Imran Khan comparing India-Pakistan conflict to enmities before World Wars shows his need for history lesson

Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan has been praised for extending the latest olive branch to India at the Kartarpur Corridor ground-breaking ceremony on 28 November. Imran made a supposedly heartfelt speech calling for peace talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but the cricketer-turned-politician side-stepped giving direct responses to questions about terrorists such as Dawood Ibrahim and Hafiz Saeed, who Pakistan is accused of sheltering.

On Thursday, the prime minister conceded that it was not in the interest of Pakistan to allow its territory to be used for terror activities in other countries, adding that a one-sided initiative will not last long. Imran, who completed 100 days in office, said that Pakistan's people want peace with India, and that their mindset had changed towards dialogue.

"I am ready for talks on any issue. There can't be a military solution for Kashmir," he said. When asked whether it would be possible to resolve the Kashmir dispute, he said "nothing is impossible", a sentiment that's possibly exaggerated.

However, at the Kartarpur ceremony, he drew a comparison between the hostility in India-Pakistan relations and the centuries-long enmity that Germany and France shared until the end of both World Wars. He had said that if France and Germany can have close and friendly ties with each other despite a history of fierce fighting, "why can't India and Pakistan mend their relationship for a better future for their people?"

 Imran Khan comparing India-Pakistan conflict to enmities before World Wars shows his need for history lesson

File photo of Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan. Reuters

Here, Imran failed to make a distinction between two countries whose enmity stemmed from being divided after once having been part of the same nation and countries that fought for sole dominance in their region.

It would also be significant to note a few events in history at this point: In 1701, Prussia became an officially recognised kingdom, and therefore, it became an individual diplomatic and military power among nations in Europe.

To establish its presence, the newly-formed kingdom engaged in several wars, of which many were against France. Modern-day Germany, which was created under the King of Prussia in 1871, is considered by most historians as "the successor state to the old Prussia".

The erstwhile Prussia — Germany and France — fought at least seven wars before World War I, all of which caused equal destruction to both sides.

At home, the British ruled the Indian Subcontinent for the better part of the 19th Century. Their territory included the present-day republics of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. However, Independence British Rule in 1947 came at the cost of the Partition of India, which created East Pakistan — now Bangladesh — and West Pakistan.

A report by Evening Standard says: "As the violence between Muslims and Hindus continued (ahead of Independence), Viceroy Louis Mountbatten advised the country should be partitioned to create a predominantly-Muslim territory and a separate country for the majority of Hindus."

The Partition is regarded as a dark time in the history of both countries, as countless people of the minority fled their homes on either side in fear of being discriminated against in the face of a spate of unchecked, continued violence.

"We have certainly not conducted any massacres like they have," Imran said in reference to France and Germany, despite the ample literary evidence of the bloodshed caused by the Partition.

Kashmir has been a point of contention — still unresolved — central to the conflict between India and Pakistan and one that has been among the main reasons for the three wars that have been fought between the neighbours.

In his speech at the Kartarpur ground-breaking ceremony, Imran also compared the scale of the conflict to putting man on the moon. "We can fix it if we have the desire to fix it. Man had gone to the moon and surely we can solve this too," he said.

India refused to be eclipsed in the competition of hyperbole. Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who was one of the few representatives of the country present at the ceremony, spoke about the fall of the Berlin Wall. "When the Wall of Berlin can be brought down, then hatred between India and Pakistan can also be brought down with the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor," she had said.

Soon after the Pakistani prime minister's speech at the ceremony, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs issued a statement criticising Imran for bringing up the Kashmir dispute at the ceremony, calling his decision to "politicise" the religiously significant event "deeply regrettable".

Indeed, the inaccurate reference to pivotal historic events seems regrettably convenient and, on the surface, just a display of grandiose statements.

Even though Imran has been consistent in reaching out to India to resolve differences between the two nations since assuming office in July, the free comparison to pre-World War circumstances in Europe becomes more problematic after Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi's comments on Friday.

"Imran (Khan) delivered a googly and India sent two ministers to Pakistan," Qureshi had said.

A googly is a cricketing term that refers to a leg-spinner's hidden tactic that is almost always undetected.

India has maintained that peace-talks with Pakistan will not be possible until Islamabad addresses the problem of cross-border terrorism.

The Kartarpur Corridor is a much-waited visa-free passage for Indian Sikh pilgrims to visit the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, which considered the final resting place of Guru Nanak Dev. Vice President Venkaiah Naidu had laid the foundation stone for the 4-kilometre-long corridor on the Indian side on 26 November. The ground-breaking ceremony was held on the Pakistan side on 28 November after both sides agreed to open their borders for the route to the shrine.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Dec 01, 2018 18:31:51 IST