FeaturedNationalVolume 14 Issue # 15

Imran’s diplomatic reverse swing

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is being praised by the world media for his statesmanship during a stand-off with India after the Pulwama attack. Besides restraint, his gesture to release an Indian pilot and sack a Punjab minister for derogatory remarks against Hindus has won him appreciation, not only in Pakistan but also abroad.

On the other hand, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi faces tough questions from the media and the opposition about his claims of adventurism against Pakistan. Photos shared on Facebook and Twitter claiming to show a devastated area of Pakistan on February 27, 2019, after Indian airstrikes are “misleading”, AFP reported. The images, also published by the BBC, are photos showing the aftermath of a 2005 earthquake which killed tens of thousands of people in Pakistan. This misleading Facebook post was published-on February 27, 2019 and has been shared hundreds of times, the Paris-based news agency stated in its Fact Check website. It contains three images which show destroyed buildings and dead bodies in the rubble. AFP stated in a tweet that people were sharing their photos taken in 2005 out of context. On February 26, 2019, India said it had carried out airstrikes on suspected militant bases inside Pakistan. Earlier, the Reuters had also proved the India claim wrong with the help of satellite images of the area. The images produced by Planet Labs Inc, a San Francisco-based private satellite operator, show at least six buildings on the madrasa site on March 4, six days after the airstrike.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, who effectively de-escalated the tensions with India, is now being praised by the world media for his statesmanship during the crisis situation. The Financial Times, in its latest report, said: “The erstwhile cricketing all-rounder demonstrated he was as deft and steely nerved a player on the political stage as on the sports pitch, coolly navigating Islamabad’s most serious crisis in relations with India in decades.” The report, titled “Imran Khan recast as statesman after deft touch eases India crisis” lavished praise on the Pakistani prime minister for his decision to free the Indian pilot, which paved the way for ease in tension between the two countries.

Former Indian Supreme Court Judge Markandey Katju joined the bandwagon batting for a Nobel Peace Prize for Imran Khan. In a phone conversation with a Pakistani news channel, Katju praised Imran Khan for de-escalating tension between India and Pakistan. In a clip shared by Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir on Twitter, Katju said he was impressed by Imran’s speech in Parliament, adding that he was a real statesman. “Imran Khan’s speech was mature, balanced and full of wisdom. He calmly explained why war is not the solution for both nations. His speech should be shared throughout the world, not just in our subcontinent. He deserves a Nobel Prize,” Katju said. Earlier, he took to Twitter to praise Imran Khan for his speech. “He has shown wisdom and restraint of a statesman, unlike our jingoistic leaders who are sabre-rattling.”

K.C. Singh, a former Indian diplomat and strategic affairs expert, wrote: “The pilot’s release was a peace gesture. But it is unlikely that any dialogue between India and Pakistan can begin before the upcoming Lok Sabha election. The new government in India post-May will have to deal with a shrewd Imran Khan, who has shown the same versatility in office that he showed on the cricket field.” In an article, he said “The Indian aggressive policy of Ajit Doval, or Dovalisation of the Kashmir policy – using force sans political outreach and carrying out “surgical strikes” to counter Pakistani terror – have run their course in the current term of the Modi government. Imran Khan capitalised on the moment, portraying a picture of dignified moderation and readiness to settle differences through talks. He took everyone by surprise when on the floor of Pakistan’s National Assembly, he promised the unilateral repatriation of Indian pilot Abhinandan Varthaman. Imran Khan’s gesture of goodwill will lower the tension and lead to a gradual stepping back from the edge. Hawks in Indian establishment and the BJP will be stranded by Imran Khan’s diplomatic reverse swing.”

As India’s mainstream media, especially electronic media, was baying for blood by whipping up war hysteria, peace-lovers took to Twitter in an attempt to douse the fire of hatred. They welcomed the rescue of the Indian pilot by Pakistani troops from a mob after his jet was shot down. When Prime Minister Imran Khan announced his release as a gesture of peace, they welcomed the move as “real statesmanship.” Indian Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh expressed his joy and said the release would serve as a stepping stone for goodwill. Indian cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu welcomed Imran’s move saying that “every noble act makes a way for itself… your goodwill gesture is a cup of joy for a billion people, a nation rejoices”. Socio-political activist and columnist Sudheendra Kulkarni said Premier Imran has “proved to be a Man of Peace”. Tanvir Sadiq, political adviser to former Chief Minister of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) Omar Abdullah, thanked the Pakistani leader and said it would be “sad news for warmongers”. Noted Indian journalist Barkha Dutt said New Delhi should welcome the gesture which has led to the opening of door to de-escalation. Another former Chief Minister of IOK, Mehbooba Mufti, also praised the prime minister and said it was time for the Indian political leadership to take measures to de-escalate the situation. All Parties Hurriyat Conference Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq also welcomed Imran’s announcement and hoped that better sense would prevail.

Prime Minister Imran Khan was also lauded, even by Indians, for his decision to remove Punjab Information Minister Fayyaz-ul-Hassan Chohan after his offensive remarks against Hindus. It is obvious that the civilian government of Imran Khan and the establishment are on the same page on all national and international issues. However, his recent actions have won him laurels in Pakistan and abroad.