New Delhi: To make sense of Imran Khan’s repeated peace offers to India, India-Pakistan relations must be examined from three perspectives. These relate to India, the elected government of Pakistan led by Imran Khan, and the Pakistan army helmed by General Qamar Javed Bajwa. This piece is written from an Indian perspective, but it would make sense for the Pakistan government and the Pakistan army to heed it.

The Pakistan army must realize that it is its last chance to save Pakistan by not instigating war with India or encouraging and abetting terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and the rest of India. Pakistan’s ISI is not being separately addressed because it is part and parcel of the Pakistan army and follows its orders. It has no independent identity although the notion persists. War with India will escalate into a nuclear war which will have no winners. Being a continental-sized country, parts of India may escape being nuked, but they would still be the equivalent of a living hell. As for Pakistan, it will disappear from the face of the earth. So the Pakistan army leadership must quit thinking in terms of a military solution for Kashmir or of taking revenge for Bangladesh by partitioning India. It won’t happen.

The second aspect is Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Pakistani terrorism whether in India or Afghanistan is sponsored by the Pakistan army. The ISI merely executes orders or makes plans on orders given by the army. Terrorism has ruined Pakistan. It has relocated to such a distance from Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s vision that it looks almost impossible to retrieve the situation. As long as North America and Western Europe were unaffected by Al-Qaeda and Islamic State terrorism, the constituent states could lecture India on human rights, terrorists as freedom fighters, and so on. Nine-eleven and Al-Qaeda/ Islamic State terrorism in Western Europe have changed all this. In addition to 9/11, the United States finds stabilizing Afghanistan next to impossible because of Pakistani meddling and terrorism. Donald Trump has read the riot act to Pakistan. All US aid to Pakistan stands suspended. China will not sustain Pakistan if Chinese aid fuels Uighur terrorism. Saudi Arabia remains Pakistan’s last hope but the murderous ways of its crown prince have left Riyadh vulnerable to foreign pressures. Trump is protecting the crown prince but not for long. The Washington establishment is dead against him. And once the Saudi financial link to Pakistan and Pak terror snaps Pakistan’s last hope will crumble into the desert sands of Arabia.

It is time, therefore, that the Pakistan army abandons terrorism as a means to win strategic depth in Afghanistan against India and more directly influence the geopolitical conflict with the eastern neighbour. Terrorist organizations like the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed will sink Pakistan. Terrorism will destroy Pakistan’s capacity to function as a state. Once serious and irreversible economic ruin sets in, Pakistani state institutions like the army and police will be unable to control and contain terrorist organizations. Terrorists will seize power eventually and their primary goal would be to take control of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. After that, all bets are off. Major Power invasions to take charge of nuclear weapons cannot be ruled out. So the Pakistan army has to begin to think sensibly about making the best of what Pakistan possesses without hankering for Kashmir. The Pakistan army has, after a period, got a rational chief, General Bajwa. Bajwa is not pro-India but pro-Pakistan. When he seeks peace with India, the rest of the Pakistan army must not view it as a short-term tactical measure. Nor must, to be sure, Bajwa himself. Genuine, all-round and permanent peace with India will save Pakistan. Imran Khan has said Pakistan does not benefit from foreign terrorism from its soil. These are wise words that should not be dismissed by the Pakistan army.

Now to Imran Khan: Imran Khan represents the best hope for Pakistan. He is charismatic, internationally renowned as a sportsman, clean thus far, and dedicated to Pakistan. He is neither ideological nor fanatical and can steer Pakistan to safe shores provided the Pakistan army does not stab him in the back. While Jinnah did not conceive Pakistan as a narrow Islamic state and sought equal citizenship for minorities, Pakistan has lost its moorings since substantially animated by hatred for India. Hatred never pays. Imran Khan’s biggest challenge is to return Pakistan to Jinnah’s vision and in the process craft Pakistan’s unique identity. Aversion for India has turned Pakistan away from South Asia to seek a future in Arabic West Asia where it has none. An identity is possible for Pakistan within the region it is located not in antagonism to India but based on its own unique features. If Imran Khan can gain Pakistan an identity, there is no reason for Pakistan to continue to feel inferior to its giant neighbour. Armed with identity, Imran Khan must strengthen democratic forces in Pakistan, including the opposition. It is imperative that Imran Khan takes along the opposition in the same degree as the Pakistan army in cultivating good ties with India. Pakistan will very soon find itself alone. Since its independence, Pakistan has rarely worked as a state. Jawaharlal Nehru built modern India. Pakistan has no comparable figure. Jinnah failed Pakistan in one respect. He calculated that Pakistan’s excellent geography forming the eastern border with oil-rich West Asia would make it priceless for Great Powers which would take care of Pakistan’s state needs and the competitive requirements vis-a-vis India. India resisted Great Power blandishments throughout the Cold War and emerged in its own right. Pakistan, on the other hand, was sucked into Great Power rivalry from which it never recovered. If Imran Khan gets the Pakistan state to work for itself and its citizens, it would mark a sensational and praiseworthy break from the past. Peace with India forms an important component. The Pakistan prime minister has his work cut out for him.

And finally to India: India desires peace with Pakistan. Pakistani terrorism comes in the way. Imran Khan and the Pakistan army must ensure that India’s concerns are addressed. The litmus test is the 26/11 trial and punishment of LeT terrorist handlers and their leader, Hafiz Sayeed. This is non-negotiable. So is Jammu and Kashmir. The only solution possible to Kashmir is conversion of the Line of Control to an international border. No Indian government can concede more. India does not covet Pakistan-occupied Kashmir although it formally lays claim to it via a resolution of Parliament. India’s problem is trust deficit with Pakistan. It has been let down too often. India cannot be blamed for Bangladesh. Pakistan is to blame because it could not accommodate the former East Pakistan’s Bengali nationalism. It is the same story with Baluchistan today. Pakistani intransigence and Kashmir-directed terrorism fan Hindutva flames and ultra-nationalism. While Hindutva fringe forces do not mirror the Lashkar, Jaish-e-Mohammed, etc, they are quick learners. Extremism feeds extremism. The non-Hindutva establishment realizes the negative impact on the economy of fraught India-Pakistan relations. Tom-tomming about “surgical strikes” will not make India into a five trillion dollar economy. And through India’s economic growth and prosperity, Pakistan stands to gain in good measure. India is the engine of growth of South Asia. Pakistan need not feel inferior on this count. India is a large country brimming with entrepreneurial energies. It is also a liberal, secular democracy. It can generate such tides as can lift all boats in the Indian Ocean region. It is now up to Imran Khan and the Pakistan army to capitalize on a promising market economy next door which is generous and ready to share the fruits of its success.