Dr. Shahbaz Shabbir Gill |
Indian media’s recent public expression of affection for Nawaz Sharif is quite uncharacteristic of its typical hostile treatment towards Pakistani government. The Supreme Court’s verdict against Nawaz Sharif resulting in his disqualification as the Chief Executive has instigated an eccentric hype in the Indian media that reflects the sheer discomfort with the SC decision in Pakistan.
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Nawaz and the Indian media
Indian journalists have bombarded newspapers and other media forums with their apprehensive and remorseful opinions regarding the ousting of Nawaz Sharif on forums such as ‘Times of India’, ‘Bloomberg’, ‘First post’, ‘Swarajya’, ‘Economic Times’ and Washington Post to name a few. The main gist of these published pieces is that Sharif’s dismissal is bad news for Pakistan, for India, and for the West.
In a recent article by Barkha Dutt in ‘Washington Post’, she pointed out that according to reports, under Sharif’s government many jihadi groups were experiencing a shortage of arms and funds due to the interference by Sharif’s government. This is an interesting report considering that never has the role of Pakistan been appreciated or acknowledged in curbing the impact of terrorism in the South Asian region by Indian media under any government before.
There is also an emphasis on the role of a ‘secretive’ military establishment that has decided to oust Nawaz Sharif. The commentary on the excellent management of foreign and domestic policies by the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is even more amusing. ‘First post’ commended Nawaz Sharif for his performance in the last few years as a great leader who tried to improve trade relations and bilateral ties between India and Pakistan. It further praised his domestic accomplishments within the country. “Under him, the economy was showing promising signs. He improved fiscal discipline, reduced poverty, put money in middle class’s hands, and the stock market responded with enthusiasm. On 15 May 2017, index provider MSCI announced that it was reclassifying Pakistan’s status from lowly ‘frontier’ to more prestigious ’emerging market‘.”
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It seems like the first event of its kind, as we have never witnessed such positive remarks for a Prime Minister of Pakistan on part of the Indian media backed by the Indian administration. It is absurd to see the sudden shift in rhetoric against Pakistan by the Indian media in the aftermath of the ousting decision of Nawaz Sharif. In a recent article by Barkha Dutt in ‘Washington Post’, she pointed out that according to reports, under Sharif’s government many jihadi groups were experiencing a shortage of arms and funds due to the interference by Sharif’s government. This is an interesting report considering that never has the role of Pakistan been appreciated or acknowledged in curbing the impact of terrorism in the South Asian region by Indian media under any government before.
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Why are Indian journalists trying to salvage Nawaz?
It encouraged me to think about any reason and/or justification of such an occurrence. As evident by many socio-political activities between India, USA, Pakistan and the Middle East in the recent past, I have come up with 3 major reasons for why Modi administration was so eager to strengthen Nawaz administration in Pakistan. The disturbing facts to support this claim involve;
- Personal and business-related activities between the current Pakistani government and the Indian government.
- Lack of an appropriate foreign policy with India including lenient and defensive take on the Kashmir issue, submission to India’s violation of the water treaty between India and Pakistan, not being able to appoint a single foreign minister since the last 4 years, subservient attitude towards Middle-East’s demeaning treatment of Pakistan and their increasing support of India as a victim of terrorism.
- Bad reputation and corruption charges of the ruling party in Pakistan in the aftermath of Panama leaks.
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The Indo-Nawaz nexus
I will attempt to explicate these three points in order to unravel this unique and surreptitious Indo-Pak nexus below.
(i) Personal relations between the two leaders affected foreign relations of India and Pakistan. It was observed that Nawaz Sharif had developed very candid and cordial relations with Modi (personally), and had developed a soft corner for his administration, and business tycoons, in order to safeguard his business interests in India.
With the poor management of the case on part of the former Pakistani government and half-hearted aim to fight the case in the international court of justice, Pakistan lost its claims against Kalbhushan Yadav. Nawaz Sharif gave a lot of space to Modi administration to not only interfere in Pakistan’s internal political issues but had also weakened its position at the global front.
(ii) Kalbushan Yadav case: This was a case of a serving Indian Navy officer who was caught by the Pakistani agencies while he was spying in the Baluchistan province of Pakistan. Despite the fact that he had admitted his crime, former Pakistani government did not present his case on any international forum at that time. I strongly believe that this was a great opportunity for Pakistan to show the negative interference of India across its border, which the then ruling party, PML-N lost in vain. This gave a clear indication to Modi administration that there was no threat to India’s reputation from the PML-N administration. This also led the Indian government to believe that they could appeal for bailing out Kalbhushan Yadav in the international court of justice. Instead of refusing to take this case to international jurisdiction, on the grounds of national security and interest, Nawaz Sharif presented it to the international jurisdiction where it was pretty easy for India to get the benefit.
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With the poor management of the case on part of the former Pakistani government and half-hearted aim to fight the case in the international court of justice, Pakistan lost its claims against Kalbhushan Yadav. Nawaz Sharif gave a lot of space to Modi administration to not only interfere in Pakistan’s internal political issues but had also weakened its position at the global front. India successfully managed to do that by winning the Kalbhushan Yadav case in the international court of justice. India wanted Pakistan to accept their demands on this case and projected it to international jurisdiction which would never have been possible had former Pakistani administration not have close ties with Indian administration.
(iii) Nawaz Sharif had earned bad public reputation after being charged with corruption as documented in Panama leaks. The leadership role of the PML-N was already compromised and as such, it was difficult for the party to take aggressive steps to meet the international demands or develop foreign policy. They had been charged with corruption and were facing courts for almost a year. It was practically impossible for Nawaz Sharif or his party to devise a strong foreign policy for India in this context.
Knowing fairly well that he doesn’t stand in good books with the Pakistan Army and other institutions, he opted to develop a strong bond with the Indian administration to safeguard his position in the foreign arena and consequentially in Pakistan.
While all of the above points are based on facts, I want to emphasize the reasons for these developments during the Sharif regime. The real question is, why is India promoting Nawaz Sharif while propagating against the state-run institutions such as Pakistani judiciary and Pakistan Army? India’s close ties with the US administration and the increasing influence in the Middle East has caused Pakistan to experience isolation. Many Indian newspapers mentioned the ‘international isolation’ Pakistan is suffering and referred to the confrontation between Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan Army.
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The ostracization of Pakistan in the Islamic Summit held in May 2017, by the Middle Eastern countries while accolades were presented to India for countering terrorism is only the tip of the iceberg. What I try to understand here is the reason for Nawaz Sharif to subdue to the Indian administration and bear the role of a minion in this game of fawning. This ostracization doesn’t come as surprise to Nawaz Sharif, in fact, it seems to be an accepted compromise to develop stronger ties with India instead.
In the last two decades, India has successfully gained strategic importance in the west as well as in the Middle-East. Staunch Indian lobbyists have worked hard to earn credibility in the eyes of the west that Nawaz Sharif knew was something he could never get on his own.
Considering the history of all the democratically elected Prime Ministers as well as dictators of Pakistan in the past, one may laud Nawaz Sharif’s conniving policy to gain the trust of the most hostile neighbor of Pakistan. Knowing fairly well that he doesn’t stand in good books with the Pakistan Army and other institutions, he opted to develop a strong bond with the Indian administration to safeguard his position in the foreign arena and consequentially in Pakistan.
Read more: Countering Sharif’s apologists
In the last two decades, India has successfully gained strategic importance in the west as well as in the Middle-East. Staunch Indian lobbyists have worked hard to earn credibility in the eyes of the west that Nawaz Sharif knew was something he could never get on his own. Would it make more sense to grow ties with the Indian administration to ensure a secure future for himself in the Pakistani government? Did he try to use India as a source to coerce the west into thinking he is the only ‘better’ choice among all other candidates for the PM seat? This may seem a far-fetched story to the leftist wing that is engrossed in blaming Pakistan Army for influencing the SC decision against Nawaz Sharif. However, international media forums are overwhelmed with a very atypical take on the Pakistani administration by Indian media these days that suggests otherwise.
Dr. Shahbaz Shabbir Gill is a Professor at Institute of South Asia & Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.