Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has shocked the entire world with his remark on the ongoing Lok Sabha elections in India. He had said that if Narendra Modi comes back in power after Lok Sabha 2019 elections, chances of peace with India are more but if the next Indian government were led by the opposition Congress party, it might be too scared to seek a settlement with Pakistan over Kashmir, fearing a backlash from the right.
Imran Khan said during an interview with foreign journalists that
“Perhaps if the BJP – a right-wing party – wins, some kind of settlement in Kashmir could be reached.”
With the hope of fabricating a peace process, Imran Khan also targeted the Hindu nationalism in India.”I never thought I would see what is happening in India right now,” said the former international cricket star. “Muslim-ness is being attacked.”
Imran Khan said Indian Muslims he knew who many years ago had been happy about their situation in India were now very worried by extreme Hindu nationalism.
He alleged Modi, like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was electioneering based on “fear and nationalist feeling”.
Imran Khan said Kashmir was a political struggle and there was no military solution, adding that Kashmiris suffered if armed militants from Pakistan came across the border, leading to Indian army crackdowns.
Islamabad had denied responsibility for the Feb. 14 attack on CRPF forces in Pulwama, which was claimed by Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed, but the bombing prompted India to carry out a cross border air strike against the militant training camp in Pakistan.
Imran Khan’s remarks drew sharp reactions from opposition parties in Pakistan as well as in India.
Imran Khan’s cabinet minister Mahmood Qureshi, the foreign Minister of Pakistan when asked about his PM’s remark on India parliamentary elections revealed that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s statement regarding the outcome of general elections in India was taken out of context as “everyone knows” about Imran Khan’s reservations regarding Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
He said that Prime Minister Khan’s reservations regarding PM Modi “are on the record and everyone knows his (Khan’s) opinion of him”.
Similar reactions were flanked in India as well with the entire Opposition alleging that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on the same side like Pakistan.
The AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi condemning Mr Khan’s statement said that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has no right to interfere in the electoral process of a great country like India.
“I condemn the statement of Imran Khan. He has no right to interfere in the electoral process of a great country like India. He comes from a country where the electoral process is controlled by its Army and ISI. We have free and fair elections. It is completely wrong on part of Imran Khan to say that he wants Narendra Modi as Prime Minister of India so that Kashmir issue can be solved. I would like to remind him that Kashmir is not anybody’s private property,” Mr Owaisi said after voting in Hyderabad.
The All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader alleged that PM Modi has tried to portray himself as a victim of Opposition parties and Pakistan.
“Kashmir is an integral part of India. Kashmir is our heart. It is correct that there is a lot to do in Kashmir, in which Modi has failed. But the Prime Minister has tried to portray himself as a victim of Opposition parties and Pakistan, and that they do not want to see him as Prime Minister,” he said.
“But now Imran Khan is himself saying that the Pakistan establishment, that is ISI, wants Modi as Prime Minister. I request the proud people of India to ensure that we do not allow Imran Khan’s wish to get fulfilled. People will come out and decide who should lead our great nation,” Mr Owaisi added.
Why does Imran Khan’s statement imply?
The Pak PM’s statement affirming PM Narendra Modi’s role in establishing Indo-Pak peace evolved series of controversies as the country is in the middle of parliamentary elections.
The statement can be visualised to hit the hardline nationalists and Hindus who have a tremendous belief that only PM Narendra Modi can give a fitting reply to Pakistan’s growing engagement in Jammu and Kashmir and to the terrorist activities being regulated from the neighbourhood.
There is also a general belief in Pakistan that only hardliners — non-Congress leaders — in India can sell peace with Pakistan. While in Opposition, they are a formidable opponent of talks with Pakistan, but once in power; they are best placed to take peace initiatives.
When the hardline BJP which campaigned in both 1998 and 1999 elections with nationalistic, anti-Pakistan rhetoric formed the government with its allies in 1999, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who led India during the Kargil war visited Pakistan twice during his tenure, once in February 1998 for the Lahore summit and in January 2004 for the SAARC summit.
Despite General Musharraf’s role in the Kargil war, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government invited him to Agra for talks in 2000.
Similarly, when Narendra Modi took office in 2014, he set a tone for allowing peace between the hostile neighbours with an invitation to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other SAARC leaders to attend his swearing-in. His visit to Lahore perplexed the whole world in December 2015. Later on, after the Pathankot terror attack, the Modi government invited a Pakistani team of investigators to travel to the airbase to facilitate a “joint investigation.”
Pakistan had conferred Morarji Desai, the first non-Congress Prime Minister in India with the Nishan-e-Pakistan in 1990, despite the fact that he had once threatened to “destroy Pakistan” if it used a nuclear weapon.
In comparison, Manmohan Singh, who was seen as a “peacenik” for pursuing the four-step formula in Kashmir and even after trying to sustain the dialogue process for years, never visited Pakistan once.
Pakistani PM’s surprise remark on the Indian Prime Minister and the Lok Sabha elections may have larger implications on the democratic exercise in India.