A journey with a difference

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Zaheer Bhatti

WHY optimists turn pessimistic is due to continued disillusionment with forces and personalities upon whom one pins hope in view of their promises and public commitments, which at the end of the day are ruthlessly trampled and shoved under the carpet either due to incapacity or sheer political expediencies of the leadership. One would though like hope to be kindled one more time in view of the just concluded visit of the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to the US on invitation by American President Donald Trump, because of the unique chemistry garnered by the two leaders and the relaxed body language in expressing their respective views on matters concerning both countries. Imran Khan for whom one would have some suggestions later over matters for back home, has lived up to expectations as a self-respecting leader during this trip where both leaders seem to have taken to each other; with striking commonality emerging from their forthright more often blunt manner. Such people are seldom hypocrites.
Playing to the gallery with the mammoth Pakistani diaspora crowd Imran Khan drew in the US at the Capital One Arena in Washington; synonymous one guesses to the Hyde Park in London, one wished he had used the occasion to urge US and Canadian Pakistanis to invest back home and help with increased remittances in order to stabilize the economy rather than repeat his fume and fury against the corrupt, which would have little bearing on the outcome of his trip. Besides the routinely fixed meetings of Pakistan’s military top brass with its American counterparts and those of its Civilian entourage with the State Department, it was very reassuring to see Pakistan’s Prime Minister making a comprehensive address at the US Institute of Peace and take questions and his interaction at the Capitol Hill with poise; declaring that he looked forward to a sustainable multi-pronged relationship with the United States as equals based on mutual respect, and not a transactional one as in the past. That to my mind is the crux of Imran’s sojourn to the US where he appears to have laid bare the equation for the future.
Whatever transpired between the two in their one on one meeting will surface in due course, but publicly at least in the opening meeting of the two with the Press President Trump showering praise and accolades over Imran Khan as a dynamic leader and Pakistan a great Country covered up for his previous diatribe against Pakistan, by saying it did not respond appropriately in the past to wrong US Presidents. Most scribes attribute this Trump turn around to the dire US need for a Pakistani role to help bring Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table with the US-installed Government in Kabul for peace settlement and enable US forces to withdraw gracefully from the protracted fratricidal war about which the US President himself acknowledged the positive role already being played by Pakistan.
One hopes that in assuring President Trump, the Pakistani Premier would have made a cautious commitment rather than a categorical one, because Pakistan’s influence over the Taliban could only be to an extent and not absolute, in view of which it would not be easy to convince them to sit with an installed Government which they know as does the American Administration, had no following among the masses. He also ought to have chastened Trump not to overtly insist upon liberalizing the Western way which may cut across the concept of social virtues in an Islamic polity which Afghanistan will always remain. It was perhaps amid that air of optimism expressed by both sides that the US President responding to a questioner publicly confided about the Indian Prime Minister lately urging him to mediate and Trump’s willingness to help resolve the lingering issue of Kashmir; bringing impromptu response from Imran assuring him of blessings of a billion plus inhabitants in the region, should he play that role to resolve the main conflict between the two neighbours. As for Trump’s view of the option of a military solution which would have obliterated Afghanistan from the face of earth in a matter of days, it ought to be taken as an expression of the American military might rather than attribute it to his arrogance. But it was amusingly surprising that the offence to Trump’s expression should have been taken by his puppets rather than if at all, the jealously independent Afghan Taliban who could have deservedly reacted to the bragging.
The post-script of the Trump-Imran interaction is that while Modi is so far mum about the issue, the Indian Opposition and its Press while asking Modi to explain, has gone berserk in rejecting Trump’s assertion let alone his willingness to mediate for the Kashmir settlement. While one hopes Imran Khan apprised Trump about Indian machinations of self-staged terrorism and crying wolf blaming Pakistan whenever there was any likelihood of a breakthrough over Kashmir; the Indian active service spy Kalbhoshan Jadav’s confessions of terrorism and espionage destabilizing Pakistan and his death sentence by Pakistan being incontrovertible testimony with the ICJ rejecting Indian request to overturn the Pakistani verdict and merely suggesting a review, which was already on course in Pakistan.
Indian face and outcry over Trump’s mediation offer for a start should mirror reality to the American President who was surprised to learn that the Kashmir issue was outstanding for so long, with his Administration obviously not briefing him appropriately due to an overwhelming influence of Indian lobby. This knee-jerk Indian reaction should exemplify to Donald Trump the Indian intransigent mindset and precisely why the core issue of Kashmir can never be settled bilaterally through the so-called Simla Accord which had been used by India to scuttle and not resolve the issue. This should help the neutral-sounding US President amid the two rivals; each blaming the other, to see through the Indian game by inferring why anyone should run away from dialogue or third party mediation.
—The writer is a media professional, member of Pioneering team of PTV and a veteran ex Director Programmes.