First, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan wrote letters to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi; then came his phone calls. But all the efforts of an overzealous ex fell short in getting a concrete response from Modi, for whom Khan had even tried to campaign for his re-election. Certainly, “How to win over your ex” is not a page to be taken out of Imran Khan’s rulebook.
In his first letter to Modi after coming to power, Imran Khan in September 2018 called for resuming the peace dialogue between India and Pakistan. “Dear Modi Sahab… Pakistan remains ready to discuss terrorism,” Khan had written.
Soon after, India cancelled the foreign minister-level meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Citing the killing of three policemen in Jammu and Kashmir along with the release of postal stamps from Pakistan glorifying Burhan Wani, the meeting between foreign affairs minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and then external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj were cancelled.
Miffed with India’s response, Imran Khan went full Donald Trump and tweeted out how hurt he was: “Disappointed at the arrogant & negative response by India to my call for resumption of the peace dialogue. However, all my life I have come across small men occupying big offices who do not have the vision to see the larger picture.”
Ironically, when Khan mentioned small men not having the vision to see the larger picture, he gave us an insight into his own political vision or the lack of it.
In the last seven years since his rise as military establishment’s blue-eyed boy, Imran Khan has vehemently targeted political opponents for wanting to have a better relationship with India. Often taunting former prime minister Nawaz Sharif with slogans like ‘Modi Ka Jo Yaar Hai, Ghaddar Hai, Ghaddar Hai (friend of Modi is a traitor)’.
He questioned Sharif’s friendship with Modi and accused both the leaders of creating tension at the borders to help Pakistan Muslim League (N) win the 2018 elections. “Beginning to wonder why whenever Nawaz Sharif is in trouble, there is increasing tension along Pakistan’s borders and a rise in terrorist acts? Is it a mere coincidence?” he tweeted.
On another occasion, Khan said that Nawaz Sharif was “the modern-day Mir Jafar, who collaborated with the British to enslave his nation for personal gains. Nawaz speaking Modi’s language against Pak State simply to protect his ill-gotten Rs 300b stashed in his sons companies abroad.”
It is the same Modi even now, so what has changed? Why is it legit to be a Modi ka yaar now?
Nothing much. Other than Imran Khan becoming the prime minister and having these delusions of grandeur that he understands India more than any Pakistani simply because he has travelled and has friends in India. The outside world, including India, doesn’t see it like that. The current political setup lacks legitimacy and is seen as a proxy of the powerful establishment.
Now, Khan wants peace, trade and dialogue among other things with India, forgetting that he once objected to all of that. But U-turn is a cornerstone of Khan’s politics.
So, post-Balakot, when Imran Khan complained on the floor of the assembly that Modi wasn’t receiving his phone calls, many suggested that he borrowed Nawaz Sharif’s mobile phone to get Modi to talk to him.
On Pakistan Day, Imran Khan jumped with joy over an unsigned customary letter greeting the people of Pakistan. He announced to the world, “Received msg from PM Modi: “I extend my greetings & best wishes to the people of Pakistan on the National Day of Pakistan. It is time that ppl of Sub-continent work together for a democratic, peaceful, progressive & prosperous region, in an atmosphere free of terror and violence”.”
During India’s general elections, Khan couldn’t hold back his desire for Modi to become the PM again. He was so sure that “Ayega toh Modi hi” that he wrote a congratulatory letter to the Indian PM, according to some, weeks before Modi and his BJP had even won the election.
That is the kind of confidence Imran Khan has in Modi.
He eventually did send a congratulatory message (as did other world leaders) to Modi and the BJP for winning the election on 23 May. This was later followed up with a phone call with the same message: Pakistan wanted to work with Modi for peace and stability in the region and the restoration of dialogue between the two countries.
But so far, all the efforts of Imran Khan to get Modi to talk to him have been futile. Modi has been ghosting him.
With the announcement that there is no scheduled meeting between Modi and Imran Khan along the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Bishkek next week, hopes are grimmer.
Letters, calls, messages, all unanswered.
What should Imran Khan do to get Modi’s attention? From where I see, a letter written in blood could be a start. But don’t get your hopes up even with that.
The author is a freelance journalist from Pakistan. Her Twitter handle is @nailainayat. Views are personal.