Pakistani perspective on image and narrative - What exactly they believe?

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This isn't to be mixed with two other threads, one we are having to document stupid trolls from Pakistan and another that is strictly about their views on Indian nation state when it is or is not engaging with their country.

From discussions I've been engaged in or seen, what I've understood that they have strong belief that there is a "narrative" against them established.

They somewhat understand and believe that India is in a better position in world with respect to them because of an "image" (and not image was a result of efforts of coming into better position). Economy, military or stability etc. all because of the "image". The quality of all the attributes is although farce for them. This rhetoric goes like this:
  • India is a fascist or apocalyptic state but has image of a democracy.
  • World believes what India says. They don't believe what India says on Kashmir and not us because of image.
  • West has given money and tech to India to counter China. Partly because of China, partly because of "image".
  • We should and can build that type of "image".
And that's why every debate is always f**ed royally. The efforts to look "centre-left" by Pakistan's new political party (although nothing more than showbiz and doesn't go so with policies necessarily). They believe that by doing so that they are going to score some sort of leverage with all this. Rest of bullshit comes from their comments on racial superiority against Indians probably used by them to cone or soothe themselves and escaping rational arguments over failure of Pak as a nation.

They anyway being theocracy, will always function like theocracy and have an image of theocracy. Theocracies function like theocracy and won't change that. The limits of Congress and BJP in Indian political discourse and type of issues makes it distinct from Pakistan.
 
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This thread anyway I'm creating on the base of a tweet by South Asia Press which it said is allegedly Pakistan's new political approach towards buildings its own "narratives". I'll copying those pages with text here to kick off thread and document all the updates here so forth.
 
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🔴🇵🇰 #BREAKING @SouthAsiaPress brings you an internal memo purportedly drafted by @ImranKhanPTI govt to strategize a new int'l narrative & propaganda.
6 Key points:
1) Pakistan acknowledges its isolated globally,
2) Pakistan recently resisted pressure from China over India,
3) #Saudi vs. #Turkey rivalry has to be managed when dealing with the #Muslim world,
4) Pakistan must be a bridge for Muslim world but ignore #Uyghurs issue,
5) US support is still important & must be pursued,
6) #China vs. US rivalry must be used to Islamabad's advantage.
 
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Page 1

REIMAGINING PAKISTAN'S EXTERNALLY - FACING NATIONAL NARRATIVE

1. CONTEXT


a. Strategic communication is an important component of statecraft. Narratives project one's self-image to the world while the other's narratives about one's country and people reflect the world's perception of what the country and its people stand for.

b. Narratives cannot substitute reality; the necessity of improving a country's ground reality is debatable. However, in today's post-ICT revolution world, country narratives also have an agency of their own. They must be proactively used to project a country's strengths and positivity that may not otherwise be noticed by the world as well as its future potential.

c. Narratives can benefit hard realities by attracting positive policy responses (investment, political support, etc) from other states. Negative perceptions and narratives about a state have the polar opposite effect on reality as they tend to further squeeze a country's maneuvering space.

d. Due to multiple external and domestic factors, Pakistan has suffered from an acutely negative perception in the Western world particularly US that still dominate global narrative creation. The negativity associated with Pakistan has cost us tremendously in terms of lack of political and economic support from world powers.

e. While negativity towards Pakistan has been deliberate and served Western interests, it is also a fact that strategic communication has not been Pakistan's strong suit. Pakistan's own narrative has been reactive and defensive, centered on traditional security issues with Eastern neighbor or demands for assistance rather than projecting an image that would create positive interests for the world in Pakistan. It could be argued that our narratives have often reflected lack of self-confidence that is unusual for a nation of our size, importance. and potential leading to our increased global isolation.

f. To the contrary, many countries particularly India have managed to project a grossly exaggerated positive image of themselves (Shining India; Incredible India) and even used their elevated position to harm Pakistan and squeeze our space in the international arena.
 
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Page 2

2. WHY IS NEW NARRATIVE NEEDED?
a. Perception building of countries is still dominated by West particularly US

b. Key components of Western narrative on Pakistan:
> A security-dominated nuclear state
> Obsessed with India
> Terrorists Safe heaven
> Economically weak and socially fragmented, thus available for favorable transactional deals
> Civil-Military divide/military-dominated

c. Our official conversations with the outside world are largely go live and consumed by countering these insinuations. Our narratives seeks to negate the Western arguments but the parameters of the debate and the topic are of their choosing thereby making it easy for them to dismiss our counter arguments/denials. The current framing also keeps the conversation limited to negative security issues that make it easy to present Pakistan as a danger to the world.

3. GOALS OF THE NEW NARRATIVE

a. Projecting Pakistan's rightful position in the world through a that interests the world is proactive, and centered on positivity.

b. Presenting the Prime Minister's vision of Pakistan as a geo economically pivotal development state at peace with itself and the world and able to ensure human security/social welfare within its borders.

c. Supporting the existing conversations on national security by broadening them to include all traditional and non-traditional aspects, thereby presenting a new forward-looking framing and reducing the unnecessary and unfair critique that we are overly focused on the traditional security aspects.

d. Reorienting our self-image and regaining confidence in our own story being narrated to the world.

e. Leveraging a gradually improving image to attract positive policy responses & economic assistance from the world.
 
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4. BIG IDEA IN THE NEW NARRATIVE

a. Naya Pakistan's principal focus is ensuring its Economic Security.

b. To date, Pakistan has boasted a geostrategic location. Pakistan has not been able to extract economic and political dividends from it; in fact, the way the location has been sold, it has ended up bringing global wars to Pakistan.

c. Now we will talk more in terms of a geo-economic location - Pakistan is to be presented as the economic hub that wishes to act as the melting pot of positive global economic interests.

d. This will help offer positivity to the world rather than allow negative concerns of global threat emanating from Pakistan.

5. PILLARS OF NEW NARRATIVE: WHAT DO WE OFFER?

A. CONNECTIVITY


Pakistan seeks to leverage its geo-economic location to promote connectivity and become a trade and transit hub.

Examples that reinforce narrative:

a. CPEC: Principle example of the connectivity paradigm.

b. Why do we want to be a stake holder in Afghan peace process: (Apart from other strategic reasons), because we want to connect to CARs to benefit from their energy resources and optimize use of the Gwadar port.

c. East-West (India) Connectivity: In principle, we also want East-West connectivity because the focus of the region should be on working together to alleviate poverty and deprivation. But this avenue is blocked by India's expansionism and Hindutva ideology that shuns cooperation with its neighbors.

B. DEVELOPMENT PARTENERSHIPS (NOT ASSISTANCE)

> To move away from Pakistan's image as an aid dependent country, we need to emphasize our focus on development partnerships.

> To realize its vision as a melting pot, Pakistan offers Economic Bases (due to negative perception regarding military bases) to the world as a development partner (as opposed to seeking economic assistance).
 

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Page 2

2. WHY IS NEW NARRATIVE NEEDED?
a. Perception building of countries is still dominated by West particularly US

b. Key components of Western narrative on Pakistan:
> A security-dominated nuclear state
> Obsessed with India
> Terrorists Safe heaven
> Economically weak and socially fragmented, thus available for favorable transactional deals
> Civil-Military divide/military-dominated

c. Our official conversations with the outside world are largely go live and consumed by countering these insinuations. Our narratives seeks to negate the Western arguments but the parameters of the debate and the topic are of their choosing thereby making it easy for them to dismiss our counter arguments/denials. The current framing also keeps the conversation limited to negative security issues that make it easy to present Pakistan as a danger to the world.

3. GOALS OF THE NEW NARRATIVE

a. Projecting Pakistan's rightful position in the world through a that interests the world is proactive, and centered on positivity.

b. Presenting the Prime Minister's vision of Pakistan as a geo economically pivotal development state at peace with itself and the world and able to ensure human security/social welfare within its borders.

c. Supporting the existing conversations on national security by broadening them to include all traditional and non-traditional aspects, thereby presenting a new forward-looking framing and reducing the unnecessary and unfair critique that we are overly focused on the traditional security aspects.

d. Reorienting our self-image and regaining confidence in our own story being narrated to the world.

e. Leveraging a gradually improving image to attract positive policy responses & economic assistance from the world.
Why don't Pakistanis under stand that perception and image is based on the basis of action not by hollow propaganda. As long as they keep blowing themselves up no one is going to support them.
 
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> This will not only help Pakistan improve its economic reality but also allow us to use our geo-economic location to create economic confluence for otherwise competing state interests.

Examples of existing reality the reinforce narrative:

a. While we often talk in generic terms about improvement in ease of doing Business, an example of far more powerful statistics that offer a stronger narrative to prove Pakistan's ability to be a profitable development partner could be that leading Multinational Corporations have consistently made astronomically higher profits in Pakistan than their global average - even during period when security situation in Pakistan was very difficult.

MNC Profits in Pakistan (2007-17)

Company

Profit (Pakistan)

Profit (Global)
Unilever16%3%
GSK12%0%
Nestle16%2%
Colgate-Palmolive17%3%
Telenor33%21%

Examples of policy direction/strategy reinforces narrative:

b. US-China: World is talking about US-China confrontation playing out in South Asia. But Pakistan's location makes it a natural hub for economic confluence for otherwise competing states.

This could be achieved by (list not exhaustive):

> Encouraging investment by US and other countries in current connectivity projects (under CPEC) and other development initiatives.

> Extending Pakistan's current connectivity projects to Afghanistan, which will help convert the competition there into interdependence between US, China, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

> Some examples of economic confluence already at work are:
US-China Economic Confluence. GE turbines (GE China) used in Hub Coal and Bhikki power plants.
 
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Example of globally-recognized potential that reinforces narrative:

c. Tourist friendly country
> Back Packers Society.
> 70% Increase in International Tourists within 3 years.
> New Visa Regime; Tourists e-Visa for 175 nationalities; on Arrival e-Visa for 50 countries.

C. RESPONSIBILITY WITHIN AND BEYOND

Pakistan is a responsible state (as opposed to India's rogue, expansionist behavior).

EXTERNAL FRONT (Responsibility Beyond Borders) - Peace. We seek lowering of tensions in the region and beyond and stand for total absence of conflict. Pakistan's wish is not to indulge in bloc/camp politics.

Examples of responsible behavior that reinforce the narrative:

a. Tireless efforts for peace in Afghanistan by engaging with Talibans.

b. Strategic restraint on Kashmir to avert any Indian misadventure.

c. Continued to counsel restraint in the China-India standoff and did not take advantage of the situation despite sustained Chinese pressure for the same.

d. Seeking to be a bridge builder in the Muslim world despite recognizing the difficulties in such an approach given rifts between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, or the need to remain cautious on issues affecting Saudi Arabia's sensitivities, or the Uighurs issue with China. But we have greater good of the Muslim world and our economic security in mind. We want all Muslim countries to development partnerships with us, being the only nuclear Muslim state.

e. No Bloc politics. Pursuing stable relationships with majoe powers. Not to antagonize the West, particularly the US, despite maintaining relations with China.
 

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Why don't Pakistanis under stand that perception and image is based on the basis of action not by hollow propaganda. As long as they keep blowing themselves up no one is going to support them.
That’s because Pakistanis themselves never did any hard work to earn anything, including the country.

-They got Pakistan because of nawabs of UP wanted it.
-They got Gilgit baltistan because of deceit of that Browne guy.
-They got support from US & China because they acted like a marriage broker during Nixon era.
-Their importance at global stage was purely because of India

Basically Pakistan is like that younger brother who inherited his share of ancestral property due to a legal technicality, even though it was the elder brother who did all that hard work. younger brother had a good time, till the ancestral wealth lasted. Now the value of that ancestral wealth is fading, he doesn’t know what to do because he never worked hard in his life.
 
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INTERNAL FRONT (Responsibility within Borders) - Peace.

Pakistan has come a long way in defeating terrorism and violent extremism in last decade. Our new paradigm is aimed at securing the hard- won gains with t of society through a Whole of Nation approach.

Examples of concrete achievements that reinforce the narrative:

a. Pakistan has brought down terrorist incidents by 90% since their peak in 2010.

b. There were zero attacks on business facilities and in investment zones in 2019 - investors are safe.

Attacks on Business Centres and Factories: 0
LocationTotal incidentsNature of incidents
Karachi106 - Sectarian
4 - Religiously inspired
Lahore2Both on policemen
Sialkot00
Faisalabad00

Example of difficult topics (like Human Rights) where current efforts and country's trajectory (rather than current reality) can be highlighted:

> Focus on trajectory: Register Pakistani initiatives while acknowledging traditional weakness that are being overcome.

> Our vision is to strengthen and improve legislation to protect the rights of vulnerable and disenfranchised groups, ensuring welfare of citizen and increasing economic and environment viability of the country.

> Comparative case: Highlight that we introspect and learn lessons from the past, unlike India that is on an ideological drive and is moving from bad to worse.

6. HOW THE WORLD CAN COOPERATE

The logic of the new narrative will also alter the relative emphasis on our various demands and expectations from the world. We would ask for:
 
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Page 7 (Final page)

a. Ensuring Regional peace

> The international community can help Pakistan by playing its part in stabilizing the region and assist in resolving regional conflicts because: Pakistan cannot focus attention and resources on geo-economics and economic diplomacy in the presence of conflict.

> While the Afghan peace process is a welcome development, the situation on the Eastern front remains unstable due to Indian belligerence, thereby increasing the threat of war between two nuclear armed states.

> Helping stabilize the region will benefit global economies as they take advantage of Pakistan's geo-economic vision.

b. Economic Partnership and Easing of Pressure

> In order to benefit from Pakistan's offer of Economic Bases, the world should become Pakistan's developmental partner where private business can flourish.

> Major Powers should use their influence to soften the politicized position of global financial and anti-money laundering institutions - especially FATF, towards Pakistan. The world must be forced to focus on our progress and trajectory.

c. Updating Perception towards Pakistan PRESS

> The international community, particularly the Western world, must update its dated narrative on Pakistan.

> The world should recognize Pakistan's vision and trajectory. Pakistan is moving in the right direction and ignoring this reality will only harm the prospects of regional stability and force the world to forego economic benefits lied to a prosperous Pakistan.
 
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Strategic communication is an important component of statecraft. Narratives project one's self-image to the world while the other's narratives about one's country and people reflect the world's perception of what the country and its people stand for.
World really doesn't give two hoots about anyone's perception. Everyone is more interested what are the capabilities of your nation-state and how you are going to benefit them.
The negativity associated with Pakistan has cost us tremendously in terms of lack of political and economic support from world powers.
There was no negativity ever. Pakistan was a tool to neutralise a pro-Soviet socialist neo-communist state India which later became a libertarian capitalist society more favourable to west. Pakistan remains in mind of western and Chinese strategists because it is a chapter in India's diplomatic rulebook. Once India is thrown to weakness from a potential threat by USA or China, Pakistan will also be left to rot like Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan.
While negativity towards Pakistan has been deliberate and served Western interests, it is also a fact that strategic communication has not been Pakistan's strong suit. Pakistan's own narrative has been reactive and defensive, centered on traditional security issues with Eastern neighbor or demands for assistance rather than projecting an image that would create positive interests for the world in Pakistan. It could be argued that our narratives have often reflected lack of self-confidence that is unusual for a nation of our size, importance. and potential leading to our increased global isolation.
This got nothing do to with western interests. Pakistan doesn't even have embassies in a large number of countries. For existing partners, it didn't even have proper communication networks (not even eMails). It's own incompetence had a bigger role to play in isolating it and not India.
To the contrary, many countries particularly India have managed to project a grossly exaggerated positive image of themselves (Shining India; Incredible India) and even used their elevated position to harm
India doesn't have any "positive image". India just goes and tells them to choose between India and Pak and they choose India, it being more profitable. Unlike Pakistan, India isn't all about mouthjob and photos. It has a reasonable chunk of industries, certain booming technologies and only country to look at outside far east and north west.

India is relatively poor and backward but only major country to be enrolled in the game.
CPEC: Principle example of the connectivity paradigm.
CPEC is more of an insurance to China's oil security since Indian navy can block Chinese supplies from Indian ocean in case of major war. There is no reason for anyone switch a much cheaper route to much costlier land route, that even through a dangerous nationstate where American drones and local terrorists strike on cities and routes regularly.
East-West (India) Connectivity: In principle, we also want East-West connectivity because the focus of the region should be on working together to alleviate poverty and deprivation. But this avenue is blocked by India's expansionism and Hindutva ideology that shuns cooperation with its neighbors.
India doesn't have trade-barriers or any major territorial disputes with of any its smaller neighbors except Pakistan. In fact, India has open borders with Nepal & Bhuta like EU and has highly liberalised trade with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Multinational Corporations have consistently made astronomically higher profits
Low labour costs.
70% Increase in International Tourists within 3 years.
Still receives one of lowest number of tourists in the world. Figure hence fluctuates greatly every year.
Continued to counsel restraint in the China-India standoff and did not take advantage of the situation despite sustained Chinese pressure for the same.
Neither of China & India have ever even factored Pakistani suggestions in their bilateral disputes, leave alone rest of the world.
Comparative case: Highlight that we introspect and learn lessons from the past, unlike India that is on an ideological drive and is moving from bad to worse.
For that, you will have to convince them India is moving to bad from worse.

India meanwhile here is only country which received positive FII throughout pandemic, surpassed US and Japan in steel and electronics production, capturing companies moving out of China and also has its own capitalist class. India is a net creditor unlike indebted Pakistan and can never default.

All we can see that India, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal are heading to become upper middle income countries till 2030-35 at worst what Pakistan is unlikely to do even in 2050.
The international community can help Pakistan by playing its part in stabilizing the region and assist in resolving regional conflicts because: Pakistan cannot focus attention and resources on geo-economics and economic diplomacy in the presence of conflict.
Major Powers should use their influence to soften the politicized position of global financial and anti-money laundering institutions - especially FATF, towards Pakistan. The world must be forced to focus on our progress and trajectory.
In order to benefit from Pakistan's offer of Economic Bases, the world should become Pakistan's developmental partner where private business can flourish.
For becoming an economic base and forcing foreign powers to act in favour, Pak actually has to be a potential economic power.

Apart from the fun Pakistani fanboys make of India of being far behind China & Japan in skill development, Pakistan lies even behind skill levels India had in 1991. It's 2/5 population is illiterate, leave alone millions thousands of engineers, scientists, doctors, programmers, technicians, managers, bankers etc. what India produces even though they aren't considered as capable as their western or east Asian counterparts in general, Pak doesn't produce anything. If US is a luxury company, China is a new company, India is yet just a factory and Pakistan is just a cottage shop.
 
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Rassil Krishnan

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Why don't Pakistanis under stand that perception and image is based on the basis of action not by hollow propaganda. As long as they keep blowing themselves up no one is going to support them.
The thing they should understand that their country's stock or image is actually overvalued than it should be rather than undervalued.

I don't know why people don't respond to the near extinction of all types of minority groups in pakistan to almost token nos.in the near future ,they will completely cease to exist.imagine thinking you deserve a normal image when osama f**king bin Laden was found in your country in a state where he thought he was safe because they low key revered him.imagine all the stuff and shenanigans these guys get involved in foreign countries,that they think they have an undervalued image.,etc,etc.

in fact I think they should feel lucky the un is not organizing a coalition to invade their nation,that is the true valuation of their stock or image.people get mad about Iran and north korea.i would rather have them as my neighbour than pakis.
 
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Srinivas_K

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  • India is a fascist or apocalyptic state but has image of a democracy.
  • This propaganda is aimed at creating road blocks against India Govt., try to counter Indians and at the same time try to look down on Indian values. They know India is far better than Pakistan in terms of liberal, secular and economic stats. Pakistani establishment know what India is, but they lie to themselves and try to fool the world.
  • World believes what India says. They don't believe what India says on Kashmir and not us because of image.
  • This is what they feed to their people, truth is entire world is fed up with Pakistani Harkatein and isolated them diplomatically.
  • West has given money and tech to India to counter China. Partly because of China, partly because of "image".
  • They always love gifts and money in return of their strategic location and their famous birds busturds. They also try to market their 20 Crore people to Chinese, Arabs or Turks brain washing them. Just like Nawabs used to deal with common people back in the olden days. Who ever gives money to them the establishment will start brainwashing their populace with the respective country propaganda creating an illusion that entire country and their next generations are standing with the host country.
  • We should and can build that type of "image".
  • They always dream of replacing India in subcontinent, they are not innocent or ignorant they tried very hard and implemented all strategies in this direction. Pakistani establishment are the same guys who sent terrorists into India to kill innocents just because they cannot stomach the normal happenings.
 
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Gen Bajwa wanted a ‘paradigm shift’ with India, but Pakistan military isn’t ready
On 1 April, a friend frantically called from Delhi asking me to confirm if the rumour about Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan suffering a heart attack was true, or just an April Fool’s prank. I replied saying that not only was the cricketer-turned-politician doing well but that he seems to have pulled an April Fool’s prank of his own. Imran Khan rejected a proposal made by his cabinet’s Economic Coordination Committee to import cotton and sugar from India, which the PM had himself signed as minister-in-charge of commerce and textile. This was followed by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi insisting that dialogue with India cannot be revived until India withdraws its decision to abrogate Article 370 that granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
This looks like the first roadblock in the path of Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s ambition to bring about a ‘paradigm shift’, a desire he expressed during his speech at the Islamabad Security Dialogue on 18 March. It also appears to be a case of the army chief opening his mouth before engaging the traditional proponents of the security establishment. I was also reminded of a conversation I had with my good friend and journalist Nirupama Subramaniam in 2007, who was in Islamabad then as a correspondent for The Hindu, that peace was not a foregone conclusion because it did not have a strong constituency within the national security establishment. It didn’t take long for the departure of both Pervez Musharraf and the peace initiative.
Why trade is not so easy
A paradigm shift is strategically and tactically difficult. The biggest problem for any army commander is structural. Not allowing a political leadership to conceive of and implement a peace initiative points to the absence of a protective cushion. A general taking on the responsibility of bringing peace removes his flexibility vis-à-vis his own men. Musharraf didn’t understand this nor does Bajwa. At a tactical level, an about-turn becomes imperative. The social media-conscious security establishment in Pakistan soon realised that moving too fast would look like surrender, a term that brings back memory of 1971.
Social media is abuzz with reminders to Bajwa that his peace talk is similar to what he and his men stopped former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from achieving: use of non-status quo and non-traditional means to bring cooperative peace and stability in the region. So, was the army chief talking peace because Pakistan had no option but to talk to India? General Bajwa may have read out a speech written by de-facto National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf that talked about paradigm shift and geo-economics, but he cannot afford to become more questionable than he already is in front of his generals. It is easy to talk about a shift from geo-strategy to geo-economics, but it’s much harder to manage that shift. In any case, an army chief on extension is like a vehicle on borrowed gas.
The status-quo forces appear visibly unhappy with the domestic implications. They balked, thus forcing Khan to jettison the first step towards a trade initiative that has been in abeyance for two years, and blame the reversal on New Delhi. Senator and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Sherry Rehman accused ‘hawks in India’ for viewing the offer of paradigm shift as India’s victory or driven by Pakistan’s economic compulsions. The argument among the status quoists in the establishment is that India needs peace with Pakistan more than Pakistan does. From building its economy to bringing peace at the Line of Control (LoC), New Delhi has much to gain but must not underestimate the significance of reciprocating on issue central to Pakistan – Kashmir.
New spin doctors
Hardly surprising, then, that by the evening of Imran Khan’s reversal of the trade decision, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) social media activists were trying to justify it as Khan’s foresight and ability to inflict pain on Narendra Modi: India needs to export to Pakistan more than Pakistan needs to buy from India. Pakistan’s parallel universe reminds one of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Not too long ago, Moeed Yusuf, the Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on National Security who imagines himself to be the NSA, spoke about India’s negative growth and Pakistan being on the path of economic transformation of the kind that would soon make ‘immigration officials in other countries salute [Pakistan’s] green passport’. He is the newfound spin-doctor of Pakistan’s deep state.
Business journalist and Dawn columnist Khurram Hussain seems to suggest that the reversal of decision to import may have been an unintended consequence of Pakistan’s business and industrial lobby reading too much into General Bajwa’s speech, and thus lobbying for permission to procure from India. Hussain argues that the Pakistani military may be behind the reversal rather than PM Khan going on his own.
Pakistan’s struggle with self-image
The fundamental lesson for India here is the same as before — economic imperative alone will not convince Pakistan to change course. The financial burden, combined with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-driven sanctions, have made the economy suffer. But the military is still not convinced that wanting people to not ‘eat grass’ for the sake of military security or letting its national security guard down is also an option.
The national security establishment looks confident of its recent tactical gains in Afghanistan — the long-term threat from having Taliban in power is ignored — and is busy building its options in Central Asia to claim its share of power and role in West Asia. One of the themes that came up during the Islamabad Security Dialogue was about treating South Asia as two: India and the rest of the region versus Pakistan, and Afghanistan opening up to Central Asia, Russia and China. Islamabad would now want New Delhi to remember that while Bajwa spoke about transformation, he also insisted upon India offering something to Pakistan that would feel like gain. Opening trade alone doesn’t wash. Some change in the new legal-constitutional framework in Kashmir is being asked for. From the looks of it, Pakistan’s national security community still believes that reversing Article 370 decision is doable for the Modi government. This goes hand-in-hand with its limitation of not being able to pull out jihadis from its hat in the foreseeable future. It’s not just the fear of economic sanctions but the need to build a positive narrative about Pakistan that seems to be the driving factor.
Although the backchannel dialogue seems to have eased some tension, there remains a large gap between expectations of policymakers and the hard reality of policymaking. One option is for new initiatives like cross-border trade in Kashmir. There is also the fact that beyond a point, the political cost for Narendra Modi may increase if not become entirely unaffordable. Perhaps, it will help to engage in some more backchannel deliberations to further understand the exact markers regarding expectations and possibilities. India and Pakistan have begun to talk but they have not arrived at the moment when it becomes possible to imagine anchoring peace.
 

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