PRIME Minister Imran Khan’s remarks during his talk with a group of international media, including reporters from the New York Times, Washington Post, Reuters, ABC television and others, have caused commotion in Indian politics and Indian media. Congress leaders interpreted the remarks to show Pakistan’s support to Narendra Modi in ongoing elections. But Imran Khan had simply given an opinion rather an assumption when he said: “Perhaps if the BJP – a right-wing party – wins, some kind of settlement in Kashmir could be reached,” adding that he believed Mr. Modi too would be interested to restart dialogue despite the current impasse. He expressed the hope that if the next Indian government were led by the opposition Congress party, it might be too scared to seek a settlement with Pakistan over Kashmir, fearing a backlash from the right. But Imran Khan had a point what he said.
In fact, there is no fundamental difference between the two parties so far as Pakistan is concerned, yet there is truth what Imran Khan said. Of course, many comments were made in response to the questions from the media men. Secondly, Imran Khan’s statement started with ‘Perhaps’, and according to lexicon the word is used to express ‘uncertainty or possibility’. In Pakistan, the PPP Senator Sherry Rehman on Wednesday criticised Prime Minister Imran Khan’s statement with regard to a better chance of peace talks with India if Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wins the general election. Sherry Rehman took to Twitter and said: “It is unseemly for a sitting PM to state a preference for dialogue with a candidate from another country in the middle of their elections. To say Modi will give us a better chance to talk is closing the door for others in India.”
But this is a conjecture, as situation has been dismal and leaders of both parties have been arrogant; however BJP, especially Narendra Modi has had long association with the extremist organizations. It is true that VHP and other extremists organizations were given free hand by the present government who perpetrated atrocities on minorities especially Muslims; therefore Modi could lose their support. There is a perception that if Modi is reelected and continues with his vile acts, India could implode from within. In Pakistan, Imran Khan’s speech has not received much reaction from politicos and media. Leader writer of renowned English Daily in the editorial commented: “The Pakistani leader voiced his sentiment on the eve of an election which many Indian commentators say could unleash a new wave of narrow nationalism, i.e. Hindutva, in their country, with repercussions for the region and beyond”.
In general, Pakistani media behaved sensibly after Pulwama attack and the events that took place thereafter and Pakistani leadership and media did not resort to jingoism. But Indian media is compliant media and advances government’s agenda of demonizing Pakistan. In the ‘analysis’ of Imran Khan’s statement by India’s leading daily ‘the Hindu’ the author gave the reasons for Imran Khan’s statement vis-a-vis “Pakistan faces rigorous investigations by the IMF, where Mr. Khan’s government has applied for loans. The Financial Action Task Force is conducting a review ahead of a meeting in June where Pakistan, which is on the “grey list”, could be blacklisted if it doesn’t show credible action on terror. At this time, Mr. Khan’s words espousing dialogue with India are equally aimed at the US, the EU and the Gulf countries, which would like to see bilateral tension ease”. The analyst appears to have admitted Imran Khan as a shrewd politician.
With regard to better chance of dialogue with BJP government as stated by Imran Khan, the analysis in the Hindu stated: “This belief borne out by history. The then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who led India during the Kargil war, and campaigned in both 1998 and 1999 elections with nationalistic, anti-Pakistan rhetoric, was also the Prime Minister who visited Pakistan twice — once in February 1998 for the Lahore summit and in January 2004 for the SAARC summit. Despite General Musharraf’s role in the Kargil war, the then NDA government also invited him to Agra for talks in 2000. Similarly, when Mr Modi took office in 2014, he began with an invitation to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other SAARC leaders to attend his swearing-in, and then travelled to Lahore in December 2015”. The question is what was the end result of that bonhomie?
Since 2016, Indian forces used pellet guns blinding the scores of Kashmiris and injuring thousands of them. Yet Pakistan’s political leaders had penchant for friendly relations with India. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had reiterated umpteenth times that Pakistan wanted to settle all disputes with India through dialogue. When under fire, Indian leaders express their willingness to discuss all disputes including Kashmir, but invariably with the caveat that Kashmir is India’s non-negotiable integral part. There is also illusion that Indians want peace with Pakistan. However, popular public goodwill for Pakistan is just a fiction, which has been chanted liltingly in Indo-Pak seminars in five-star hotels. On the ground it exists not. It is just antipathy for Pakistan that pervades the Indian streets, public halls, political offices, media compounds and official corridors. This animus not only cuts across the Indian polity; it persists perennially and all the time.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.