Imran Khan’s talk of talks with India: Sincere desire or playing to gallery?

at 7:03 pm
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan


New Delhi : It seems Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is desperate to have talks with India, but wants a face-saver.

This conclusion may be drawn from his latest statement that Pakistan is ready to restart talks with India if Delhi provides a “road map” towards restoring Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, which was revoked in August 2019.

In an interview, he has said that even if India gives a road map to Pakistan outlining steps to undo what was done in August 2019, it will be acceptable to Pakistan.

“If there is a road map, then, yes, we will talk,” Khan told Reuters, reflecting a nuanced change of stance as the Prime Minister and his government previously have categorically ruled out any talks or normalisation of relations with India unless Article 370 is restored in Jammu and Kashmir.

He acknowledged that there has been no response from India on his statements.

After the Article 370 was revoked in Jammu and Kashmir, ending its special status, Pakistan downgraded diplomatic relations with India and declared there can be no bilateral engagement till the decision is reversed.

India has maintained that revocation of Article 370 is irreversible, making it clear that there can be no negotiation on this issue which pertains to internal matters of the country.

After the revocation of Article 370, Pakistan went crying around the world to allege that the government of India’s decision was “illegal” but no country, except Turkey, paid heed to its complaints.

Most shocking for Pakistan was the lack of interest shown by the Muslim countries in the matter of Kashmir.

Saudi Arabia, the most influential Muslim country with which Pakistan has enjoyed the closest relations, even stonewalled Imran Khan government’s desperate pleas for an urgent and special session of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a grouping of 57 Muslim countries, on the revocation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.

When Saudi Arabia, which had to convene the OIC meeting, did not heed to Pakistan’s pleas for one year after Article 370 was revoked, frustration grew in Islamabad.

So much was the setback for Pakistan that its Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi publicly threatened to quit OIC and form a separate grouping of like-minded Islamic nations.

“I am once again respectfully telling OIC that a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers is our expectation. If you cannot convene it, then I’ll be compelled to ask Prime Minister Imran Khan to call a meeting of the Islamic countries that are ready to stand with us on the issue of Kashmir and support the oppressed Kashmiris,” Qureshi said in an interview on August 6, 2020.

He went on to add that “Pakistan could not wait any further.”

Although Pakistan had no courage to carry out that threat, the utterances, however, did anger Saudi Arabia and spoiled their bilateral relations, perhaps permanently.

The Pakistani leadership later tried to placate Saudi Arabia, with even its all-powerful Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa travelling to Riyadh. But they received cold response from the leadership of the Kingdom.

In the subsequent months, Saudi Arabia made its anger known through various means, including its demand for immediate return of loan given to Pakistan, which was said to be to the tune of 3 billion dollars.

Currently, China is the only influential country which stands by Pakistan, at least publicly.

Probably, it is this failure of Pakistan in garnering international support for its so-called “Kashmir cause”, coupled with huge domestic pressure, that Imran Khan is desperately seeking talks with India.

Possibly, he is playing to the gallery to give an impression to the world that Pakistan seeks good relations with India.

Perhaps, it was with this intent in mind that Pakistan agreed on February 24 to adhere to the border ceasefire of November 2003, which was violated regularly and repeatedly by the Pakistani military till February this year.

Clearly, the sincerity of the desire leaves much to be desired, considering Pakistan’s dubious track record.