Imran Khan must be living in a world of his own if he really thought that barring China any of the other permanent members of the UNSC were going to bat for Islamabad, writes Dr Sridhar Krishnaswami for South Asia Monitor
There is a strange similarity between President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Imran Khan. America is being ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic and Trump sits behind the Resolute Desk at the Oval Office fiddling with cans of beans, and across the world sits the Prime Minister of Pakistan with a mess on his hands and looking for solace from the United Nations Security Council by way of a discussion on Kashmir. The unofficial session in New York ended with Islamabad firmly but politely told not to waste the world body’s time. With the exception of its "all-weather friend" and benevolent benefactor China, none of the other four permanent members of the Council would even touch the issue with a barge pole.
The bottom line: Pakistan snubbed and not for the first time. Imran Khan is not the first Pakistani leader to be obsessed with India; neither is he the first to look for a diversion mechanism from the pressing problems of the day. But the difference this time around is that the obsession has been quickly noticed by the world body which did not waste time in getting into any elaborate discussion. It was obvious that Imran Khan and his coterie were desperate to observe the August 5 anniversary of India scrapping Article 370 that extended special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir that they desperately tried to schedule an open discussion hoping to get some mileage out of it, not just in New York and other world capitals but back home too. In the end, it turned out to be a damp squib. Or in the words of India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, T.S. Tirumurti, “In today’s meeting of UN Security Council which was closed, informal, not recorded and without any outcome, almost all countries underlined that Jammu and Kashmir was bilateral issue and did not deserve time and attention of Council.”
But an even more blunt comment has been attributed to an unnamed United Nations diplomat: “They chose the date carefully but it proved to be a short-sighted move as everyone else came to India’s support. Most members felt this needs to be resolved bilaterally and it does not deserve to come to the Security Council, and there was a sense that this was a waste of the body’s time.”
Imran Khan must be living in a world of his own if he really thought that barring China any of the other permanent members of the UNSC were going to bat for Islamabad.
By indulging in an exercise of frivolity, Imran Khan runs the risk of further alienating not only the members of the Permanent Five but also others to the point that Islamabad will have very few listeners in the august body on matters pertaining to anything. In fact, much of the world body would rather have Pakistan pay more attention to checking terrorism globally and across the border that affects India as well as keeping a tighter vigil on terrorists roaming around freely in its own borders and often times with state assistance. The cosmetic measures taken around the time of the meeting of the Financial Assistance Task Force is wearing thin in the world body and the clamor is already on to tighten the screws on Islamabad by way of sanctions that are bound to further weaken a regime that is economically tottering.
Pakistan needs to get real
There are far better things that Imran Khan and the company should be thinking of other than looking for ways to humor the brass hats who are never going to be satisfied with any kind of anti-India hysteria. Even without the coronavirus pandemic, the government in Islamabad was faced with an economic crisis of grave proportions forcing the regime to go from pillar to post looking for handouts and freebies. It is pointed out that when Imran Khan came to office in 2018, Pakistan’s GDP was around 5.8 percent but has slipped to less than 2 percent in recent months, thanks to the virus that has taken a debilitating toll. Estimates are that close to 20 million Pakistanis would be unemployed with the economic slowdown doubling the people living below the poverty line.
India is under no illusions on a number of fronts as far as Pakistan is concerned. And heading this list will be the fact that in spite of all that lip service on anti-terrorism, Islamabad will continue to be the chief sponsor of cross border terrorism. In fact, intelligence reports suggest that terrorist activity has picked up in the last several months that has invariably resulted in a number of deadly encounters with Indian security forces. New Delhi over the years has maintained that all contentious issues can be discussed bilaterally but the one major pre-condition for talks is Islamabad addressing the issue of terrorism especially as it pertains to India.
Writing letters to the Security Council and publishing wrong maps of Kashmir are not worth the paper they are printed on, and the sooner Pakistan and its leaders realize this, the better for that country and for South Asia as a whole.
(The writer, a former senior journalist in Washington D.C, is currently Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication, SRM Institute of Science and Technology, Chennai. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)