Imran Khan has little understanding of the complexities of Pakistan’s policy towards India and Afghanistan. His approach is mostly reactive rather than proactive .
During the 2018 elections Mr Khan was all out against India, thinking mistakenly that this would bring him more votes. The day the elections results were out, Mr Khan took a sudden U-Turn with his “If India Takes One Step, Pakistan Will Take Two” statement. Mr Khan offered talks to Indian PM Narendra Modi to alleviate poverty in the Subcontinent through dialogue and trade. When a year later widespread protests took place in Pakistan against Modi’s revocation of Indian-Occupied Kashmir’s status followed by brutal repression in the occupied Valley, Mr Khan again changed tack, suddenly discovering that the Indian PM he was courting was in fact “inspired by Nazi ideology.”
This time the about-turn has taken place within weeks for reasons unknown so far. In May, Khan announced Pakistan will not hold talks with India until New Delhi cancels the revocation of Article 370. On Friday Khan surprised many by a humiliating “Even if they give us a roadmap… then that is acceptable.” Talking to Reuters, he reverted to his earlier stance that poverty cannot be reduced except through trade.
Khan is equally innocent about the complexities of issues in Afghanistan. In 2012 he had maintained that the “people who are fighting in Afghanistan against the foreign occupation are fighting a jihad.” Now that the foreign troops are leaving he needs to persuade the Afghan Taliban to stop fighting and instead join the proposed political settlement in Afghanistan. Similarly, both the Tehrik Taliban Pakistan, which is sheltering in Afghanistan, and Mr Khan have had a soft corner for each other. In 2013 Mr Khan, who was an opposition leader then, urged the PML(N) government to declare a ceasefire while holding peace talks with TTP militants and to allow them to open an office in Pakistan similar to the Afghan Taliban office in Qatar to facilitate the dialogue process. In February 2014 he was one of the five leaders nominated by the TTP to mediate peace talks with government negotiators. One expects Mr Khan now to ask the TTP to stop launching terrorist attacks inside Pakistan on the behest of Indian agencies.