Imran Khan’s impassioned UNGA speech: Will it make the world act?

Imran Khan’s impassioned UNGA speech: Will it make the world act?


In a highly impassioned speech at the United Nations General Assembly, Prime Minister Imran Khan warned of a looming catastrophe if the international community didn’t act urgently to stop Indian atrocities in Kashmir. Speaking extempore for almost 50 minutes, the Pakistani leader said he feared a ‘bloodbath’ would erupt in the Indian-administered territory when New Delhi finally lifted the curfew aimed at crushing the Kashmiris’ struggle for self-determination.  
In his maiden speech at the forum, Imran Khan cautioned the world against India’s use of brute force in the disputed territory of Kashmir, and warned it could turn into a wider conflict between the two nuclear armed-countries, if the UN and international community did not act fast.
Without mincing his words, Khan said Pakistan would fight until the bitter end in the event of aggression from the Indian side and did not rule out the possibility of the conflict turning into a nuclear conflagration. It was yet another attempt by the Pakistani leader to scare the world into considering the serious ramifications of the Kashmir issue. 
Imran Khan likened rising Indian nationalism under Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Nazism, and warned that if not checked, it could have serious ramifications for regional and global peace. His confrontal attack on the Indian Prime Minister may have raised many eyebrows from the delegates in the hall, but his remarks were widely lauded at home. 
Many believe that the speech was mostly for domestic consumption and will have worked well to strengthen his political position at home. And although forceful, the speech lacked the argument that could have persuaded the international community to shed its apathy. 
Khan also spoke at length on rising Islamphobia in the West and the disastrous impact of climate change. He declared that the negative attitude toward Islam and the suppression of Muslims has been a major cause for radicalization in the Islamic world. He rebutted the use of terms like “Islamic terrorism” by some Western leaders as humiliating. It was all impressive, but some of his explanations for the radicalization of Muslims remained questionable.

The speech may have won plaudit at home, but there is a big question mark on whether it will have any impact on the international audience he was supposed to be addressing. 

Zahid Hussain

The lengthy speech could have been condensed to 20 minutes, and lost the plot in places. The rambling rhetoric and personal attack on the Indian leadership may not have gone well with the international community. The speech may have won plaudit at home, but there is a big question mark on whether it will have any impact on the international audience he was supposed to be addressing. 
Imran Khan went to New York a week ago with a promise to apprise world leaders about the plight of Kashmiri people living in a lockdown situation after India revoked the autonomy granted to the former Himalayan princely state under Article 370 of the Indian constitution. Given the apathy of the international community, it was the toughest diplomatic challenge for the Pakistani leader to make any significant impact on world leaders and get them to break their deafening silence. He certainly has made things move to some extent. 
India’s use of brute military force to silence eight million Kashmiris has brought the issue onto the international stage. And despite strict censorship and a complete lockdown, news has continued to flow in, which documents the extent of state-sanctioned human rights abuses in Indian-administered Kashmir.
The conflict between India and Pakistan has come to a head. The two countries have fought three wars over their respective claims over the disputed territory, and the ongoing tension has turned the region into a potential nuclear flashpoint. 
While it may be true that the plight of the Kashmiri people under Indian subjugation has been widely reported, and therefore evoked a strong reaction from human rights organizations, the international community has continued to remain indifferent. This attitude is not likely to change, however forcefully the Prime Minister has presented Kashmir’s case. It has nothing to do with our diplomatic effort or the lack of it; it has more to do with global power politics.
It is evident that India will not be able to control the situation in Kashmir, and the use of brutal military tactics is bound to worsen the situation. It is a battle that the Kashmiri people have to fight on various fronts. 
Indeed, Pakistan’s diplomatic and political support is critical but everything depends on how the Kashmiri people wage their struggle. Diplomatic efforts can only be effective if the international community feels that the situation demands its attention. The choices for Pakistan remain limited. 

*Zahid Hussain is an award-winning journalist and author. He is a former scholar at Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholar, USA, and a visiting fellow at Wolfson College, University of Cambridge, and at the Stimson Center in Washington DC. He is author of Frontline Pakistan: The struggle with militant Islam (Columbia university press) and The Scorpion’s tail: The relentless rise of Islamic militants in Pakistan (Simon and Schuster, NY). Frontline Pakistan was the book of the year (2007) by the WSJ. Twitter: @hidhussain ‏

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