Imran Khan’s reverse swing

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan issued a statement praising Narendra Modi’s BJP as being a more suitable partner for dialogue instead of rival INC. PM Khan described the low possibility of INC being an effective negotiator due to their vast electoral promises to coalition partners...

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan issued a statement praising Narendra Modi’s BJP as being a more suitable partner for dialogue instead of rival INC. PM Khan described the low possibility of INC being an effective negotiator due to their vast electoral promises to coalition partners.

“Perhaps if the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) .... wins, some kind of settlement in Kashmir could be reached,” Khan told a small group of foreign journalists in an interview.

It is not surprising that a newly elected Pakistani PM is seen actively rooting for a contender for India’s Premiership, despite the logical inconsistencies that come along with supporting the BJP, which many in Pakistan have described as being “anti-Muslim”. India’s elections have astounded the world for its sheer scale, and Pakistan remains no exception to the wonderment.

Background

For months now, the BJP has spent its efforts on vilifying the Pakistani establishment, accusing it of harbouring terrorist since the early 1990s for Anti-India activities. BJP’s attacks on Pakistan evolved into a military standoff in the last week of February, when Indian Air Force (IAF) jets bombed targets in Balakot, a suspected terrorist training centre located in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir. Tensions soared after an apparent Pakistani retaliation which resulted in the capture of an Indian Pilot. PM Khan, leveraging his largely untainted time in office, as well as the faculty of strategic forethought, decided to release the pilot as a “goodwill gesture” and as a hope for a peaceful future.

Pakistan has always been a target for the hawkish members of India’s extensive bureaucracy and political establishment. Despite the morally bankrupt nature of using terror attacks for political gains, Indian politicians have designated Pakistan as the source of all terror in the region, a sentiment which is routinely amplified just before or during an election cycle.

This sentiment has been rampant for the past two years. After a brief epoch of harmony between the Indian and Pakistan PMs, which included an unprecedented and unplanned stop over at Lahore in April 2015 to attend the wedding of Nawaz Sharif’s granddaughter. The harmony collapsed in a sea of political instability in Pakistan and the subsequent ‘Surgical Strike’ (September 2016) on reported terrorist targets along the Line of Control (LOC).

The endorsement

On a deeper analysis, Imran Khan’s motive to “endorse” the BJP is quite simple. Commentators across the globe speculate PM Khan chose to express his surprising views in an attempt to discredit the INC or alternatively, to stake a claim in the outcome of the election. However, much like his legendary bowling with the older, non-swinging cricket ball, PM Khan delivered a well-timed political reverse swing on the stumps. His one statement has turned the BJP’s Pakistan-bashing tactic on its head by displaying that if Pakistan is bad for India, and Imran Khan endorses the BJP, the BJP will also be bad for India.

The opposition parties pounced on the bait, and immediately questioned the existence of any strong links between the BJP and Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreen-i-Insaf (PTI). It appears as PM Khan’s tactics have worked, as now the country’s focus is on why the BJP is being ‘endorsed’ by PTI instead of accepting its premise of Pakistan being completely anti-Indian.

Pakistan’s hidden conundrum

During the unravelling of Pakistan’s newfound love for Indian electoral predictions, its foreign minister made a startling claim of an impending Indian attack on Pakistan anytime between 16 and 20 April. Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who appears to be dictating the moves for Islamabad’s diplomatic apparatus also came to the swift defence of PM Khan, categorising the ‘endorsement’ as a misquoted statement. Claiming an announcement was misreported or misquoted is a widely accepted defence of an unpopular statement. However, the timing of Minister Qureshi’s claim of an Indian attack begs a single question: Is Pakistani state policy incomplete without India?

Islamabad’s brave defence of itself during accusations of its nature as a terrorist-host boil down to a singularly self-deprecating statement: “We too, are victims of terrorism”. Academic perception of the problem points to a possibility of Pakistan being devoured by the monsters it created but its self-styled victimhood is raised exclusively when India is hit with an attack from across the border. Every action it takes on the international stage is either a reaction to or an attempt to outmanoeuvre New Delhi.

The Indian elections maybe one of the starkest reminders of Pakistan’s hidden conundrum: India influences every part of their decision making, more so than many important domestic factors. India has had the fortune of forward-thinking, rational leaders who could diversify their efforts into a wide range of areas but Pakistan’s fixation with India has been disastrous for its domestic and regional stability.