New Delhi: Imran Khan has completed three years in office. His Indian counterpart Narendra Modi–who has offered himself as a macho nationalist and a Hindu leader–is in office for a little over seven years now. Modi will be in power for the next three years till May 2024 and Imran expectedly till August 2023 if there is no military intervention.
Between these years, many new things and path-breaking episodes unfolded between two countries, and intellectuals debated much about the so-called perception war. Well, leaders are made by people. English media and select websites, in particular in India guided by their holier-than and know-all ivory tower expertise, can have misnomers, and they have to live with those.
While Modi has retained a vice-like grip in two Lok Sabha elections spaced between five years (2014 and 2019), he has been BJP's trump card in most state elections – even the tough ones like West Bengal in 2021 and Karnataka in 2018. From media reports in Pakistan, it is suggested Imran Khan and his party too have been 'popular' and perhaps also marginalised rivals such as PPP in its bastion Sindh province and PML (Nawaz) elsewhere.
"Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari is now touted as an alternative to Prime Minister Imran Khan if the PPP can stitch together a coalition for the next elections," says a commentary by Fahf Hussain in 'Dawn'. Modi's case has been luckier as the opposition in India are still in search of a good clue to prepare a roadmap. The talk about an alternative leader is out of the question as of now.
The biggest tussle and battle of nerves between Modi and Imran came in February 2019. India retaliated Pulwama terror attack by bombing some terror hideouts, and Pakistan struck back, shooting down an Indian fighter jet and capturing pilot Abhinandan Varthaman.
Imran Khan also later announced his release, and a section hailed the move as 'reverse swing' by the former cricket legend. The truth of the matter is Islamabad got a firm warning from New Delhi that they will have to release Abhinandan unconditionally and in sound health and body. The story of Indian' warning' was shared by a top source in the Modi government to a select group of journalists. India's message was very clear – We will not talk. One hundred thirty crore Indians want our pilot Abhinandan released. The Pak PM decision to 'send back' the Indian pilot was understood by overwhelming Indians in its true sense.
Time has dulled Pakistan's memory in more ways than one. Thus, notwithstanding the claim of enforcing principles of 'Naya Pakistan' – as claimed by Imran Khan – Islamabad has not yet given up the old habits of trying to thrive in propaganda.
One says this because RIC–Russia, India and China, after foreign ministers meeting at Wuzhen (China), February 27 (2019) had issued a strong statement against terror and 'breeding grounds'.
Mike Pompeo, the then US Secretary of State, spoke to Pak foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and urged Pakistan to take meaningful action against terrorist groups "operating in its soil".
These facts are generally missed out in 'sickular' and anti-Modi media narratives. UNSC also named Masood Azhar's JeM in the Pulwama terror statement.
During the tenure of PM Imran, on another occasion, Pakistan got it on its nose was at The Hague. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) on July 17, 2019, by 15-1 verdict held Kulbhushan Jadhav's conviction by Pakistan wrong.
Of course, Imran Khan's tenure would also go down the memory lane in Pakistan that saw abrogation of Article 370 by the Modi government, and it could do nothing much about it. Episodes like 'Howdy Modi' in Houston and 'Namaste Trump' in Ahmedabad would definitely not add any feather to Imran's cap.
Earlier on September 21, 2018, then MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar gave Imran Khan a taste of 'as assertive new India'.
"It's obvious that behind Pakistan's proposal for talks (between foreign ministers in US) to make a fresh beginning, the evil agenda of Pakistan stands exposed and the true face of new Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan has been revealed to the world in his first few months in the office."
Pakistan invested a lot of money and military-diplomatic time for the Kartarpur Corridor. Its army chief also embraced a state-level Indian politician Navjot Singh Sidhu. However, the historic Ayodhya verdict was delivered on November 9, 2019, when the corridor was opened. It certainly deprived Imran and Pakistan of the so-called 'international media publicity' as entire South Asia and the rest of the world for about a fortnight spoke only about the Ram Temple verdict. In between, there have been other episodes; Sushma Swaraj became the first Indian foreign minister to address the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on March 1, 2019. Pak Minister helplessly stayed away.
On February 23, 2019, PM Modi, in an election rally at Tonk in Rajasthan, had dared Imran Khan to prove his words on the fight against poverty.
''Aaj Pakistan ke pradhan mantri ke shabdoan ko kasauti pe kasne ki jarurat hai…(Time has come for him to prove his own words) Let me see whether he can prove to be truthful to his own words," Modi had said.
Recalling his first telephone talk with Mr Khan after his poll victory in 2018, Modi said, "I had told him you are from the world of sports… Come let India and Pakistan get their act together and fight poverty and illiteracy."
In response, he had told me that he (Imran) is a son of a Pathan, and he will always speak the truth and also do things in the right manner… Thus time has come for him to prove his own words,"
Well, Imran Khan still needs to walk the talk. In between, of course, India has been telling the world about Islamabad's terror friendly approaches.
On June 24, 2021, Arindam Bagchi, MEA spokesman, said: "…And the world knows what Pakistan has brought to Afghanistan."
He also said to ensure normal relations with India, Pakistan must work towards creating a conducive atmosphere, including by taking credible, verifiable and irreversible actions to not allow any territory under its control to be used for cross border terrorism against India in any manner."