Why India is correct in rejecting Pakistan PM Imran Khan's offer for dialogue

Arindam De
Arindam DeSep 22, 2018 | 17:03

Why India is correct in rejecting Pakistan PM Imran Khan's offer for dialogue

India has snubbed outright Pakistani Prime Minister, Imran Khan's offer of resuming dialogue. The move was thought to be triggered by the abduction and murder of three police personnel in the Valley by the militants. This was followed by an audio warning from the Valley's Hizb-ul-Mujahideen chief Riyaz Ahmed Naikoo. If indeed that was the trigger then terrorists – and their masters across the border – have again managed to derail any chances of peace returning to the Valley.


That India's rejection had to come on the "International Day of Peace" was a bit ironic but there is nothing new on the table. The ruling party's ex coalition partner in Jammu and Kashmir had hoped that talks happen as dialogue is the only process forward.

The Pakistani PM's offer on talks and trade with India comes with riders (Photo: AP)

Probably what PDP stated was true - dialogue is the only civilized way forward. The issue remains dialogue with whom? The Pakistani PM cannot ensure the enforcement of even the basic agreements that the two sides may arrive at after engagement. The Pakistan military establishment pulls all the strings there and they are not coming to the table.

The Pakistani PM's offer on "talks" and "trade" with India comes with riders. His election campaign was dotted with anti-India vitriol. Imran of 2018 was not even a shadow of what he was in 2013, when he had mooted an Indo-Pak civil nuclear programme to address mutual energy shortage.

He had matured in the dust and grind of politics. He wooed the far right and Islamist parties, and most importantly the army, which was anyways looking for a new face to replace the familiar ones in domestic politics. He and the Pakistan army carefully cultivated his image of "crusader against corruption".


Why have a dialogue with the Pakistani PM when he is in no position to influence the country's foreign policy? (Photo: AP)

As such, he is in no position to influence, leave alone alter the army's monopoly in shaping the country's foreign policy. The majority he enjoys in parliament (176 in a house of 342) would ensure he remains loyal to the generals. Sharif had greater numbers, not that he was too successful in engaging India or for that matter bring about even minor changes in Pakistan's stance vis-s-vis India.

The army may actually extract its pound of flesh in return for its tacit support. One of the finest swing bowlers in his heydays he has carefully worded his offer - putting the onus of starting the dialogue squarely on India. He indirectly attempts to exonerate all of Pakistan's follies and pin down the lack of dialogue to India's rigid attitude.

India's stand remains clear – preconditions need to be met. Terror and talks cannot happen simultaneously. Yet, the Pakistani PM maintains an ominous silence on terror. Actually nothing has changed on the ground – if you look at the situation in the valley in the recent past. In his inaugural address, he equated Pakistan's involvement in Kashmir with the fiction of India's similar interference in Balochistan.


The Indian government has already faced flak for its Pakistan policy flip-flop. (Photo: PTI)

Such is the desperation of achieving parity with India that probably the Pakistani establishment seeks parity with India even on the issue of responsibility for terrorist acts. His inclusion of "trade" probably was a realisation of the economic breakdown facing Pakistan.

It is either IMF bailout – that will come with riders or prohibitively costly Chinese loans. With every of Pakistan's citizens reeling under a loan burden of more than rupees one lakh and ten thousand the heartburn is understood.

The Indian government has already faced flak for its Pakistan policy flip-flop. With no pre conditions met and approaching general election there would be no talks with Pakistan in the foreseeable future, and that is the way it should be.

The Pakistan Foreign office released a statement – highlighting its "disappointment" at the cancellation of talks. The language – as usual adopts the by now well established holier than thou resonance that we have come to expect from the neighbourhood.

The Prime minister of Pakistan tweeted his disappointment and he was more than ‘disappointed’ as the choice of words suggest – unless Pakistan constantly peddles the theory of India as the aggressor how can it corner some quickly dissipating international sympathy.

Last updated: September 22, 2018 | 17:03
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