Naila Inayat: From Kashmir to Covid, India was perfect cover

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan

One moment we are told India is happy with Imran Khan’s ouster, in another, we find out that isn’t the case. At least a veteran actress and retired Major cut it to the not-so-happy list, for sure, notwithstanding the love pouring out from the former Prime Minister for the eastern neighbor on which he spent more than three years, villainising.

The poor man’s Oprah Winfrey told us how Imran Khan is many things but corrupt, even if the daily dose of corruption scandals continues to surface. But we should believe her only because she’s known the former PM and his pir for 40 years. Then there is the “fifth generation warfare” favourite – Major (retd.) Gaurav Arya – convincing us of Khan’s services to India. Apparently, Khan saved India thousands of crores of rupees and bullets by achieving what it could only dream of. Now, what will that be? ‘Pakistani awaam (commoners) abusing Pakistani fauj (army)’ — and the man behind it is Khan. This makes him India’s best friend.

The feeling is mutual on some days. On other days, the love for India is non-existent.

‘Azaad’ foreign policy

What began during the last days of Imran Khan in office has continued — public rallies and television addresses in which he imparts wisdom to Pakistanis on how India had a successful sovereign foreign policy and Pakistan didn’t. He is playing on loop his entire backstory of ‘being pushed out of office’ because he was pursuing an independent foreign policy. Not to forget the sob story about the United States regime change et al.

Now more appreciative of India’s diplomatic juggling, even more than Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is Imran Khan — how the neighbour called itself a strategic ally of the US while being part of Quad and calling itself neutral in the ongoing Ukraine war. Apparently, India is importing oil from Russia despite sanctions because its policy is for ‘the betterment of its people’, unlike Pakistan. To Khan, Indians are a very “self-respecting people” and take no dictation. Yesterday’s fifth-generation warriors would have shot back at him – “Did you just call us beghairat?” But these days, they have their hands full with discontent against the military command for not saving the former PM.

Our re-education continues. The same US, which, according to Khan, sent him home packing, is now being praised for its relationship with India. Meanwhile, former Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi considers India a party to the regime change conspiracy because the neighbour wants a “soft government” in Pakistan. Now, in that case, isn’t the removal of Imran Khan yet another feather in India’s foreign policy cap? We wonder.

In his last address to the nation as Prime Minister, Khan almost cried while talking about India’s foreign policy. Touched with gratitude was the Modi government, and the Indian media must have felt it won the 2022 world cup. And why not. ‘No one can dictate India: How Imran Khan praised Modi govt’s independent foreign policy,’ and ‘Imran Khan once again lauds India’s foreign policy’ were some of the top headlines in Indian publications. When such headlines are garnered by a Pakistani politician who isn’t Imran Khan, the latter and his minions jump to hand ghaddari certificates. The statements of former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif or Asif Ali Zardari would, in itself, become evidence of “Indian funding,” “R&AW sponsorship”. They would bring printouts of the same headline to press conferences — “Look how India is celebrating”, “Look how India is happy.” Somehow, India’s happiness is always a cause of worry; its unhappiness, not so much. That’s why we have also been told by Imran Khan that the neighbouring country was the happiest on his removal. Who told him? Definitely not Simi Garewal or Major Arya. By now, we also know that he knows Indians more than anyone else.

Also read: Major financial scandal awaits Imran Khan? Follow Pakistan businessman Arif Naqvi’s money

Dushman now ‘dost’

We continue to be convinced by Imran Khan how great azaad India’s foreign policy is, and, in the same breath, how he isn’t ‘anti-India’, as if the last three and half years never happened. The likes of Nawaz Sharif paid a huge political price time and again for pushing for the normalisation of ties with India. Then there was Imran Khan, who constantly otherised India he now suddenly claims to be not so against. Seeing that he made hay over the anti-India rhetoric in office and in Opposition earlier, I’m not one to buy this newfound dovish cloak. It is as legit as the claim of wearing salwar kameez for “national honor” when inside the PM’s office but donning Polo, Nike when fighting for khuddari against Americans.

From the time when Imran Khan’s letters and calls didn’t connect across the border to the post-Pulwama airstrikes in Balakot and the abrogation of Article 370, the time was never right to have any normal bilateral relationship with India. It is convenient now to say ‘I actually wanted a good relationship with India, but the government in Delhi was of Narendra Modi’ — the same Modi, whose election win you were predicting would solve the Kashmir dispute, and which he did.

Imran Khan’s contribution to Kashmir remains standing in the sun for 30 minutes on two Fridays while going missing on the third one. It is also putting up a black Twitter display picture to mark India’s Independence Day, deserving of a chapter in our history books, if not an award of valour. This unwarranted rhetoric came in the former PM’s own way after he decided to lift the ban on trade with India and then took a U-turn on it — no trade until Article 370 abrogation is reversed. This was despite knowing that sugar, at that time, was not India’s but Pakistan’s essential need. But Imran Khan the prime minister wasn’t satisfied with Imran Khan the commerce minister on these decisions. Now imagine, the green signal came as a result of the ongoing backchannel talks between the two countries.

There was Indiaphobia, and then there was Modiphobia — Modi’s chest, Modi’s Covid-19 policy, Modi’s re-election, Modi meeting Nawaz Sharif secretly in Kathmandu, and now Modi’s foreign policy. The elitist jibes of “Small man in big office,” the unending sermons on the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), ‘knowing’ people in India, them knowing him — nothing was left out of the mix. And the rest of us? We apparently knew nothing. The anti-India rhetoric conveniently became a cover for running a failed government whose game would have been over if there was no ‘project internationalisation of the Kashmir cause’ and Covid-19 later on. India was a blessing in disguise for Imran Khan.

India, I love you, but why now?

It could still remain a blessing. Pakistani dictators, like the rest of the world, even in India, gain a lot of prominence. One can argue that an ‘authentic ruler’ from Pakistan will take centre stage. Even after leaving office, General Pervez Musharraf was much revered in Indian media, invited to conclaves as speaker, which gave him a bigger audience. Now Imran Khan also considers himself worthy of the same attention, no less than a tin-pot dictator himself. Here lies the method in this newfound love for India – his rehabilitation post-premiership. While at home, the questions on corruption cases keep increasing. So it is good to plan for the future, and what better future than where you can mint your past: I have friends, I have played cricket, I know India best. Forget that the recent past in policy doesn’t resonate. Till then, let’s keep harping on the idea that India takes no dictation from the world as if it were Pakistan’s success. Or is it?

This love for India remains a double-edged sword. On the one hand, Imran Khan signals how as the PM he was punished for pursuing a sovereign foreign policy, something that India does without the direct interference of its military. While he might be addressing the people, his actual target is the establishment. A Punjabi saying sums up Imran Khan’s strategy as a desi saas: “Kehna dhi nu sunana nunh nu (Reprimanding your daughter, while your daughter-in-law remains your real target).”

Naila Inayat is a freelance journalist from Pakistan. Her Twitter handle is @nailainayat. Views are personal.

Guest Contributor

This piece was written for Greek City Times by a Guest Contributor