There is very little possibility of any improvement in New Delhi’s ties with Islamabad if Imran Khan becomes Pakistan’s prime minister as he has been “propped” by the Pakistani military, politicians and strategic affairs experts here said today.
Pakistan’s powerful military is likely to continue its hostile approach towards India, including supporting terror activities in Jammu and Kashmir, if Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) wrests power as it is projected to, they said. The flamboyant cricketer-turned-politician, 65, is set to become the next prime minister of Pakistan with his PTI emerging as the single largest party, but falling short of a majority.
Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and several other parties have questioned the outcome of the election results, alleging vote-rigging in favour of Khan by the Army. “He (Khan) is the Army’s man. He is expected to do what the Pakistani Army tells him to do,” said former diplomat G Parthasarathy, who has served as India’s high commissioner in Islamabad. Echoing his views, Union minister R K Singh said there was no possibility of any change in Pakistan’s policy of hostility towards India under Khan’s leadership.
In his first public address to the nation after leading the PTI to victory in the elections held yesterday, Khan said Pakistan is willing to improve its ties with India “If they take one step towards us, we will take two, but at least we need a start,” KHan said. He also said Kashmir is the “core” issue between the two countries and it should be resolved through talks. Ties between India and Pakistan have nose-dived in the last few years over cross-border terrorism. Relations worsened after terror attacks by Pakistan-based groups on several military bases in India.
New Delhi has been maintaining that Pakistan must stop terror activities from its soil for any meaningful talks between the two countries to resolve the outstanding issues. “I do not think Pakistan will change its policy towards under Khan at all as he has been backed by Pakistan Army,” said R K Singh. K C Singh, another former diplomat, said there was not much possibility of improvement in ties between the two neighbours. With general elections scheduled in India in the next 10 months, the Modi government is unlikely to reach out to Islamabad for any engagement, he said. “It is too early to talk about (the impact on India-Pakistan ties if Khan becomes PM). It will depend on who he chooses as coalition partners. It will depend on shape of his government,” he said.
Former Army chief Gen Deepak Kapoor added that he does not expect Pakistan to stop its proxy war with India under Khan’s leadership as he has been “propped” by the Pakistani military establishment. “They will continue with the proxy war. They will continue to create disturbances in Jammu and Kashmir. I do not think there will be any improvement in the relationship between the two countries,” said Kapoor. Sachin Chaturvedi, director general of the think-tank Research and Information System (RIS) said the Pakistani Army played a role in elections in that country but hoped Khan would show the courage in favouring good relations with India. “It will be in the larger interests of people of Pakistan,” he said.