India-Pakistan ties have plateaued, Khan’s downfall is unlikely to change it - Hindustan Times
close_game
close_game

India-Pakistan ties have plateaued, Khan’s downfall is unlikely to change it

Mar 27, 2022 07:27 PM IST

Khan’s possible ouster is unlikely to bring any radical change in India-Pakistan relations. The bilateral relationship has plateaued since PTI came to power.

In a rally on March 20, Pakistan’s Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan praised India for following an “independent foreign policy.” He said India, despite being part of Quad and under the threat of American sanctions, imported oil from Russia. This praise is no “change of heart” for Khan as he remains a fierce critic of PM Narendra Modi’s government, but it smacked of political opportunism amid his battle to survive the Opposition-sponsored no-confidence motion.

Since Khan came to power in 2018, the Opposition has attempted to unseat him several times. (File Photo) PREMIUM
Since Khan came to power in 2018, the Opposition has attempted to unseat him several times. (File Photo)

Since Khan came to power in 2018, the Opposition has attempted to unseat him several times. It even closed ranks to launch the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) led by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in September 2020 to dislodge the Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government through protests and parliamentary manoeuvring. But those attempts failed since the PTI government had the full support of the military establishment. In its move to bring the no-confidence motion, the Opposition has sensed its most realistic chance to oust Khan and the PTI, which has been beleaguered by defections, opposition from coalition partners, and differences with the powerful military establishment.

After an initial period of cordial ties, civil-military relations have touched a new low. There are tensions between Khan and the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who may be looking at a second extension of his term in November. Khan’s frequent clashes with the military has in all probability led to a decline in support from the Army. Khan’s failure in handling key foreign policy issues, managing economic crises, and coordinating with the Opposition on governance matters makes him a further liability.

Khan has misused government institutions, especially National Accountability Bureau, to target the key Opposition leaders such as former PM Nawaz Sharif and former president Asif Ali Zardari. He went after the PPP and PML-N through anti-corruption drives and threatened them with dire consequences. This political grudge campaign led by Khan forced the PPP and PML-N to join hands despite historical rivalries.

Even PTI leaders and allies have accused Khan of not paying heed to their grievances. And the judiciary seems to share this perception with the Islamabad High Court charging the government of bypassing Parliament.

These factors have created a perfect storm for Khan. Even if he survives, his leadership is dented. Moreover, the Opposition will ensure that it continues to make life difficult for him in the run-up to the 2023 general elections.

For Khan, this is a “do-or-die” situation, and therefore, he has resorted to what he does best – brinkmanship. He has already warned the Opposition that he would be more dangerous for them if ousted from power. He is also gathering support from the public through rallies, in which he is blaming the Opposition, the military establishment, and foreign countries for his predicament.

Khan’s possible ouster is unlikely to bring any radical change in India-Pakistan relations. The bilateral relationship has plateaued since PTI came to power. In addition to internationalising the Jammu and Kashmir issue, alleging “Islamophobia”, and supporting terror activities in India, Khan and his ministers have made several attacks against PM Modi’s government. Given this inimical anti-India attitude, New Delhi rightly is not too keen to improve ties with Pakistan, save a few humanitarian gestures.

Even if a new civilian arrangement takes over, it will be a temporary one as general elections are scheduled for August 2023. Therefore, the new government may not risk reaching out to New Delhi without the military establishment’s nod. Hence, any major reset in bilateral ties seems unlikely.

For now, it appears that Khan is likely to lose the power game. It remains to be seen if he resorts to political and legal tactics to delay parliamentary proceedings to muster public support and negotiate with dissenting party members and coalition partners.

Sameer Patil is a senior fellow, Observer Research Foundation. Sarral Sharma is a PhD scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University. Both have served in the National Security Council Secretariat 

The views expressed are personal

Get World Cup ready with Crick-it! From live scores to match stats, catch all the action here. Explore now!

See more

Get Current Updates on India News, Elections 2024, Lok sabha election 2024 voting live , Karnataka election 2024 live in Bengaluru , Election 2024 Date along with Latest News and Top Headlines from India and around the world.

Continue reading with HT Premium Subscription

Daily E Paper I Premium Articles I Brunch E Magazine I Daily Infographics
freemium
SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
SHARE
Story Saved
Live Score
OPEN APP
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Monday, June 24, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On