There is an old saying that ‘desperate times call for desperate measures’ and Islamabad’s situation after New Delhi’s abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu & Kashmir, is despairing, to say the least. Pakistan's PM Imran Khan has been making every efforts to draw the world’s attention towards the possibility of another Indo-Pak war, this time by suggesting the use of nuclear weapons, to get the world to take Pakistan seriously. His recent speeches in Pakistan and PoK as well as in an interview to foreign publications are cases in point.
But even as tensions run high, could talks bilateral talks be the way forward? Perhaps not. Pakistan can neither shed its anti-India sentiment, as that gives it its only identity and nor can it address the essential condition that New Delhi has been insisting on for some years; for Pakistan to confront the terror groups that it has nurtured for decades.
While Pakistan is leaving no stone unturned to show the world that India was wrong while abrogating Article 370, but the world is not taking Imran Khan's claim on Jammu and Kashmir seriously.
1. Nuclear bluffs:
When Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke about a possible review of New Delhi’s ‘no first use’ nuclear policy, we heard Khan expressing concern and saying “…the world must also seriously consider the safety and security of India’s nuclear arsenal in the control of the fascist, racist Hindu supremacist Modi government. This is an issue that impacts not just the region but the world.” He even went a step further and presented the doomsday scenario by saying, “If the world does nothing to stop the Indian assault on Kashmir and its people, there will be consequences for the whole world as two nuclear-armed states get ever closer to a direct military confrontation.” However, this isn’t a mere apprehension – it’s an unconcealed and direct statement of intent confirming Pakistan’s willingness to exercise the military option and New Delhi needs to highlight this open display of Pakistan’s hostile attitude at all international forums.
2. Pakistan existential crisis:
The altered political reality in Kashmir now throws up three possibilities, as Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani wrote in The Print. One, Kashmiri leaders may now fight a protracted legal battle to challenge the validity of Modi government’s decision.
It is here that Pakistan military faces an existential crisis as it has modeled its outsized role in Pakistan’s polity by projecting and nurturing its role as the only institution that may safeguard Pakistan’s territory from a Hindu-majority nation and the only institution capable of snatching Muslim-majority Kashmir away from the clutches of ‘non-believers’. In Pakistan’s own words, “Jammu and Kashmir is an unfinished agenda of Partition” and it is the military that will fulfil the erstwhile princely state’s destiny of ‘Kashmir banay ga Pakistan’ (Kashmir will become Pakistan). That, at least, is the lie that Pakistan’s elite political class and military have been feeding the public since Independence.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the biggest problem for India in its relations with Pakistan is to find "who is running the country" and should be engaged for talks. In an interview to a television channel at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here, Modi said he had made friendly gestures to both Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan but these were not reciprocated.
Describing his sudden visit to Pakistan in 2015 while returning from Afghanistan, he said Sharif called him over to Lahore to meet him. Modi said his visit was intended to send a message that India does "not bear any ill-will towards Pakistan".
"The biggest problem with Pakistan is that nobody knows who is running the country and whom we should talk to," he said, adding his experience with Pakistan was not isolated but leaders from the US, China, Russia, the Gulf and Arab countries share the same views.
Modi said he was told by several world leaders that he would not come to know whom to talk in Pakistan. "Whom will you talk to... with the Army, with the ISI? Or, with an elected body? The leaders told me, 'We ourselves don't know who runs that country'."
3. Imran Khan ridiculed badly:
On the domestic front, Khan was so badly ridiculed for government’s inaction on Article 370 abrogation issue in their Senate that in a fit of sheer exasperation he blurted, “What can I do? Do you want me to attack India?” But that’s not all. A few days back, a video surfaced in which opposition leader and Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto can be heard mocking Khan by saying, “Earlier, Pakistan’s policy on Kashmir was on how we will take Srinagar. Now, under Imran Khan’s government, we have been forced to think on how we will save Muzaffarabad!”
4. Lack of Perspective:
Civilian leadership in Pakistan lacks agency. Its military has ruled the country directly for nearly half its existence. Pakistan has run out of options on Kashmir. So, it is back to what it does best — raise the nuclear attack bogey, which no country in the world has ever taken seriously and rightly so. In a desperate attempt to get some attention from world powers, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan urged the global community to intervene before it gets too late on Kashmir. As usual, he repeated the same script that both countries — India and Pakistan — have nuclear weapons and if war breaks out between them over Kashmir, the consequences will transcend their boundaries and the world will also feel the heat.
5. No International standing as well:
As far as the international arena is concerned, Islamabad’s high decibel pitch against abrogation of Article 370 ended in an inaudible whimper after it failed to gather global support against this move which Khan described as an “illegal” and “unilateral” step. What made matters even worse was that the UNSC (United Nations Security Council) meet on Kashmir which Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had hailed as “Pakistan’s big success at diplomatic front” and which according to him “had landed India in utmost panic,” didn’t even result in a communiqué or statement being issued on what transpired during this ‘closed door’ meeting.
With the UNSC refusing to comment on the recent developments in Kashmir, Islamabad’s allegation that abrogation of Article 370 was in violation of UNSC resolutions on Kashmir fell flat. Pushed into a corner by its own diplomatic intransigence, the only recourse left for Rawalpindi that actually formulates Pakistan’s Kashmir policy was to start beating the war drum with military precision.