Prime Minister Imran Khan has returned home from his week-long “mission Kashmir” at the United Nations. His flight home was delayed because of technical issues otherwise he could have reached Islamabad on Saturday — the same day Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi returned to his country from his visit to the UN.
Imran and Modi both had Kashmir at the top of their respective agendas. The only difference being that it was the only agenda of the Pakistani Prime Minister, while Modi had his eyes on a trade deal with the US. No wonder he tried his utmost to look chummy with US President Donald Trump.
It is always a rare occasion when the leaders of both Pakistan and India come together — yet are galaxies apart — in the same town. Hitherto, we have often seen India getting greater limelight but this time, Prime Minister Imran Khan was seen as the clear victor in the battle fought on the diplomatic front on American soil.
Imran highlighted the Kashmir issue so loud and clear that it became impossible for India to persuade the world to look the other way. Even the US President was not convinced enough to alight from his mediation offer. And much to India’s dismay, Trump bluntly told Modi that he [Modi] and Imran will “get along when they get to know each other”.
The US knows very well that mentioning Pakistan and India in one sentence is a diplomatic no-no. The last time Trump did so was when he was a new president and accused Islamabad of duplicity on US efforts in Afghanistan. This time around the tide was turned. Even Trump appeared to be unable to buy India’s charge of terrorism against Pakistan. Instead he chose to mention Iran, for which he sought Pakistan’s help for mediation.
At General Assembly Modi did not mention Kashmir in an apparent attempt to portray it as a non-issue. But contrary to his efforts, the issue was raised by three countries other than Pakistan, namely Turkey, Malaysia and China, along with the UN Secretary-General in his annual report. This marked the first time in many decades that Kashmir became a major issue at the General Assembly.
Modi wanted to rein in Pakistan’s onslaught against New Delhi’s inhumane treatment of the Kashmiri people, particularly after its August 5 move of rescinding the special status of the occupied territory and locking down the population of the entire region on the notion of maintaining law and order. Similarly, at the time of leaving Delhi for the US, the Indian Prime Minister had planned on the restoration of the US preferential system for its exports.
Contrary to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s meeting with dozens of world leaders, the heads of governments and top diplomats from the US, the UK, China, Russia, Turkey, Malaysia, and Norway; the Indian Prime Minister chose to meet dozens of leaders of American multinationals and conglomerates. However, he failed to win a single deal barring an MoU in the energy sector. The US sanctions stay while the companies affected by the US-China trade war also appear to be less inclined towards making investments in India.
There are many in Pakistan who have their own ideas of defeating India at every front but the United Nations is a forum where the country’s diplomatic skills are tested. Prime Minister Imran Khan has clearly defeated India in this round and provided the ground to settle the lingering dispute of Kashmir.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 2nd, 2019.