Last Updated On 27 March,2019 03:10 pm
War hysteria-gripped India can resort to military hostilities, says PM Imran Khan.
ISLAMABAD (Web Desk) – Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said India is still gripped by war hysteria and can resort to military hostilities before its general elections. The premier talked to Financial Times and said New Delhi may be involved in further acts of warfare.
“I’m still apprehensive before the elections, I feel that something could happen,” Mr Khan said at his office in Islamabad in the wake of the most serious conflict between the nuclear-armed countries in decades.
Mr Khan voiced his fears during an interview with the Financial Times in which the former cricket captain also promised to resurrect Pakistan’s economy and denied that the country had become a client state of China.
He insisted that Pakistan did not have any links to Jaish-e-Mohammad. Instead, Mr Khan cast Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, as the aggressor for launching a subsequent missile strike that brought the two countries close to war.
Although he denied culpability, the 66-year-old Mr Khan, who came to power in August, admitted that there was no place for terrorists in his “new Pakistan”. “We’re already cracking down on them, we’re already dismantling the whole set up,” he said. “What is happening right now has never happened before in Pakistan.”
Pakistan and India narrowly avoided a full-blown conflict following the February 14 suicide bombing that killed more than 40 Indian paramilitary police. New Delhi violated Pakistan’s air space and dropped payload in haste after facing retaliation from Pakistan. Islamabad then responded with air strikes on Indian military installations near the de facto border and shot down an Indian warplane, capturing a pilot.
Islamabad’s decision to release the pilot within days of his capture helped ease tensions.
“When Pulwama [the suicide attack in Kashmir] happened I felt that Mr Modi’s government used that to build this war hysteria,” said Mr Khan, holding prayer beads in his left hand. “The Indian public should realise that this is all for winning the elections. It’s nothing to do with the real issues of the subcontinent.”
Mr Khan redirected blame for the deadly attack to what he called Mr Modi’s “anti-Muslim” government and its heavy-handed policies in Indian-administered Kashmir, the divided Muslim-majority province that both sides claim as their own.
“There’s Jaish-e-Mohammad in India, the boy who blew himself up, the 19-year-old boy, was a Kashmiri-Indian boy,” said Mr Khan. “His parents said he was radicalised by some abuse by the security force. So it was an Indian boy, Indian operation, Indian car, Indian explosive. Why was Pakistan blamed?”
But Mr Khan acknowledged that Pakistan could no longer allow terror groups to organise with impunity on its soil. “We cannot take the stance any more where you have these armed groups in our country,” he said. “We can’t afford being blamed for any terrorist activity, like Pulwama.”
Apart from conflict with India, Pakistan is facing a financial crisis and hopes to secure an IMF bailout. Mr Khan is also under pressure to make sure Pakistan is not blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force for failing to take action against terror financing.
The prime minister said that Pakistan was “pretty close to an agreement” with the IMF. “I’m determined that this will be the last time Pakistan will ever have to go to the IMF,” Mr Khan added.
Islamabad has been forging ever closer links with Beijing but Mr Khan challenged claims that Pakistan had become a client state of China under the $60bn China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a centrepiece of Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative.
“All I can say is that we are really grateful to the Chinese because this has been extremely helpful to us,” said Mr Khan, dismissing criticism that China s loans to Pakistan represent “debt-trap diplomacy”.
Like Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo, the prime minister claimed he had no knowledge about China’s incarceration of an estimated 1m Muslims in the western territory of Xinjiang. “Frankly, I don t know much about that,” said Mr Khan.
In September last year, Pakistani businessmen made international headlines after travelling to Beijing to petition for the release of their wives caught up in the sweeping detention campaign in Xinjiang, a region that borders Pakistan and Central Asia.
When pressed about the protests, Mr Khan shook his head. “I haven t heard about that.”