OUSTED Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan’s protest march towards the Pakistani capital Islamabad has plunged the country into chaos. The Pakistani government unsuccessfully tried to stop the march by arresting the workers of Khan’s party. Islamabad was a witness to violence and political drama on Wednesday. Khan has been claiming his government was toppled by the United States miffed with his growing closeness to Russia and China. He has been demanding the resignation of the government and the holding of the fresh elections. In recent weeks, Khan has held successive mass rallies to force the government out of power. While the Pakistan government, backed by the military establishment, is unlikely to resign in the near term, Khan’s stubborn political campaign has destabilized the country. At the same time, his popularity has skyrocketed and in case of an early election, he is expected to return to power with a landslide majority.
One fallout of this troubled situation in the country is that there is no hope for an India, Pakistan dialogue. Though there was an exchange of letters between prime minister Narendra Modi and his newly appointed Pakistan counterpart Shahbaz Sharif which sought good neighbourly relations, no bilateral dialogue has followed. The three and a half years of Khan’s term saw relations between the two neighbors nosedive. And with the revocation of Article 370 in August 2019, the ties deteriorated almost to the point of no return. Khan became one of the fiercest critics of the Indian government. But in February 2021, the militaries of the two countries dramatically signed a ceasefire agreement. The move came reportedly following an extended back-channel dialogue between the two countries. But thereafter there were no efforts to improve the relations. Or to resume dialogue that otherwise appeared a logical course of action following the ceasefire. The reason for this was Pakistan’s insistence that India reverse the repeal of Article 370 but for New Delhi, the move is now a fait accompli.
Going forward, the situation looks bleak. Should Sharif’s government continue, there will be little chance of the relations between India and Pakistan reviving in near to medium future. That is, if at all there was any chance at all..
Meanwhile, a halt to the frequent firing exchanges along the Line of Control has made a redeeming difference to the lives of lakhs of border residents on both sides of the border. But it won’t change anything as far as the situation in the Valley where militancy continues to linger. This problem could certainly have been addressed through a sincere dialogue between the two countries, whose chances now look slim until after the fresh national elections are held, first in Pakistan in 2023 followed by one in India in 2024. Sharif’s survival in power or otherwise will make no difference to this reality.
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