Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan spoke out in support of residents of India-controlled Kashmir today during a national observance of Kashmir Hour. He also wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times, which was published today. Khan continues to draw comparisons between the Kashmir issue and World War II. Imran Khan’s New York Times article states that everyone is in danger due to the Kashmir issue as both Pakistan and India have nuclear weapons.
Pakistan seeks peace with India
Khan said one of his priorities since being elected prime minister of Pakistan has been peace in South Asia, and he has been trying to “normalize relations with India through trade and by settling the Kashmir dispute.” After his first speech to the people of Pakistan, a meeting between the Pakistani and Indian foreign ministers was scheduled for the United Nations General Assembly but later canceled by India.
He also said he wrote three letters to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi “calling for dialogue and peace,” but all his efforts to begin bilateral talks were ignored. At the time, Pakistani officials thought Modi was “trying to whip up a nationalist frenzy among the Indian voters with an eye on the Indian elections in May.”
Then in February, a Kashmir carried out a suicide attack against Indian troops in Kashmir, and India blamed Pakistan. Pakistani authorities asked for proof, but India sent fighter jets into Pakistan. Pakistan’s military shot down one of the jets, captured the pilot and eventually returned him to India. Pakistan also struck back against a target that wouldn’t cause loss of life. He wanted to “show that Pakistan had no intent of aggravating the conflict” with India.
After Modi was re-elected, Khan congratulated him and sent another letter requesting dialogue to work toward peace, but again, India did not respond. Additionally, he said that while he was trying to make peace with India, New Delhi was trying to get Pakistan blacklisted by the intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force.
Concerns about religious freedom
“Evidently Mr. Modi had mistaken our desire for peace in a nuclear neighborhood as appeasement,” Imran Khan’s New York Times article states. “We were up against a ‘New India,’ which is governed by leaders and a party that are the products of the Hindu supremacist mother ship, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or the R.S.S.”
Khan then highlighted the teachings of the R.S.S., whose founders admired Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler. He also called to mind an anti-Muslim program Modi introduced when he was chief minister of Gujarat state. Modi was denied a visa to travel to the U.S. in 2005 in connection with the program, which resulted in riots that left over 1,000 people dead, most of whom were Muslims. The denial came under the United States’ International Religious Freedom Act.
He added that Modi’s first term as prime minister saw “lynching of Muslims, Christians and Dalits by extremist Hindu mobs.” He also called attention to the recent unrest in Kashmir where allegations of violence against Kashmiris have been reported by multiple media outlets. Modi’s government revoked Kashmir’s special status on Aug. 5, removing its semi-autonomy and cracking down on residents with a military curfew, communications blackout and other restrictions.
Khan alleges that “thousands of Kashmiris have been arrested and thrown into prisons across India.” He also expressed concern about “a blood bath” occurring there when the curfew is finally lifted.
“Already, Kashmiris coming out in defiance of the curfew are being shot and killed,” he wrote.
“We are all in danger”
Imran Khan’s New York Times article then called for the rest of the world to come to the aid of the Kashmiris.
“If the world does nothing to stop the Indian assault on Kashmir and its people, there will be consequences for the whole world as two nuclear-armed states get ever closer to a direct military confrontation,” he warned.
He also reminded readers that India’s defense minister has suggested that New Delhi’s “no use first” policy for nuclear weapons will “depend on circumstances.” Khan called for Pakistan and India to come together to talk about Kashmir, “various strategic matters” and trade. He urged India to include Kashmiris and all other stakeholders on the matter. He also said they have come up with “multiple options that can be worked on while honoring the right to self-determination the Kashmiris were promised by the Security Council resolutions and India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.”
“It is imperative that the international community think beyond trade and business advantages,” Khan urged. “World War II happened because of appeasement at Munich. A similar threat looms over the world again, but this time under the nuclear shadow.”