomatic way-out of the new chill in the relations with the neighbouring country. And with a strong political mandate and the time on his hands, Modi could have the opportunity and the space to make a redeeming difference to the regional geo-politics by achieving peace with Pakistan.




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