Imran Khan's Pulwama Statement: Indecent and Insensitive
Amb Satish Chandra, Vice Chairman, VIF

Imran Khan's brief televised address on 19th February 2019 on the Pulwama terror attack provides an invaluable insight into his persona. It reveals a leader short on common decency and sensitivity, devoid of statesmanship and gravitas, and completely under the thumb of the military. Indeed, one noted Pakistani analyst on an Indian TV channel dismissed him as a low-level employee of the Pakistan Army!

Common decency and sensitivity demanded that after as horrific an incident as the Pulwama terror attack, the Pakistan Prime Minister should have immediately contacted his Indian counterpart both condemning the incident and expressing his condolences. It may be recalled that after the Peshawar school massacre not only had Prime Minister Modi reached out to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif by condemning the massacre and offering his condolences but the Lok Sabha had also passed a resolution condemning this terror attack and many schools in India had observed a two minutes silence in a spirit of solidarity. Similarly, Pakistani Prime Ministers of the time had, following 26/11 and the Pathankot terror attack, reached out to the Indian leadership condemning these incidents and expressing condolences. Thus Imran Khan's reaction several days after the event and without a word of condemnation for the incident or condolence for those massacred reeks of insensitivity and indecency and is out of character even in the rocky India Pakistan relationship.

Statesmanship demanded that Imran Khan attempt to reach out to India and pour oil on troubled waters to ease the escalating tensions. Prompt condemnation and condolences would have helped accompanied by a more constructive approach, like placing the JeM chief under detention, rather than accusing India of treating Pakistan as a whipping boy, calling upon it to introspect upon why Kashmiri youth are ready to give up their lives, and threatening it with retaliation in the event of any action against Pakistan in response to Pulwama.

The address has little by way of any new thinking. It merely regurgitates the line repeatedly taken by the Pakistan Army in the past, notably that Pakistan was not involved in the incident, that India was merely making baseless charges without any evidence, that if evidence was provided Pakistan would investigate the charges, and that the way to sort out matters is through dialogue, otherwise there may be war.

Clearly, Pakistan continues as in the past to be in denial mode regarding its role in the Pulwama incident. Its call for evidence regarding Pakistani involvement is ridiculous given the fact that the JeM has claimed credit for it, that the RDX used in the incident was from the Pakistan Armed Forces, that the JeM operative who rammed the bus with his vehicle carrying the RDX was trained in Pakistan, and that his handler, who has since been neutralised, was a Pakistani JeM commander. Furthermore, the suggestion that Pakistan would investigate the charges made by India if provided with evidence can only be treated contempt given past experience. In this context, one need only recall the masses of evidence provided in regard to 26/11 and the attack on Pathankot airbase which inter alia also included visits by Pakistani investigators and the subsequent absence of any meaningful action by Pakistan.

Finally, the threat of Pakistani retaliation and of war is typical military muscle flexing which is their standard operating procedure. For those familiar with India-Pakistan ties, it is common knowledge that Pakistan has time and again used the possibility of nuclear war to blackmail India and to try and induce third-party mediation. We need to take this in our stride and do what we must. It is important to bear in mind, in this context, that Pakistan, knowing the dangers of militarily engaging with India, chose not to react to our surgical strikes against it.

It would be reasonable to conclude from the foregoing that Pakistan intends to continue with its use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy against India as in the past. Those who had hopes that Imran Khan would be his own man and would try and improve ties with India should be disappointed and must revise their assessment of him. He has demonstrated that he is no more than a puppet of the Pakistan Army and unwilling to deviate from their agenda. In these circumstances, India has little option but to adopt a sustained long-term wholesome government policy designed to impose costs on Pakistan in order to induce the latter to give up the use of terrorism against it.

(Amb Satish Chandra, Vice Chairman of VIF and is a former Foreign Secretary and Deputy National Security Advisor)


Image Source: http://greaterjammu.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/imran-khan-gen-bajwa.jpg

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