Rajat Sharma

Why Imran Khan praised Modi’s foreign policy?

akb fullPakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government may be on the verge of collapse with all main opposition parties having joined hands. They have brought a no-confidence motion in the National Assembly, supported by more than 100 MPs. Imran Khan needs 172 votes to survive in the 342-member National Assembly, but several smaller parties, controlled by the Army and nearly 24 MPs of his party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) have threatened to vote against the government.

Sources say, the main opposition parties have agreed to elect Shehbaz Sharif, brother of former PM Nawaz Sharif, and the leader of opposition, as the next prime minister. Nawaz Sharif is presently in self-exile in London. There are reports of Imran Khan losing the backing of the powerful military establishment, but the Army has so far maintained a neutral stand. On paper, Imran has a slim majority of 176 votes in Parliament, which include 155 MPs from his party PTI, but many of his own MPs have defected. Imran was ruling with the support of 23 MPs from six different parties.

To counter this challenge, Imran Khan has been addressing rallies across the country and appealing to his supporters to march to Islamaba and attend a rally outside Parliament on March 27. In response, the Opposition has announced plans to organize a march and sit-in in Islamabad on March 25. Imran Khan is trying to swing the public mood in his favour to counter the heat being applied by Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), a conglomerate of main opposition parties.

In his rallies, Imran Khan lashed out at Nawaz Sharif, describing him as ‘geedar’ (jackal) and absconder, and all opposition leaders as corrupt and traitors. Imran Khan said, “the absconder and his daughter say bad things about the army and Shehbaz polishes every boot that he sees”. In response, Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam tells her rallies that “the game is over” for Imran Khan Niazi, whose government has been proved to be incompetent.

What has caught the eyes of Indians here is a remark that Imran Khan made while addressing a public rally in Malakand area of his native Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Sunday. Imran Khan praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s foreign policy.

He said, “I would like to praise our neighbouring country Hindustan for its foreign policy. India’s foreign policy is free and independent, and its only aim is for the betterment of its own people. Though India has allied with America, and is part of Quad alliance, yet India is neutral on the Ukraine-Russia war issue. India has decided to import crude oil from Russia despite US sanctions. This is because India’s foreign policy is oriented towards the betterment of its own people.”

On Monday, Indian Foreign Secretary Harshvardhan Shringla reacted to Khan’s remark by saying, “India has received across the board praise from different countries for its foreign policy, and our record speaks for itself. It would be wrong to say that only one leader has praised India’s foreign policy.”

It is amusing to note that Imran Khan, who, at one point of time, used to deride Narendra Modi as Hitler and Nazi leader at international forums, has now praised his foreign policy, at a time when his government is on the verge of collapse. The manner in which Prime Minister Modi pursued a neutral foreign policy during the Russia-Ukraine war and kept India’s own interest as paramount, speaks for itself. Modi did not come under pressures from the US and the Western countries.

India’s policy was finely tuned. It did not openly oppose Russia, but also refrained from openly supporting the Russian attack. Similarly, India did not publicly opposed the stand taken by the West, and instead called for immediate cessation of hostilities and resumption of dialogue, between Russia and Ukraine. Narendra Modi’s image as a global leader has now acquired a new shine, which a trenchant critic like Imran Khan could not ignore.

The people and political leaders of Pakistan were themselves surprised when they watched their prime minister praising India’s foreign policy before a crowd of thousands of supporters.

I have noted for the last few years that since the time Imran Khan took over as Prime Minister, he has not only tried to copy Narendra Modi’s image but also several of his public welfare policies. Taking a page out of Modi’s book, Imran Khan launched the cleanliness campaign in Pakistan, and declared a war against corruption. He also copied Modi’s measures, by asking his ministers to travel on regular flights and avoid extravagance. He then auctioned all precious gifts given to him and his predecessors by foreign guests, by copying a similar step by Modi, early in 2014. But in spite of copying Modi’s actions and schemes, Imran Khan failed to attain Modi’s stature in Pakistan.

It is not that Imran Khan has praised Modi from the bottom of his heart, he has done it because of compulsions, both political and economic. His government is in danger and Pakistan’s economic situation is on a downward spiral. Pakistan’s economy has been surviving on huge loans given by its ally China. It tried to curry favour with the US, but when it failed to get any response, Imran Khan landed in Moscow to meet Putin, right at a time when Russia invaded Ukraine. He had to come empty handed.

In contrast, Narendra Modi did not kowtow to any big power to get favours for India, nor did it India come under any pressure, even when it purchased S-400 missiles from Russia, despite US sanctions. On the contrary, Modi established friendly relations with countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Oman and Jordan, which were traditional friends of Pakistan. Saudi Arabia has stopped giving loans to Pakistan, and UAE has stopped raising Kashmir issue despite prodding from Pakistan.

Most of the Islamic nations have now changed their attitude towards India and the situation has come to such a pass that even opposition leaders in Pakistan have now started asking their Prime Minister not to give Modi’s examples. These opposition leaders allege that the world is now laughing at Pakistan because of Imran Khan’s incompetence.

Imran Khan has now figured out that the his rule is nearing an end because of rebellion both in his party and in the ranks of other supporting parties. Out of panic, he has been seeking the Army’s support, and on the other hand, berating and threatening the rebels. He is also expecting the Supreme Court to step in and disqualify the defector MPs. But regular Pakistan watchers say, once the Army decides to unseat the Prime Minister, no other force can stop the military establishment.

Pakistan became independent 75 years ago, but not a single elected Prime Minister could complete five-year term. Governments in Pakistan are set up by the Army and also overthrown by the Army. Imran Khan cannot object to this, because his own government came to power with the help of the Army. Now that the Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa is unhappy with him, Imran Khan’s days as Prime Minister are now numbered. The only speculation that is being made now is whether the Army will support a new puppet government or will it take over the reins of power.

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