(This was originally posted in Hindustan Times by Rezaul H Laskar)
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has again sought the intervention of the US to settle the Kashmir issue with India, a move that is unlikely to go down well with New Delhi, which has consistently spurned mediation by any third party. Khan made the call for the US administration to help resolve the dragging Kashmir issue during an interview with the news programme Axios on HBO. In the past, Khan found a ready taker for his calls for US intervention on Kashmir in former president Donald Trump, but such efforts were always shot down by India.
The Pakistani premier acknowledged he hasn’t spoken to US President Joe Biden since the latter assumed office in January and said he would raise the issue of Kashmir if there was a meeting between the two leaders.
Asked what he would discuss during a meeting with Biden, Khan replied: “The US has a big responsibility, the most powerful nation in the world – almost 1.4 billion people living in the subcontinent, we are held hostage [by] one dispute in Kashmir. “A disputed territory, according to the UN Security Council resolutions. There should have been a plebiscite for the people of Kashmir to decide about their own future. That has never taken place, it’s festering. If the Americans have the resolve, the will, this can be sorted out.”
There was no immediate response from Indian officials to Khan’s remarks. In the past, India has ruled out intervention or mediation on the Kashmir issue by any third party. In response to recent statements from Islamabad opposing any possible changes in Jammu and Kashmir, New Delhi has maintained that the region is an integral part of India and such moves amounted to interference in the country’s internal matters.
Khan had raised the Kashmir issue at least twice with Trump in 2019 and 2020 and the former president had offered to help India and Pakistan settle the issue. Despite pushback from New Delhi, Trump had persisted with similar offers.
During the interview, Khan contended that India and Pakistan would no longer need their nuclear arsenals if the Kashmir issue was settled. Asked if his goal for the two countries was nuclear disarmament, Khan replied: “I am completely against nuclear arms, I always have been. We’ve had three wars against India and ever since we’ve had [a] nuclear deterrent, we have had no war between the two countries.
“We have border skirmishes but we’ve never faced war. The moment there is a settlement in Kashmir, I believe the two neighbors will live as civilized people. We will not need to have these nuclear deterrents.” Khan ducked another question on assessments by experts that Pakistan has the world’s fastest-growing nuclear arsenal and indicated his country’s atomic weapons were needed to achieve some sort of parity with India.
“I don’t know where they [experts] have come up with this. Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is simply as a deterrent, to protect ourselves,” he said. “I’m not sure whether we’re growing it or not because as far as I know…the only one purpose [of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons] – it’s not an offensive thing. Any country which has a neighbor seven times the size as Pakistan has, would be worried,” he added.
Khan also made the surprising admission that he hasn’t spoken to the US president since Biden assumed office in January. Asked why such a conversation hadn’t happened, he said: “Whenever he has time, he can speak to me but at the moment clearly he has other priorities.”