Reverse swing

Pak army chief’s offer of non-interference demands close scrutiny

Reverse swing

Pakistan army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa - AP/PTI file

It was reverse swing perfected on a tampered ball that made Imran Khan almost unplayable; and now in his political avatar, he has thrown something akin to his famed deceptive in-swinger at India’s foreign ministry pundits, who are still shuffling at the crease without a response. The Pakistan Prime Minister made a peace overture on Wednesday while inaugurating the first edition of the Islamabad Security Dialogue, claiming that India and Pakistan can settle the Kashmir issue through dialogue and establish a relationship like civilised neighbours. After his failed rabble-rousing attempt at the UN General Assembly, it was only in September 2019 that Imran had called for a jihad against India.

From an all-out religious war to peaceful coexistence through dialogue is a reversal too sharp, and while the Indian officialdom is still reading Imran’s delivery, Pakistan army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa literally bowled India over on Thursday. Bajwa’s astonishing promise of ‘non-interference of any kind in the internal affairs of our neighbour’ is so staggering that nobody in India can afford to take it seriously. By promising to ‘recast Pakistan’s image as a peace-loving nation and a useful member of the international community’, Bajwa has even confessed to his country’s true characteristics. Pakistan’s spin doctors are explaining the statements of Imran and Bajwa from the perspective of national security in terms of economic priorities over military compulsions — the primacy of economic security.

Shorn of all jargon, it could simply mean the fear of the anti-terror Financial Action Task Force (FATF) keeping Pakistan on the grey list beyond June. The FATF sanctions have indeed cost Pakistan a GDP loss of $38 billion in exports and inward foreign direct investment in recent years; yet this startling U-turn seeking peace with India has more to it than financial distress. This could well be a realisation of the futility of getting on the wrong side of the US-China competition, particularly after the Quad summit and the publication of the joint op-ed by the leaders of the US, India, Japan and Australia. Or simply a reverse swing yorker meant to deceive and defeat.

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