- Pakistan has witnessed dramatic political developments where yet another elected govt has been unable to complete its full term.
- It now has a new ‘Wazir-e-Azam’. His name is Shehbaz Sharif. A member of the wealthy Sharif dynasty. A man famous for his impassionate speeches.
- It does not matter who rules Pakistan, the country is never going to change (any way that’s the prevailing argument.)
However, in this article, we will study what this latest change in Pakistan mean for Pakistan, for India, and the rest of the world.
Pakistan conundrum: A quick recap
(1) Attempt for a constitutional coup
- In a high stage political drama, Imran Khan was ousted as the PM after a political and constitutional crisis emerged in Pakistan.
- Pakistani National Assembly Speaker dismissed a no-confidence motion against PM during a session in which it was expected to be taken up for a vote, alleging foreign country’s involvement.
- The Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) took a suo moto notice of the ongoing situation, creating a constitutional crisis, as effectively, Imran Khan led a constitutional coup.
(2) Questions over Pak Army’s role
- Meanwhile, Imran Khan had ordered termination of its Army Chief who was his staunch supporter turned opponent.
- He has broken that consensus within Pakistan’s political class on deference to the Pakistan army and has demonised his political opponents.
- Shortly after midnight on 10 April, a majority of members voted and passed the no-confidence motion, removing Khan from office, and making him the first prime minister in Pakistan to be removed from office through a no-confidence motion.
Geopolitical impacts of Pakistan Crisis
The nation of more than 220 million people lies between Afghanistan to the west, China to the northeast and India to the east, making it of vital strategic importance.
- Defiance from the US: Since coming to power in 2018, Khan’s rhetoric has become more anti-American.
- Support for Russian invasion of Ukraine: He expressed a desire to move closer to China and, recently, Russia – including talks with President Putin on the day the invasion of Ukraine began.
Here is what the upheaval, which comes as the economy is in deep trouble, means for countries closely involved in Pakistan:
- Terrorism: Any regime change in Islamabad has always been monitored closely by New Delhi for potential changes in the border scenario, and militancy.
- Ongoing Ceasefire: As with Afghanistan, it is Pakistan’s military that controls policy in the sensitive area, and tensions along the de facto border there are at their lowest level since 2021, thanks to a ceasefire.
- Absence of formal dialogue: There have been no formal diplomatic talks between the rivals for years because of deep distrust over a range of issues, including Khan’s extreme criticism of Indian PM.
- Push of geo-economics: The Pakistani military has put pressure on the new government in Islamabad to build successful ties for geo-economics and bilateral trade.
- Change in Kashmir rhetoric: The powerful army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa said recently that his country was ready to move forward on Kashmir if India agrees.
- Ongoing crisis: Now that the Taliban are back in power in Afghanistan, and facing an economic and humanitarian crisis due to a lack of money and international isolation.
- Row over Durand Line: Tensions have risen between the Taliban and Pakistan’s military, which has lost several soldiers in attacks close to their mutual border.
- Putting curb on terror activities: Pakistan wants the Taliban to do more to crack down on extremist groups and worries they will spread violence into Pakistan by the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) faction.
- “All weather” friends: Khan consistently emphasised China’s positive role in Pakistan and in the world at large.
- Continuance of CPEC: The $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which binds them together was actually conceptualised and launched under Pakistan’s two established political parties, both of which are set to share power in the new government.
[D] UNITED STATES
- No priority for US: Pakistan’s political crisis is unlikely to be a priority for President Joe Biden, who is grappling with the war in Ukraine, unless it led to mass unrest or rising tensions with India.
- Pak retreat on alleged US involvement: With the Pakistani military maintaining its behind-the-scenes control of foreign and security policies, the change of government was not a major concern.
- Damage control over Russian ties: Imran Khan’s visit to Moscow had been a “disaster” in terms of U.S. relations, and that a new government in Islamabad could at least help mend ties “to some degree”.
Pakistan- the way it is: A Rogue State
- Obsession for Kashmir: Ever since Pakistan came into being, its biggest obsession has been India and Kashmir. Even after losing 3 crucial wars, the saga has never ended.
- Obsession with India: The deploring economic condition, ever-increasing scarcity of water, dishevelled education system and growing radicalisation take a back seat in the breadth of bleeding India by a thousand cuts.
- Perceived ‘conspiracy’ in all walks of polity: The only thing that helps the army/govt to stay in power is by vilifying India (/ US/ Semitism) and delineating India as the biggest threat to their survival.
- Lack of credible civilian leadership: Pakistan’s founders expected the idea of Pakistan to shape the state of Pakistan; instead, a military bureaucracy governs the state and imposes its own vision of a Pakistani nation.
- Army is the Deep-State: This shortcoming gave the army a chance to intervene and take over the functioning of the civilian government. Ever since its inception, the army has played a decisive role in the internal governance and foreign policy.
- Demographic bottlenecks: At the time of partition, Pakistan received a large share of military personnel as compared to the share of civilian migrants from India.
- De-indigenization of own history: Pakistan has always tried to de-indigenise its history, culture. It has always tried to attach its cultural habits with the Arabs and the invader Turks.
- Crusade for Islam: Pakistan often stunts to be the khalifa of the Islamic world. It has propagated the rhetoric of Islamophobia despite being a Islamic republic.
- Terrorism as a diplomatic tool: Pakistan is idiosyncratic to the common notion of diplomacy. Pakistan is the only state in the world which sponsors terrorism as a state policy be it in India or Afghanistan
Dilemma for India
- Leadership vacuum in Pakistan: Indian policymakers have not been able to engage in a formal diplomatic talk due to the leadership vacuum and deep distrust.
- No talks amid Terrorism: India has tried both the diplomatic and the military ways to find a solution to the problem. But nothing has worked out so far that could deter Pakistan from sponsoring terrorism.
- Offensive defence: Even after 26/11, India’s responses were mostly limited to diplomatic and covert operations. Indian responses pre-surgical-strike were mostly dictated by the nuclear hangover.
- Short-lived military deterrence: Surgical strike and Balakot strike manifested change in India’s attitude to take punitive and decisive action. But the deterrence which was expected to have been created have been short-lived.
- Atomic hangover of Pakistan: It often reiterates the stance of being a potential atomic superpower, whenever reference to the ties with India are invoked.
Imperatives for India
From India’s point of view, two positive developments have taken place in the course of this turmoil:
- Praise for India: First, Imran Khan, the outgoing prime minister who has alleged a US-led foreign conspiracy to oust his government, has heaped fulsome praise on India for its independent foreign policy.
- Army wants ties with India: Pakistan’s powerful army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, has yet again reached out to India with a message of peace, which the Modi government must not reject. He regards religious extremism, not India, to be a greater threat to Pakistan’s national security.
What could be the reasons compelling Pakistan’s military to seek peace with India?
(1) Looming Economic Crisis
- Pakistan is going through an acute economic crisis, which has made its military leaders to do some introspection.
- Today, Pakistan stands at the crossroads of its economic and strategic goals. It has north-south connectivity (Pakistan to Afghanistan to Central Asia and Russia).
- It now wants to capitalize the build connectivity from east to west (India to Iran) that will increase trade and benefit Pakistan and the region.
(2) Own jihadists hitting back
- Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is the largest militant organization fighting against the state in Pakistan.
- It was once bred by Pak Army and ISI to wage Jihad against India in Kashmir Valley.
- According to the UN, the TTP also boasts several thousand fighters in Afghanistan, with strongholds on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
(3) Crisis in Balochistan
(4) Stalled progress of China Pakistan Economic Corridor
- Capitalizing on-going conundrum: India cannot let these tactical advantages go in vain. It will have to capitalise on them.
- Resumption of dialogue: The visionary Pak army chief will retire this year. Hence, there is a small window of opportunity in which India and Pakistan can resume dialogue and achieve a meaningful breakthrough.
- Alert policy imperatives: India should respond careful to the peace message from our western neighbour — coming from none other than its army chief.
- All-factor considerations: India needs to prepare a grand strategy to decipher this Pakistan conundrum which should take into consideration all the facets of the problem.
- Balancing China: Another important aspect of this grand strategy, which would need greater accentuation, is the bonhomie between China and Pakistan.