Can Imran Khan be trusted?: Here is what Army veterans have to say
New Delhi, Dec 5: Imran Khan has been making strong statements for betterment of India-Pakistan ties ever since he took the office of PM. Even last week during the Kartarpur Corridor event, Khan dwelled on peaceful coexistence, but put the onus on India to make a start. Khan said if India takes one step then Pakistan would take two.
Imran Khan may genuinely want to better ties with India, but then again it all depends on the Pakistani military and the strong anti-India stand that it has maintained over the years. Whether there will be any change in the stand with a new democratic regime at helm is something that only time will tell.
'Bleeding India with a thousand cuts' is the line which the Pakistani military establishment has been vehemently following for decades and there doesn't seem any significant change in that. No matter how strong the democratic government is in Pakistan, when it comes to relations with India, it is the military which calls the shots.
So, is Imran Khan bold enough to dictate terms to the military? Can he wrest control from Rawalpindi and take foreign policy matters, especially the things pertaining to India, in his own hands? Well, he may not be able to do it even if he wants to. We spoke to defence and strategy matters expert Colonel Jaibans Singh and he said that Khan may enjoy some degree of freedom to tinker with the economic policies of the country, but his scope in terms of altering the foreign policy remains limited.
"Imran Khan is a good man. He is austere, he is a nationalist, he wants good for his country, but there is nothing much that he can do. It is the army which rules the roost over there. It is not just about him, anybody who comes to the politics in Pakistan has got limited powers to guide the fate of the country. He will always have to keep the interest of the army in mind, especially when it comes to foreign policy and too when it concerns India," Col. Singh told OneIndia.
The Army Veteran also explained why the political dispensation in Pakistan is so dependent on the army to handle certain issues which fall purely in the domain of civil administration. A weak police system and not having a strong paramilitary military force leaves the political administration crippled even to deal with something such as Islamic extremism.
"On whom will he come down hard and how will he do it. They do not have huge paramilitary forces (like the CRPF or the BSF here). They do not have a strong police there, everything has to be done by the army and the rangers. So, if one fine day he says come on we will crack down on the militants, he will have to ask the army. Then if the army wants to, they will do it, if not then they will not do it. What can he do?" the Army Veteran added.
Col. Singh opined that Nawaz Sharif was keener than Khan to go against the army and improve ties with India. "Imran Khan is much weaker than him," he said.
Another veteran commander, Lieutenant General Satish Dua, felt that Imran Khan's enthusiasm to better ties is fine, but the fact remains that "the army is in the pre-eminent position there". Engaging with the democratic regime is good and if Khan genuinely wants engagement then there is nothing wrong in giving it a try.
"It will obiviously be underwritten by the military, there is no doubt," Lieutenant General Dua told OneIndia.
Lieutenant General Dua, who served as Chief of Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) to the Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (CISC), said it is better to move forward in small steps rather than straightaway jumping to bigger issues.
"Kartarpur has been a good thing, similar engagements which remove mistrust would be good. Engagement that carries the process forward and sets a table to even disagree is what we should be looking at initially. It is a great thing to be able to sit down and disagree, rather than fight over it. To that extent it is better to keep engaging, take small baby steps and then of course bigger things can follow," he added.
He emphasised that if Khan's regime is forthcoming then no there is nothing wrong in giving a try. At the same time, political rhetorics like "If India takes one step then we will take two" can be done away with and the focus should be on real efforts.