But political change in Islamabad will make little difference to India-Pakistan relations
Imran Khan’s government in Pakistan is on shaky ground as the country’s opposition seeks to push through a no-confidence motion. Adding to Khan’s problems is the fact that he faces dissidents within his own party, the PTI, while his coalition partners are also disgruntled. But what really seems to have gotten Khan into trouble is the perceived withdrawal of support for his government by the Pakistani military. The slide began in October last year when Khan and Pakistani army chief General Qamar Bajwa got into a public standoff over the appointment of the ISI chief.
Also read: Motion of censure filed against Prime Minister Imran Khan
Khan was ultimately unsuccessful, but the episode damaged his relationship with the military. Add to that allegations of economic mismanagement and corruption, and Khan certainly finds himself in a tough spot. Despite his show of force at a massive rally on Sunday where he alleged foreign powers were trying to overthrow him, the only thing that could save Khan is a last-minute deal with the military. After all, the Pakistani military continues to hold the levers of power in this country. And Khan’s coalition partners like PML(Q) and MQM have traditionally sided with the generals at Rawalpindi HQ.
From India’s perspective, ousting Khan will make little difference to the overall bilateral relationship. There is no evidence that the Pakistani military has changed its mind about using terrorism as an instrument of state policy against India and Afghanistan. In fact, the return of the Taliban to Kabul puts the Pakistani deep state in control there, which would harm India’s long-term Afghan interests. Meanwhile, militancy in Kashmir is entering a new phase of targeted killings with the help of Pakistani handlers across the border. Moreover, given the current poor state of Indo-Chinese relations and Beijing’s unwavering friendship with Islamabad, New Delhi should guard against the opposing Sino-Pakistani axis.
While Pakistan is also trying to get closer to Russia in the context of the war in Ukraine, India must remain vigilant. The bottom line is that the political destiny of Pakistan is in the hands of the Pakistani military which can make or break governments. And as long as the Pakistani military-ISI complex continues to regard India as its main enemy, no government in Islamabad will have any real chance of peace with New Delhi.
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