Pakistan’s decision that no foreign leader would be invited to the oath-taking ceremony of Imran Khan as prime minister in August makes perfect sense considering the security situation in that country.
Pakistanis may seek to cover up by saying that the prime minister-in-waiting wants the event to be “simple and dignified” but the cold reality is that the presence of leaders like Prime Minister Narendra Modi would have been a nightmare for the authorities in a country where terrorist outfits have access to the powerful Army which calls the shots.
And, had Modi declined for whatever reason, it would have been a huge embarrassment for the new Pakistan Government and a setback to ties.
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Imran himself is virtually unschooled in the deception and doublespeak of politics as it is played today and would have wanted a big show of splendour by inviting all SAARC leaders from South Asian countries, but the Army bigwigs have shown in the past that they are loathe to building up a civilian leader as a cult figure. Besides, for all its power, the Army too feels unsure that it can ward off a terrorist attack if it comes to that.
The Army and the police can now breathe easy that the oath-taking would be ‘simple’. The Army, evidently, would also not like Imran’s flamboyance to show in terms of making known his intent for peace in the sub-continent out of a genuine desire. It would like to keep the pot boiling with India but even if there is to be a peace accord it must be on the Army’s terms overtly or covertly.
The Facade of a functioning Democracy in Pakistan
The Army bigwigs would rather not have a prime minister who wears his heart on his sleeve and reaches out to India unilaterally. The facade that they have created of a functioning democracy must, however, continue with the remote control in the hands of the Army top brass.
What the Pakistan army fails to see is that the country is virtually looked upon as a rogue state internationally and peace with India can bring it rich dividends in terms of acceptability. Since the Army wields power without responsibility, it couldn’t care less about being seen to be working for peace. Its own clout lies in perpetuating a tense border and making periodic noises about Kashmir.
Whether Imran, especially during his honeymoon in the prime ministerial chair, would manage to push through some confidence-building measures with India like increased border trade, cooperation in plugging the smuggling of drugs and some measure of cultural and academic exchanges besides a boost in formal trade and investment remains to be seen.
The best that can happen for India
What is vital to India’s interests is, however, putting a stop to the training of terror recruits and their arming and infiltration into India which is inconceivable without active Army support and encouragement. That is something that no prime minister would be able to do in the absence of an Army nod.
For Imran’s face-saver in not being able to invite heads of government, he has been allowed to extend the invitation to some close friends largely from his cricketing days. While Navjot Singh Sidhu has confirmed participation in the event, others like Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev are non-committal and would possibly decide after consulting the Modi government which in turn would take inputs from Intelligence.
The best hope that protagonists of durable peace can have is for a broad economic agreement between the countries and the resumption of visits by cultural ambassadors.
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Kashmir is seemingly too intractable a problem with huge sensitivities on both sides and the best that can eventually happen is for an accord based on the Shimla Agreement in which the agreement swirls around the international border.
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