NEW DELHI: Pakistan leader Imran Khan, whose Tehreek-e-Insaf wrested power in the July 25 parliamentary election widely believed to have been rigged and manipulated by the military, sought to reach out to India in his victory speech on Thursday.
"If leadership in India is ready then I will want to strengthen the relationship between the two countries. The strengthening of ties between the two nations will be beneficial for subcontinent as well," he said in a speech watched worldwide. "If India comes and takes one step towards us, we will take two steps toward them. Right now it is one-sided where India is constantly just blaming us."
Expressing his sadness over the way the Indian media described him as a military plant, he said: "It pained me to see the way Indian media portrayed me in the last few months. I was depicted like a villain in Bollywood movies. I am one of those Pakistanis that wants good relations with India. It seemed like India feared every thing bad would happen if Imran Khan came into power. "
Batting for improving trade with India, the former cricket captain who won all five seats that he had contested, said: "Trade ties between India and Pakistan should improve for not only the benefit of the two countries but for South Asia as well. If we want to have a poverty-free subcontinent then we must have good relations and trade ties. I believe that to improve economics in the subcontinent trade between India and Pakistan is important."
Pakistan has consistently denied Most Favoured Nation Status to India, and also refuses to give India trade and transit rights into Afghanistan. And then of course, came Kashmir.
"Kashmir remains our biggest contention. It is unfortunate that Kashmir, which is the core issue between the two countries, has suffered immense human rights violations at the hands of the Indian Army in the last 30 years. The leadership of Pakistan and India now need to come to the table to resolve this and end the blame games. We are stuck at square one," he said.
While New Delhi declined official comment saying it would wait till Khan was formally elected as Prime Minister, privately officials said while Khan's "outreach was welcome," he made no mention about India's main concern, terrorism. They also noted that a lot would depend on whether his party allied with the militant/terrorist groups in order to form the government.
Noting that Lashkar chief Hafiz Saeed's son and son-in-law had lost the seats they had contested, one official said: "It's reassuring to know that at least some Pakistanis voted with their feet."
"If he (Imran) lives up to what he just said, and not what he has articulated in the past, then that's certainly a measure of welcome progress," said Gopalaswami Parthasarathy, former Indian high commissioner to Pakistan.
"Let us see. As things stand he's not corrupt like the Sharifs or the Bhuttos were. But he's a mercurial personality." As for Kashmir, "let's be real..which Pakistani Prime Minister can survive without raising Kashmir? "he asked.
"You also have to understand that in the ultimate analysis, these things don't matter. What matters is what the army thinks."
He also asserted that the Indian bureaucracy and political establishment needed "to think beyond what you are doing now," vis a vis Kashmir.
"I don't mind telling them (Pakistan) that dialogue is linked is terrorism. That I won't discuss Kashmir as long as there is terrorism. But you can't say the whole dialogue is linked to terror," he said. "The real ultimate problem was committed by (former Prime Ministers) IK Gujral and then by (Atal Bihari ) Vajpayee, by getting into this stupid composite dialogue."
Asked whether dealing directly with the Army would undermine the elected government, he said: "Who the hell cares who we undermine? Do you think the politically elected class there loves your face? This is stupid thinking. I am not saying we should directly go and talk with the army. But you will have to divide modalities, by exchanging notes with them and all that..The Americans do it, the Russians do it, the Chinese do it, the British..Why are we the only holy virgins?"
Parthasarathy, not know for mincing his words, concluded with an anecdote which he felt would put things into context.
"In 1982, I was consul general in Karachi when the Indian team led by Gavaskar came there. Imran just devastated us with something we had never encountered, which was the reverse swing. Gavaskar and Mohinder could handle it, but the others whether it was Visvanath or Arun Lal or Vengsarkar.. they all just folded up. They picked up, over time, but this fellow, Imran, he was fabulous," he said.
"This was in 1982." he continued: "A friend of mine, a Pakistani cricket commentator called Chisti Mujahid, who is no longer alive, asked him..`Imran, why is it when I saw you were bowling against England, it was okay, you were bowling well, but when it is against India it is fire and brimstone?' Imran's reply? "Well, when we play against India, I don't see this game as cricket. I think of Kashmir, and regard it as a jihad."
Perhaps the last words come from Bangladeshi-Swedish author Taslima Nasreen, who tweeted: "Imran Khan wants Pakistan to become 7th century's Medina. Good that military will rule, not him. Hope he will not be allowed to drag the country to hell."
Imran Khan wants Pakistan to become 7th century's Medina. Good that military will rule, not him. Hope he will not be allowed to drag the country to hell.— taslima nasreen (@taslimanasreen) July 26, 2018