India dictating terms of peace, once again – Faizah Gilani

The writer has studied History and Politics at Queen Mary University of London, and Middle East Studies at SOAS, University of London.

Since becoming Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan has expressed an open and friendly approach towards the country’s immediate neighbours. This approach has remained consistent since his opposition days, where PM Khan had always called for better ties with Pakistan’s neighbours. Imran Khan has always remained anti war and pro-peace towards all the neighbouring countries, including “tricky ones” such as India. On the foreign policy front and developing international ties, the present government seems to be putting in a lot of effort. India, however, will never be an easy customer to deal with, and PM Khan will understand this as the time goes by. Imran Khan’s intentions may be genuine and sincere, but good relations can never be developed from one side alone. Peace most certainly cannot be achieved if the other party has little interest in achieving it.

India’s behaviour towards Pakistan, of late, has been nothing but aggressive, dismissive and full arrogance. New Delhi has snubbed Islamabad after every attempt made by the Prime Minister of Pakistan, who sought to create a more relaxed atmosphere between the two neighbours. India’s Minister of External Affairs, Suhshma Swaraj, has constantly thrown daggers at Pakistan with her sharp words, something which is neither new nor surprising. Her attitude towards Pakistan has always been that of sheer and utter disdain. And her attitude pretty much sums up the mood within Narendra Modi’s right-wing BJP. In a nut shell, India is in no mood to talk.

Even with the recent Kartarpur Corridor opening, a huge gesture on part of Pakistan, the Indian government showed a very dismissive and disinterested approach towards the overall gesture; almost trying to downplay its significance and importance. But kudos to the likes of former cricketer and Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu for having the courage to return to Pakistan once again, despite previous backlash back home. It is heartening to see that there are still some people across the border who are willing to see beyond politics and political point scoring. Not everyone has that moral decency. But the top brass in New Delhi did not share similar enthusiasm. And a few days after Kartarpur, India’s Army Chief gave a statement that India would only talk with Pakistan if the latter was to become secular.

A ridiculous comment, and rich coming from India, where people in recent times have been lynched over eating beef. According to a recent report by the Washington Post, India under Modi’s government has been unsafe for minorities, Muslims in particular. But of course, India, the world’s “largest democracy” and an apparent secular state, has no issues, and governance, under Modi, is all hunky dory. But this statement by the Indian Army Chief simply highlights the pitiful attempts that India is willing to make, simply to dodge any sort of dialogue with Pakistan. This is not how diplomacy works. One state cannot dictate another sovereign state in this manner. But if India is so concerned with promoting secularism, one should ask them why Modi recently met with Saudi Arabia’s Prince Muhammad Bin Salman. Saudi Arabia is not a secular state. So, if India only talks with nations that are secular, does shaking hands with MBS not go against their policy?

The bottom line is; India does not have a valid reason to avoid Pakistan when it comes to restarting dialogue. But all lame attempts are being used and it is becoming obvious now. There is a pattern when it comes to India’s approach towards Pakistan and Imran Khan’s government must smarten up and remain on its toes. Islamabad is going to find it incredibly tough to bring India to the negotiating table, in particular for Kashmir. New Delhi simply wants to keep a lid on whatever is going on in Kashmir. They do not want to come to the negotiating table because they knows that once the lid is removed, it will be incredibly difficult for them to get hold of the situation. India is more than happy with oppressing the Human Rights of the Kashmiri people. Kashmir has become nothing but an issue of “false ego” for India. There is no love for the people of Kashmir. Only deep-rooted hatred and a desire to hold on to what they see as their personal property.

Imran Khan, on several occasions, has stressed on the fact that the core issue between Pakistan and India is Kashmir. If India was to take two steps forward, Pakistan would take four steps towards them. PM Khan has been very clear on this point. But so far, it has fallen on deaf ears in India. How he tackles India will be one of Khan Sahib’s biggest challenges, and it will not be easy. He has shown his intent and is willing to go that extra mile. However, with elections coming up in India, we all know what that means. Anti-Pakistan sentiment will go up a few notches, and that is what fetches the votes in India. Modi will be in no mood to court PM Khan, not when it is election time and that is for certain. At this stage, Imran Khan has two options. Either wait and watch until India’s elections are over or develop a tougher stance towards New Delhi. Either way, India will be having the upper hand. As always, they will dictate the terms of peace. Even though it is unfortunate, it is also a harsh reality.

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