PM Imran Is Cleverly Challenging The Establishment On Ties With India
Imran Khan is increasingly toeing the footsteps of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in latter’s last days by adopting a two pronged strategy, i.e. the right wing appeasing statements and maligning the establishment on Kashmir & India policies (like ZAB who blamed Gen Ayub Khan for Kashmir’s surrender and made moves like ban on liquor and casinos in Karachi).
It is now clear that stories on dramatic rapprochement with India through Track-2 diplomacy were planted in various publications to paint Pakistan Army’s leadership weak on India. Pro-government journalists’ latest claim that Prime Minister Modi is to meet PM Imran Khan in the proposed SAARC summit – likely to be convened in Islamabad – in coming months] was another planted story by ‘informed officials’ of the government.
In other words, when publication after publication repeats one theme, that the Army Chief is behind the scene arranging for Imran to meet Modi, right from Financial Times to Islamabad-based newspapers, it suggests a pattern and an underlying message: the establishment is compromising Pakistan’s vital interests on Kashmir and India by alleged Track-2 diplomacy while the politician Imran Khan is standing up to India against the oppression of the Kashmirs. The aim is to make the army leadership look weak in the public imagination.
But the fact is that for any army chief showing any leniency towards India in the ‘perception domain’ would only undercut the army’s ability to galvanize public support in case of a war-like situation. And logically no chief would shoot himself in the foot this way, including the current COAS General Bajwa.
That the larger picture clearly shows there’s no meaningful rapprochement possible between the two countries at the moment is obvious to the army chief of Pakistan, because India has three grand negative approaches towards Islamabad:
1) Strategic rapprochement: this is for happy Pakistanis who believe there exists a kind-hearted India who will happily live with Pakistan as a peaceful neighbor. Delhi’s interests and ideology go against having a big heart. So it is not there in the real world.
2) Strategic shock: to break our national will and make us a pliant state is another goal India cherishes. Military and nuclear weapons make it very painful for India to fulfill this goal.
3) Strategic coercion: it is called death by a thousand cuts or slow poisoning, also known as hybrid war. Pakistan is subject to all these three approaches that Delhi adopted long ago.
Through optics like planting stories and canceling proposed trade with India, Imran Khan is cleverly maneuvering to create a perception that he is hard on India due to the Kashmir situation whereas the establishment is ‘playing second pedal’ on Kashmir and India.
PM’s statement on linking rape with women’s liberal attire also caused outrage in the country and abroad. It was immediately picked up by various right groups and international publications. The narrative was aimed at securing the support of the rightwing followers who are increasingly disillusioned due to PTI government’s performance.
But it is the government’s handling of India and Kashmir policy that has brought the PM in a head on collision with the establishment. It is a very high stake game that even Bhutto did not succeed in. So how will Imran Khan?
The writer is a geopolitical analyst, a politician from Balochistan, and ex-adviser to the Balochistan Government on media and strategic communication. He remained associated with BBC World Service. He is also Chairman of Centre for Geo-Politics & Balochistan