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India’s Choice


Is Imran Khan’s ouster from power in Pakistan good or bad for India? It must be noted that, during his tenure, relations between the two countries had boiled down to not having anything to do with each other. This reduced the complications in managing a relationship that has for decades now been scuttled by non-state actors. When there were crises, mostly emanating from events triggered by Pakistan’s terror groups, Imran’s government displayed an unexpected maturity that killed any chances of a dangerous escalation.

It may be recalled that, despite the attempts to heat up the situation by elements within Pakistan, Khan ordered the quick repatriation of IAF officer (then Squadron Leader) Abhinandan Varthaman. This will have won him brownie points with the Indian establishment. He also played a positive role in construction and opening up of the Kartarpur Corridor. (From his point of view to obtain Sikh sympathy for the separatist cause.) The ceasefire arrived at on the LOC has held, which was a sign of maturity, bringing relief to civilian populations on both sides.

At the same time, he elevated the enmity between the two countries to the ideological level, basically turning it into an ongoing debate. He targeted the Modi Government as a fascist regime. He derided the RSS and Hindutva as being Nazi in nature. In this he had the support of many opposition leaders in India. He tried very hard to build an international anti-India coalition with Muslim nations – first Malaysia and Turkey, and then the OIC – but failed. He also continued even more energetically with his nation’s long held position that India’s Muslims are left-behind Pakistanis. He tried his best, with little success, to obtain the world’s support against the changes made by India on the constitutional status of J&K.

All of this was countered emphatically, energetically and contemptuously by India on international forums. And that is how it should be – a continuing debate till some common understanding is arrived at. Will the new dispensation under the ‘unified’ opposition be able to do better? The record of the PML (N) and the PPP has been a dismal one. The lack of a clearly delineated and articulated strategy on India meant that non-state actors backed by the Pakistan Army obtained the public’s support. This not only boosted terrorist attacks on India, but also worsened the environment at home. The new dispensation, in the deteriorating economic conditions, may once again through a lack of direction let loose the hounds of hell. So, whose leadership would be better from India’s point of view?