A beleaguered Imran Khan will be flogging a dead horse – the J&K issue, against an uphill task of swaying world opinion at the United Nations.
The 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA 74) opened on September 17, 2019. The first high-level debate will take place on September 24, 2019. Most of the world leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Imran Khan, will be attending.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is going with the agenda of strengthening global alliances, building bonds and placing the country in its rightful position among the comity of nations. Prominent on his agenda is the rally in Houston on September 22, called, “Howdy, Modi” for which more than 50,000 Indian-Americans have registered. A very significant development is that President Donald Trump will join Prime Minister Modi in the rally. This indicates the strong position that India, under Prime Minister Modi, enjoys on the world stage today.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, too, will be in the US for four days and will address the UNGA (for the first time) on September, 23. He is also scheduled to meet President Donald Trump. Before arriving in the US, he is stopping over at Saudi Arabia. It is no secret that the main agenda for the Pakistani premier during these visits is Kashmir. This is how the entire Pakistan media is describing the same. In Saudi Arabia he will be looking to garner support from member states of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and from President Trump he will seek intervention in the Kashmir issue.
The difference of approach between India and Pakistan is so palpable. For India the Kashmir is an internal issue; Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to make only a passing reference to it, if at all. The entire world has, by and large, accepted India’s position on the matter. Pakistan, on the other hand, is attempting to force its own narrative on Kashmir on the world, but is finding no takers for the same.
It can be assumed quite fairly that this requirement of forcing the Kashmir issue in the international forum has been laid down by the all powerful Pakistan Army whose very existence is getting jeopardised by the turn of events. The stunned Pakistan Army is feeling helpless due to complete absence of support from the international leadership on the government’s policy on Kashmir. Army hierarchy is also upset over not getting help from any country. The attempts to escalate the violence threshold in Kashmir by enhanced ceasefire violations and pushing of terrorists have also come to naught. The violent reaction by local Kashmiris’ that could have given to Pakistan the leverage to move international and domestic opinion has also not been forthcoming. It would be on directions of General Qamar Bajwa that Imran Khan has proceeded on this diplomatic exercise.
Not much is likely to emerge from these diplomatic shenanigans that Pakistan is indulging in. Saudi Arabia is presently too involved in its domestic crisis perpetuated by attacks on its oil infrastructures; in any case the country has already spoken out its position on the matter by saying that, “Reorganisation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir is an internal matter of India.”
President Donald Trump does have a desire to become a “Monitor” on Kashmir, but, he will not annoy India to do so. Hence, he has repeatedly been saying that all is well in India-Pakistan relations and there is no need for intervention. The rest of the countries are simply not interested.
It is notable here that even after becoming prime minister, Imran Khan is viewed as a novice in politics by the well entrenched political establishment of the country, he has failed to garner even minimum acceptance as a leader from the parliamentarians in Pakistan, let alone a universal recognition. It is, therefore, no wonder that Imran Khan, within one year of becoming prime minister finds himself in political wilderness with the proverbial “Sword of Damocles” hanging over his head.
In Pakistan, the Army has a complete say in choosing the Prime Minister and it is, quite naturally, on the lookout for a fall guy. Imran Khan tops the list since any prime minister facing revolt or protest is usually sidelined by the Army. The talk of an ignominious ouster in the hands of the very Army that propelled him into the position is gaining momentum. Speculations are rife in the Pakistan Media over the removal of Imran Khan and that too as early as October this year. His inability to garner support during his upcoming diplomatic sojourn may well be the last nail on the coffin that will lead to the Army pulling the rug from under him.
Thus, the two prime ministers, Narendra Modi and Imran Khan, have different takeaways form the upcoming diplomatic carnival in New York. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi will approach events with the confidence of a world leader who has all to gain and nothing to lose, Prime Mister Imran Khan will be there to fight for survival.
It is notable here that Imran Khan has much more to contend with than Kashmir. The very critical economic situation of the country and the disaffection in all others provinces except Punjab are two major causes for worry. The people of the country are up in arms against the federal government. In real terms, these aspects are challenging the very existence of Pakistan while Kashmir is an abstract narrative.
The only way Imran Khan can face up to this challenge is by adopting an approach that looks more to internal issues than the external environment. By doing so he can shed the Army off his back and attain the stature of a tall leader concerned about his people more than anything else. He needs to shed his preoccupation with Kashmir and understand as to where is priorities should lie. It remains to be seen whether he can muster the will to change the narrative and save himself.
(The writer is a reputed expert in Geo-politics, columnist and author)