Wednesday, March 29, 2023
HomeOpinionLetter From Pakistan'Make chai, not war' – Imran Khan’s message that almost won him...

‘Make chai, not war’ – Imran Khan’s message that almost won him the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize

Today, IAF’s Abhinandan Varthaman lives on in Pakistan’s memory either as a mannequin inside a war museum or as a poster boy for a tea stall.

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For as long as you and I can remember, India and Pakistan have been writing new chapters in their book of dislike that they keep for each other. In 2019, the two countries not only continued the trend, they went out of their way to let the world know how difficult it is to live next to each other.

As 2019 comes to an end, a look back at the eventful year shows that things went south between India and Pakistan on multiple occasions.

A string of incidents triggered a variety of emotions, reactions and outrage in Pakistan – the Balakot air strikes, Indian Air Force (IAF) Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s captivity, India’s ban on tomato exports, the ICJ verdict on Kulbhushan Jadhav, and the dilution of Article 370 stripping Jammu and Kashmir of its special status.

There wasn’t a single day in 2019 when India and Pakistan played it dull. The Lok Sabha election in India, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s special focus on Pakistan, kept everyone engaged, including Pakistanis. There’s little doubt that 2020 wouldn’t be as rocky as 2019.

Also read: Imran Khan slamming Modi govt’s CAB exposes his memory loss

Namaloom pilots, couple of trees and a crow

It all started with the Pulwama terror attack on 14 February. And two weeks later, on 26 February, India’s Mirage-2000 fighter jets crossed the Line of Control to enter some 70 km inside Pakistan and bomb an alleged Jaish-e-Mohammed camp on a hilltop in Balakot.

Unlike Pakistan’s refusal that India had entered into its territory to carry out the 2016 surgical strikes after the Uri attack, we first heard about the Balakot air strikes from the Pakistan Army itself, when DG ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor woke us up with a tweet early morning. The IAF dropped payload in haste is what we were told. But there was one thing that puzzled us: why was the IAF in such a hurry?

That the Pakistani radars couldn’t successfully track India’s warplanes was hardly a surprise. If Pakistan’s radars didn’t work when the US special forces entered Pakistan to shoot dead Osama bin Laden, how could they work during the Balakot air strikes? Why Pakistan couldn’t stop India was a question that was best answered by Defence Minister Pervez Khattak: “it was dark”.

As to who was targeted in the Balakot air strikes, it was an open-and-shut case really — a crow and 19 trees. The initial claim that India had killed 300 terrorists was only a myth. An FIR was registered by Pakistan’s forestry department against namaloom (unidentified) Indian pilots for not only crossing into Pakistan but also destroying pine trees in Balakot.

Also read: This is why Pakistan can no longer respond militarily to India’s Kashmir move

Abhinandan’s cup of tea

To avenge the killing of a crow and some trees in Balakot, Pakistan retaliated the next morning, on 27 February. Not one but two Indian aircraft were shot down by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), we were told. Not one but two Indian pilots were caught, authorities claimed. But we were introduced to only one of them. Where did the other one disappear? It is a mystery and shall remain one because who cares about all that.

The glory was Pakistan’s because Abhinandan Varthaman had parachuted in Pakistan. As good hosts, the Pakistan Army served him a cup of tea, which he said was fantastic. The receipt of his chai has now been documented. Forget the 93,000 Pakistani soldiers that India, taking them as war prisoners, had fed after the surrender in the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, it is the tea served to Abhinandan during his captivity here that will cost India the most.

It was as if Abhinandan had fallen in love with Pakistan. We saw him criticise the Indian media in a heavily edited video. I guess the saying ‘Make chai, not war’ suddenly gained relevance during those tense moments between the two neighbours.

People must not forget that in Abhinandan’s release lay Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s chance to win a Nobel Peace prize. But then that didn’t materialise. Today, Abhinandan lives on in Pakistan’s memory either as a mannequin inside a war museum or as a poster boy for a tea stall: Aisi chai jo dushman ko bhi dost banaye. The tea made for the perfect jibe but this can also be used as a de-escalating agent whenever relations between the two neighbours heat up.

Also read: Imran Khan is done being the PM of Pakistan. He now wants to worry about India all the time

Plotting against India

India made diplomacy a tougher game for Imran Khan’s government with its Article 370 move.

Now Pakistan needed to plot something against the Modi government and it had to go beyond expressing outrage on Twitter. Because it had been harping on ‘Kashmir Banega Pakistan’ all these years, PM Khan’s government had all the more reason to plan something concrete against India. So, he announced that everyone in Pakistan should stand every Friday literally, not figuratively, and show solidarity with Kashmiris. It happened only for a week because everyone had grown tired by the end of the week to even consider it, let alone follow up with another 30-minute stand-up act (not the funny one). The most difficult job, however, was Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s: of drawing the world’s attention to the Kashmir issue, apprising everyone on both sides of the equator and maybe beyond. The only person Qureshi left out was himself because he clearly couldn’t comprehend what had happened in Kashmir. 

Now let’s not go into the details of how hard Pakistan tried to garner support for Kashmir at the United Nations, what needs to be remembered is that PM Khan’s 50-minute speech at the UNGA was fantastic.

However, extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. So, the Pakistan Army released a two-minute song asking India to leave Kashmir: “India ja ja Kashmir se nikal ja, meri jannat mere ghar se nikal ja.” But the result so far is that India hasn’t left ‘our paradise’, ‘our Kashmir’. Such is the power of unpersuasive messaging. We learnt that a patriotic item number was one more way for Pakistan to liberate Kashmir from India. The war shall continue until the last dance move.

Celebrate, no matter what

Among other irritants, the International Court of Justice’s verdict on Kulbhushan Jhadav was yet another moment of reckoning for Pakistan. The judgement was celebrated as a victory – never mind that the court had held Pakistan guilty of violating the Vienna Convention. This sense of false victory was there among Pakistan government officials even when JeM chief Masood Azhar was declared a global terrorist. Just celebrate, don’t ask why and what of it.

Also read: Pakistan’s Kartarpur peace initiative doesn’t come from a position of weakness

The opening of the Kartarpur corridor was called a manifestation of peace, but will there be any hint of peace between India and Pakistan in 2020?

The author is a freelance journalist from Pakistan. Her Twitter handle is @nailainayat. Views are personal.

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  1. Ms Inayat should train her guns at India also- I just want to see how it goes!
    The effortless ease with which she writes- it must be very easy for Pakistan!

  2. Who created Pakistan? Our politicians. Both the Hindus and Muslims struggled for freedom from the British colonial rule. But when it came to self rule the 2 pompous idiots Nehru and Jhinna wanted to be the Prime Minister. So to satisfy their ambitions our country was divided by the Firangi dogs on a haphazard line on supposedly religion dominated geography. The result a mass exodus from both sides of the border with rape and plunder. It was the Hindu Caste system which compelled most lower caste to convert to Islam Christianity or Buddhism to gain equal status with upper caste not to forget the forced conversion by invaders. Let’s hope that we adopt the Universal Code where every citizen has equal rights and reservation removed to take the nation forward

  3. Pakistan is like the ship Titanic, going down fast but Captain keeps saying all is well or ‘ghabrana nahin hai’, while his crew band keeps playing on deck to lying saying all is well, all this while the people are running around chasing a diamond necklace! In the end the ministers and the rich will get away on lifeboats, while the unfortunate poor go down with the ship!

      • @Rajiv..or most likely Raza or can understand your confusion, when at sea its hard to tell if you’re still or moving. But look closely, since water is already upto your neck, its you thats going down!

  4. Thank you Lady Inayat for this summary from across the border.

    My chiriya (nothing to do with Najam Sethi’s one) tells me that you could expect the tension to escalate during the New Year. Hope it turns out to be a happy New Year for both the countries.

    Meanwhile, wishing a lot of tomatoes from our country!

  5. As a young man, Prime Minister Imran Khan has certainly done his share of Make Love. Half the subcontinent – and a big chunk of Bollywood – had a crush on him.

    • You seem to be his manager keeping track of who had crush on him?? Do you have any data to prove what you write or you just keep hallucinating like IK too?

      • You’re after Ashok’s skin.

        If you can know how Imraj was worshipped in India as a cricketer, then you’ve been living on Mars. You seem to have just woken up.

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