Imran Khan: Playing it in the ‘Gaps’ in Kashmir

Imran Khan: Playing it in the ‘Gaps’ in KashmirOne of the greatest military minds to-date, Liddell Hart, once said: “Of what use is decisive victory in battle if we bleed to death as a result of it?” Hart’s treatises remain relevant even today. The ongoing Kashmir crisis has brought to the fore a challenge for the Pakistani leadership. After India’s illegal annexation of the otherwise occupied Kashmir, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, was faced with the herculean task of effectively taking on India while avoiding the military route. Despite pressures and criticism from his political rivals and the media, Islamabad has not employed options that are prohibitive or escalatory. This approach has paid tactical dividends that are likely to feed into strategic advantages for Pakistan as it ratchets up its efforts to liberate the Indian-occupied Kashmir from the clutches of India, and help it exercise its right to self-determination.

The revocation of Articles 370 and 35-A was followed by a barrage of criticism on Khan and his government. The opponents forcefully presented the “Kashmir ka Suada” narrative, blaming Khan of agreeing to a fait accompli in his meeting with the US President, Donald Trump, days before the annexation. The accusations proved wrong when the US State Department rubbished such claims. This, coupled with general backlash on social media, did little to disrupt Pakistani decision-makers who joined heads to come up with a response. Diplomatic ties were downgraded and trade was suspended days after India’s Kashmir gambit. PM Khan took it upon himself to fight Kashmir’s case until Kashmiris get their right to self-determination.

One of the things that PM Khan did was use his rapport with President Trump to good effect. Both leaders talked to each other on the Kashmir issue for a good part of one hour. Trump also talked about the Kashmir issue with the US media and the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. For a country that detests discussion on Kashmir, calling it an internal matter, India suffered a setback when Trump invested his time talking about it. As a matter of fact, Kashmir was the central talking point of the Trump-Modi summit on the sidelines of the G7 conclave. From the White House to the State Department, the US continues to stress a resolution of the dispute, and urges India to end the curfew and the communication blackout. This position taken by the US has repudiated India’s ‘internal matter’ mantra while giving the Kashmir issue much-needed internationalization.

Moreover, PM Khan and Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, ably supported by Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Dr. Maliha Lodhi,  have  intensified contacts with their counterparts in various capitals, apprising them of Pakistan’s position on the issue. With China’s help, Pakistan was able to effect a UNSC huddle on Kashmir after a hiatus of 54 years, much to the chagrin of India. None of the members including the P5s bought India’s core assertions, and called for a resolution of the disputed issue. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has released strongly-worded statements that call for the adherence to UNSC Resolutions, and putting an end to grotesquely egregious human rights violations.

Also, in his customary style, PM Khan has led from the front to highlight and expose India’s fascist government. In his tweets, public speeches, and statements, PM Khan has drawn parallels between the ideologies of Nazi Germany and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a party that drives Modi’s iron-fist policies towards the Muslims. PM Khan has warned the world that appeasement of Modi is akin to that of Hitler in World War II. In his piece for the New York Times, and later in his address to the Islamic Society of North America, PM Khan shed light on how Modi’s fascism is a threat to not only Kashmir but India , the region and the entire  world. PM Khan’s campaign leading up to the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly aims to amplify how Modi’s high-handed policies in Kashmir and elsewhere are rapturing the India that the world believes in. Besides, he is broaching with the international community the issue of escalation between two nuclear-armed states. These messages have made headlines in media houses that were usually soft on India especially when it came to Kashmir. With Khan all set to lead Pakistan’s UNGA campaign later this month, his message is certain of reaching its target audience.

While it may sound perfunctory to some, Pakistan’s abstinence from kinetic options has saved it from reprisals and condemnation that could hurt its chances of coming out of Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) greylist. Pakistan’s refusal to walk away from the Afghan peace process has brought it within touching distance of delivering the goods for the US, something that is integral to resuscitating Pak-US relations. Pakistan can ill-afford to see a US administration on the lookout for punishing it in the midst of a crisis with India.

The pressure to lift the curfew and blockade mounts from all quarters on New Delhi ahead of the UNGA session, placing Modi in a catch-22 situation. Either way, the images from Kashmir would give an impression of a situation that is out of control. Khan, on the other hand, has ensconced himself in a position where he has more in his kitty as compared to what his counterpart has. With this in mind, the Pakistani premier would like to cogently push the anti-Modi forward before and during his stay, speech and interactions in New York.


About Syed Ali Zia Jaffery 12 Articles
The author is a Research Associate at the Center for Security, Strategy and Policy Research, University of Lahore. He tweets: @syedalizia1992.

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