Indo-Pak Ties

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 24 Aug 2018 14:46:43

By LALIT SETHI,

 

Pakistan had approached the International Monetary Fund for help to repay its debts, but the IMF promptly denied assistance because Pakistan has perhaps no collateral to offer. Is it bankrupt financially? Is it already a failed State, with only terrorism to export, not just to India, but even to Europe, especially Britain, which was its patron with the USA in 1947 and remained its staunch supporter for decades until almost 15 years ago?

 

ON AUGUST 22 during Eid in Kashmir, Pakistani proxies have waved their flags and indulged in violence in Srinagar and other areas in the Valley: Fayaz Ahmed Shah, a special police officer, has been killed in Pulwama and Shabir Ahmed Bhat, a BJP leader, was shot dead in Kulgam, a former policeman has been abducted and ten or more people have been injured, besides a police van and men of the Armed Forces have been attacked. Stone-throwing violent mobs are visible, especially in Srinagar and Sopore, on the road in TV picture reports. Some men wearing black face masks have been nabbed. Pakistani and ISIS flags are being carried by protesters running around. Are all these pre-planned? Will the violence continue in Kashmir?


Yet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had diplomatically and graciously congratulated Imran Khan on his assuming the office of Pakistan’s new Prime Minister and offered “constructive engagement” between the two countries.
As Imran Khan settles down to work in coming weeks and months, he will face the new violence and has to try to cope with the looming economic crisis that he faces: A debt of $28 billion, $12 billion of it to China, an all-weather friend who has started twisting his arms and its client State, leaving it little room to look right or left for succour.


Pakistan had approached the International Monetary Fund for help to repay its debts, but the IMF promptly denied assistance because Pakistan has perhaps no collateral to offer. Is it bankrupt financially? Is it already a failed State, with only terrorism to export, not just to India, but even to Europe, especially Britain, which was its patron with the USA in 1947 and remained its staunch supporter for decades until almost 15 years ago?


Pakistan has been receiving assistance from the US of $1.5 billion a year, almost as rent for the use of its highway to Khyber Pass from Karachi for the transport of American military and equipment to Afghanistan for nearly 15 years. The US scaled down its military presence in Afghanistan from close to 100,000 soldiers to 3,000 now, most of them trainers; America has cut down the hand-out to Pakistan to $1.5 million a year, at least on paper.


Imran Khan has told India that if it takes one step, he will take two in response to an Indian initiative. A Pakistani commentator, Imtiaz Gul, who heads the Centre for Research and Security Studies, has quoted an unnamed three-star Pakistani General (rank of a lieutenant-general) as saying “Imran Khan has spoken of two steps, but we would say he should take four steps if India takes one step.”


Imtiaz Gul has written this in an article on the opinion page in ‘Hindustan Times’ dated August 20 with the headlines: “Imran needs Army nod to improve ties with India. Since the PM and the military boast a similar nationalistic outlook, it augurs well for a civil-military convergence.” The writer admits that besides the massive balance of payments crisis the 22nd Prime Minister faces, multiple social and economic, besides foreign policy challenges await him. The biggest of all is linked to relations with India, which currently largely shapes the US-Allies opinion on Pakistan.


Besides, Prime Minister Modi is perceived here (in Pakistan) as “hell-bent on squeezing Pakistan into submission. Regardless of whether the perception is right or not, Imran Khan remains siezed with the idea of being able to resusciate ties with India because it is so critical for Pakistan, Fawad Chaudhuri, one of the trusted aides of Imran Khan, told the ‘Hindustan Times.’ For staying the course, Khan will also have to look to Rawalpindi, south of the capital, where the mighty military is headquartered. If conversations within the security apparatus were any indication, Khan enjoys goodwill on this count like no PM before him.” But will the goodwill of the Armed Forces for the new Premier continue for long? Will that be just as long as Imran Khan remains loyal to the military establishment and does not take any step without their consent and permission?


But the hawkish and unpredictable new Foreign Minister, Shah Mohammed Qureshi, could queer Imran Khan’s pitch at any time. He has already misinterpreted Modi’s letter of congratulation as an “indication of the beginning of talks between the two countries.” This has been denied by Indian officials, who say that no suggestion had been made for the resumption of a formal dialogue. Foreign Prime Minister of two countries are likely to meet during UN session in New York.


The Taliban, who pretend to be friendly with the new Pakistan Premier, have already done considerable mischief by surrounding Ghazni, a provincial capital in Afghanistan, and cutting off the approaches that lead south out of that terrain.


The new Foreign Minister was in Mumbai during the terrorists’ attack of 26/11 in 2008 in that city and trying to hold a Press conference. The then External Affairs Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, called him on telephone and asked him to leave India immediately. He was promptly expelled from India.


Does that reveal that Pakistan would like for some hint of an offer of early negotiations? Imran Khan has rolled out the idea of a South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation or SAARC summit talks in Pakistan. In 2004, Pakistan made a commitment at a SAARC summit, the exact words of the agreement said: “Pakistan will not allow any parts of its territory to be used by forces inimical to India,” according to former President Pranab Mukherjee in his tribute to Atal Behari Vajpayee on his foreign policy track record. He highlighted Vajpayee’s engagement with Pakistan. He added: “This commitment he (Vajpayee) got is until today a weapon in the hands of every Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and every negotiator to remind Pakistan that you made a commitment.”


The new SAARC ploy appears to be too hasty a move and would India and the other heads of Government and State not be surprised by it in its sheer casualness?