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With Khan at helm, expect tension between India and Pakistan to go up

Imran Khan’s India policy is no different from that of the Pakistan army’s and the only hope, albeit slim, is that he will want peace in the region to focus on his promise of building a ‘naya Pakistan.’

editorials Updated: Jul 26, 2018 19:08 IST
Hindustan Times
Indo-Oak relations
Imran Khan, chief of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, casts his vote at a polling station in Islamabad, July 25, 2018. Khan is an untested political entity who lacks administrative experience, but the fiercely fought election has given us a peep into where he and his party – Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) – stand vis a vis India.(AP)

The mention of Imran Khan conjures up images of the pace bowler lifting the world cup for his country, but that was in 1992. Twenty-six years on, it is clear that Captain Khan has undergone a fundamental change. The swagger has been replaced with a carefully crafted image of a man who speaks a conservative, hard-line language.

Khan is an untested political entity who lacks administrative experience but the fiercely fought election and his victory speech have given us a peep into where he and his party — Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) — stand vis-a-vis India. Unlike the 2013 elections, when Nawaz Sharif made better relations with India a poll issue, Khan, in public rallies, went out of his way this time, to rub it in that while Sharif sold his country’s political interests for his own business interests, he would focus on Pakistan’s national interest. Throughout the campaign, Khan spoke a language that the deep state (the army-ISI combine) likes to hear, especially when it comes to India. In his first address after his victory, he, however, extended a hand of friendship and said dialogue was the way forward.

The frostiness in ties between the two neighbours is likely to continue. While India is clear that it will engage only after the neighbour walks the talk on terror, Khan underlined human rights violations in Kashmir and called it out as the ‘core’ issue.

Khan’s Kashmir focus has also been spelt out in his party’s manifesto too. It is clear that he is not a Sharif, who would be willing to offend the army by accepting an invite to Modi’s oath-taking ceremony. The manifesto also talks of improving ties with its neighbours but has linked the Kashmir issue to the United Nations Security Council resolution, an instrument that India has rejected as outdated. Khan’s India policy sounds no different from that of the Pakistan army’s and the hope is that he will want peace in the region to focus on his promise of building a ‘naya Pakistan’. By extending a hand of friendship, Khan has been politically correct and scored diplomatic points. The test, however, will lie in how much freedom his own army will give him on India; that is strictly their domain.

First Published: Jul 26, 2018 19:07 IST