Is PM Modi going to Islamabad?

By K.N. Pandita

Observers are speculating Modi’s participation in the oath-taking ceremony of Pakistan Prime Minister-designate on 11 August in Islamabad. Will Imran Khan invite SAARC leaders? Will he invite Modi also? Will Modi agree to go to Islamabad if invited? These questions are widely debated in political circles.

If Imran Khan is contemplating to invite SAARC leaders to his oath-taking ceremony, he is right in extracting political mileage out of it. For good reasons of its own, today Pakistan stands isolated in the comity of nations. It is simplistic to bring the onus for that to the doorsteps of the former Prime Minster; the real actors are hiding behind the curtain.
For Imran Khan, it is futile to go on identifying the culprits and then besmear them with a litany of charges. The right thing to do is to look forward and move forward. Inviting SAARC leaders to the oath- taking ceremony has more of pragmatism of helping his country wriggle out of isolation than that of imitating Modi example of 2014.

Nobody will be happier than Prime Minister Narendra Modi if Imran Khan embarks on that statesmanlike initiative. As second largest populated country in South Asia, as a nuclear state and as the key state in the Muslim world, and finally with extraordinarily strategic location on the globe, it is unacceptable that Pakistan instead of playing a positive role should get isolated in the comity of nations. If Imran Khan is able to understand the spirit behind Modi’s similar initiative of 2014, he should be able to go ahead with the contemplated initiative of first approaching the closest neighbours with whom Pakistan is bound by a number of chords.

SAARC has not been able to deliver to capacity. The reason is that its two major members, India and Pakistan have often been at loggerheads in certain policies and perceptions of development. The way ASEAN or other multilateral organizations have moved forward has not been the destiny of the SAARC. Therefore, now that Pakistan under the leadership of Imran Khan is headed to “New Pakistan” concept, inviting SAARC leaders to the oath taking- ceremony would be a good beginning. It is bound to yield positive results.

India-Pak logjam cannot be undone in a short period of time. The cobwebs of suspicion and mistrust need to be disentangled. We are reminded that when Modi invited Nawaz Sharif the then Prime Minister of Pakistan to attend his oath-taking ceremony, there was much suspense in the political and official circles in Islamabad and till last moment no clear signal was received. The grapevine had it that the visit was not to the taste of the ISI. But in the case of Imran Khan, the speculation has been making rounds days ahead of the actual oath-taking ceremony. This means that the army and its super intelligence organization are in a changed mood. Perhaps they now understand that “New Pakistan” means the government of the people and not of the Generals.

Since long Pakistan army has been nursing a grouse that New Delhi is not recognizing its weight in forging friendly relations with Pakistan while major world powers have not overlooked the second channel of relationship. The reason why India stubbornly focused on talks (whenever these were conducted) with the government in Islamabad only and not the GHQ is that India wants a democratic government to be in place in her close proximity and not a military dictatorship. It shows that India cares for the people of Pakistan and not merely for her political interests. It is for the people of Pakistan to understand the goodwill underlying Indi’s Pakistan policy.

Hopefully, Imran Khan will understand the nuances. It is good that he enjoys the confidence and support of the army. India would certainly like that there is reasonable and genuine understanding between the democratically elected government in Islamabad and the GHQ. India expects that the elected government will emphasize on the army that isolation of the country has happened because of army patronizing the Theo-fascist elements in the country as the “first line of defence”. If Imran Khan is able to make the army understand the Frankenstein of its creation, he will be doing a great service to the country.

If the oath-taking ceremony becomes the forum for the SAARC leaders including Modi to come together for a while, it would not be any occasion to discuss in-depth bilateral or multilateral relations among the SAARC members. Nevertheless, it will certainly generate a subtle introspection among the Pakistani leadership about how the SAARC members will look at Pakistan doing nothing to dismantle the edifice of terror she has built over the years and is now looking straight into her eyes with eyeball to eyeball stance.

In other words, by inviting SAARC leadership Imran Khan will be shifting the responsibility of breaking the isolationist syndrome to the GHQ. That goes in the larger interests of the masses of people in Pakistan and that would also become the precursor to dismantling of the edifice of terror. In that sense, the wishful idea of “New Pakistan” will carry positive meaning.

Prime Minster Modi called Imran Khan and felicitated him on winning thumping majority in the elections and hoped for restoration of peace in the region. In other words he has set forth the path for Imran Khan that would lead to normalization of relations among the SAARC members and particularly between India and Pakistan.

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