- Whither ‘Kashmir hour?’
Prime Minister Imran Khan no doubt sincerely wants to resolve the Kashmir issue. He is also keen to bring peace to South Asia by normalising Pak-India relations. Even before coming to power he had visited India to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But in matters of statecraft sincerity or honesty take a back seat. What is required is a deep understanding of international issues and bilateral disputes, combined with competence to resolve them.
Mr Khan had perhaps never read Mr Modi’s election manifesto that prominently displayed the promise to end occupied Kashmir’s special status and integrate it into India. Or perhaps Mr Khan considered that election manifestos were just for getting votes and not meant to be implemented. He believed that since Hindu nationalist PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee could sit with Mr Nawaz Sharif to resolve Pak-India disputes, Mr Modi too was likely to meet him to settle the Kashmir issue. The specious thinking led him to publicly wish for Mr Modi’s victory. Again Mr Khan concluded that since Pakistan was providing crucial help to US President Donald Trump who desperately wanted to bring back US soldiers from Afghanistan, he would force Mr Modi to accept him as a mediator on Kashmir. He failed to realise that when push came to shove the US President was bound to prefer a strategic partner over a transactional ally.
A simplistic Mr Khan had hoped that by chauffeuring around the Gulf princes he would make them change their policies on India where they had strong business interests. Only when they failed to support Pakistan on Kashmir did Mr Khan realize that business interests are more important than religious affiliations or personal ties.
The PTI government has no Kashmir policy. It only reacts to Indian moves. Mr Khan is so fully engrossed in sending political rivals to jail that he has little time for any other issue. He makes announcements about Kashmir on the spur of the moment and then forgets about them. On 29 August last year, Mr Khan directed all Pakistanis to stand for 30 minutes every Friday for Kashmir. Did anybody from the government follow up the call during the last 40-odd Fridays?
Despite warnings from the NCOC the PM has addressed large gatherings in Islamabad. Couldn’t he call one on the Kashmir Black Day?