On 18th August 2018, Pakistan appointed its 22nd Prime Minister, Imran Khan. With his tenure, also began a set of speculations- what would the appointment mean for the crumbling Indo-Pak ties? The two countries share a complicated past, no doubt. Bilateral talks have been close to negligible in the past few years, with each side blaming the other for the stagnancy.
Now, with a new Prime Minister in the picture for Pakistan, will things change? If yes, for the better or worse? Well, we will have to understand the relationship between India and Pakistan better to answer.
India-Pakistan relationship in the past
Although 15th August 1947 is largely remembered and celebrated for the day India got its freedom, it attributes to another key event- the partition. That was perhaps the first strain in the relationship these two countries share, with the partition turning brutally bloody for both sides.
India and Pakistan have witnessed multiple turfs since then- some major, other smaller but destructive. Kargil war, Indo-Pakistan war of 1965, 1971 etc are a few examples. The prime reason for the two nations turning a sour side remains the much-disputed territory of Kashmir. Summits like the Shimla summit, Lahore summit, Agra summit have tried to smoothen out the strains, but the situation more or less goes back to hostility and suspicion.
In November 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a brief visit to Pakistan, the first Indian PM to do that since 2004. However, no significant improvements were observed, and the matters became worse after the 2016 Uri attacks.
Will Imran Khan mend the ties? Slim chances.
Just a few days before his Prime Ministerial post was confirmed, Khan famously said that “If they (India) take one step towards us, we will take two”. On other occasions, too, the cricketer-turned-politician has expressed his desire for better relations. In November 2018, construction of Kartarpur border was finalised between India and Pakistan. Facilitating a direct, much easier passage for the Indian devotees to Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib, this corridor is said to be a historic step forward. For many, this rekindled the hopes of peace between the two countries that have been in a silent battle since long.
However, will this result in better diplomatic relations? Not likely, and only to a certain extent, if at all. The reason can be traced back to the relationship between the Pak army and its governance. It is common knowledge that the former has a significant influence on the functioning of the nation. For one reason or the other, no Pakistani PM has so far served their full tenure of five years. Any PM, who has tried to deviate from the army’s policies, has till date been removed from their position.
In a scenario like this, the outcome depends more on the Pak army’s stand, rather than its PM’s. Regardless, like Imran Khan pointed out recently, “two nuclear-armed countries should not even think of a war… The only way is bilateral talks”.
A peace treaty cannot be signed with ammunition, only with efforts from both sides.