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September 29, 2019

Imran and Modi in the US


September 29, 2019

This past week the most talked about events in India and Pakistan Were the visits of the prime ministers of India and Pakistan to the US. Although both had gone there to attend the United Nations General Assembly session in New York, they tried to utilize their time to get the maximum out it.

Both Imran Khan and Narendra Modi tried to display their best forms and attempted to impress their audiences with their respective points of view. Perhaps the most important statement from Imran Khan was the one in which he expressed his worries more about India than about Pakistan.

That the ruling party in India – the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – and Indian Prime Minister Modi both represent hate-based politics is beyond the shadow of a doubt, and Imran Khan explained this very well. Despite being 40 years old, the BJP takes its roots from the Janata Party of the 1970s and going back to the RSS and Jan Sangh which are collectively called the Sangh Parivar or the family of the Jan Sangh. During his visit, Imran Khan reminded his audiences that now India is in the grip of the same hate-mongering ideology that had taken the life of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948.

Imran Khan’s impressive talk at the American think tank, Council for Foreign Relations, was delivered in collaboration with the secretary general of the Commonwealth. The best feature of this discussion was that it went beyond the Kashmir issue, encompassing a host of other topics. It would not have been a good idea if the PM had only concentrated on the Kashmir problem. PM Imran Khan’s candid talk about Afghanistan and the role Pakistan has played in it impressed many. It is this kind of honesty that was needed to recognize our past mistakes in Kashmir too.

Imran Khan explained that blaming Pakistan for all American failures in Afghanistan was neither correct nor justified. It is a matter of concern for Pakistan too that the Afghan peace process has been stalled right when the negotiations between America and the Taliban were about to be concluded and the draft agreement was ready to be signed. Imran Khan was right in pointing out that Afghanistan has been a victim of disastrous wars for over four decades now, and there is no solution on the horizon.

Interestingly, Imran Khan has repeatedly highlighted that the so-called Afghan mujahideen (holy warriors) were used against the Soviet Union, and the US and Pakistan collaborated in this adventure. Not that the world didn’t know about it – everybody and his dog knew about it – the point is that a sitting PM of Pakistan is underscoring the role his country played, and his tone is of remorse and regret. After a ten-year war when the USSR withdrew its forces from Afghanistan, the US left Pakistan to deal with those warriors.

Precisely these were the cautions that leaders such as Abdul Wali Khan and Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo were raising while opposing Pakistan’s involvement in the Afghan imbroglio. But that was the time when General Ziaul Haq and his brother generals were not ready and willing to listen to any sensible advice because General Zia was more interested in prolonging his own rule. The slogans of crusades and holy wars were expedient, but they threw the entire region in an unending war that is still raging. Imran Khan elaborated on this by saying that after the September-11 attacks, the same mistake was repeated.

When the US invaded Afghanistan and General Musharraf sided with it, nearly the same groups of warriors – but with different names – were targeted. These were the groups that had been taught and trained to fight against foreign invaders as a religious duty of jihad (crusade or holy war). Those words of Imran Khan should be written with gold with which he lamented the mistake of joining the war on terror after September 11, 2001, costing Pakistan over 70,000 lives and an economic loss surpassing $200b.

He also complained that President Trump had cancelled the talks with the Taliban without even consulting with Pakistan. Imran Khan also expressed his total ignorance about the result of the Abbottabad Commission investigation into how Osama bin Laden managed to hide in Pakistan. On the other side, PM Modi of India spoke in one voice with Trump, condemning all those who harbour and support terrorists. They vowed to fight against terrorism together. Modi also wondered how those who could not take care of their own countries were trying to meddle in other countries’ affairs.

This was indeed a swipe at Pakistan, implying that Pakistan’s economy is in a shambles and the government cannot take care of it. President Trump also addressed the same crowd with similar enthusiasm and verve. Trump praised Modi as a great leader, as he had done with Imran Khan in July. The rally addressed by Modi and Trump is said to be the largest gathering ever to fete a foreign leader, with over 50,000 people in audience. Modi tried to deflect the attention from the Indian army’s atrocities in Kashmir and claimed that his opponents were anti-India and pro-terrorists.

Modi didn’t mention Pakistan, but, falsely and shamelessly, implied that the origin of the September-11 attacks in the US and November-26 attacks in India were the same and they were part of one conspiracy. But Modi did not talk about who hatched the conspiracy of atrocities in Kashmir. He totally ignored his own war against the people in Indian-occupied Kashmir. It has been almost two months since the cancellation of Article 370 of the constitution of India, and the continued blockade of the Kashmiri people, but Modi is adamant in his version that Article 370 was a major obstacle in the way to development.

Modi was proud that he had abolished the 70-year-old barrier. It appears that the newfound bonhomie between Modi and Trump does not auger well for this region, as both seem to be bent upon throwing South Asia into further turmoil. In this conspiracy the role of Israel is also evident as both India and Israel have developed good bilateral relations lately. Under these perilous circumstances, Pakistan should be treading with care and caution. Imran Khan has already warned all those who think about crossing the LoC, as it would give a ready excuse to India for a full-fledged war.

Pakistan should continue to raise a voice for Kashmir but avoid any misstep that may trigger a war. Moreover, Pakistan needs a new thinking pattern on Kashmir, leaving behind a decades-old strategy. The world is listening, but we have to accept and understand the fact that the world community is not ready to move against India. Even our own Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) has not openly condemned India over its unlawful annexation of Kashmir. What to talk of the five veto-powers in the UN, not even our close friends such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE have condemned India.

All indications are that Kashmir is going to be another Palestine. Most of the world community seem to have reconciled with the fact that Israel is there to stay in Palestine. Even most of the Muslim countries are no more vociferous and vocal as they used to be against Israel some years back; mainly because no Muslim country is technologically advanced enough to challenge Israel.

If Pakistan wants to achieve some concrete results, it should first concentrate on developing itself educationally, economically, and in science and technology. Most of all if we are economically strong, we can challenge India – otherwise, just forget about it.

The writer holds a PhD from the University of Birmingham, UK and works in Islamabad.

Email: [email protected]