Imran Khan: PM Narendra Modi has the platform to change subcontinent
New Delhi/Calcutta: Magician Imran Khan Niazi, Pakistan’s only World Cup-winning captain, spent much of his time in the national capital and Noida on Friday.
Imran khan who is chairman of the Tehreek-e-Insaaf, party which emerged as a leader Opposition party in Pakistan, on the 75-minute drive from the Le Meredien to the ABP News studio in Noida.
The ride was in a top-of-the-line Mercedes, would have taken longer had the UP police not provided an escort from the time the car entered Akhilesh Yadav’s territory.
Imran, who is now 63, spoke right through the journey. The first part of the comprehensive interview is being published in this morning’s edition of The Telegraph.
Q When I spoke to you ahead of the 2014 general elections in India, you spoke of the expectations from Narendra Modi should the BJP come to power. Modi and the BJP did, four months later. The general feeling in India is that Modi is losing his lustre. What’s your take on the 22 months that Modi and the BJP have been in power in New Delhi?
A I’m not aware of the microdetails of the goings-on in Indian politics… However, Modi has made some moves with regard to cross-border relations between India and Pakistan.
Like stopping over in Lahore to greet Nawaz Sharif on his 66th birthday last December?
Yes. It was a good step. But Modi, being in the position he is in (336 seats for the NDA in the Lok Sabha), would find it far easier than, say, the Congress, to take bold steps on talks with Pakistan, talks on the issue of Kashmir… I say that because he has the right-wing of India’s political environment on his side. The Congress would, in my view, always be vulnerable from the right-wing. Not Modi. So, he could take truly bold steps.
Are you, then, suggesting Modi has an excellent opportunity to take the biggest steps in improving relations with Pakistan?
Of course, exactly that… I would only rate someone highly if he actually becomes a unifying force in Indo-Pak relations. Modi certainly has the opportunity to become that unifying force across our borders… Today, I can’t say to what extent he’s willing to stick his neck out… Perhaps, Modi is waiting for the right opportunity to come his way… Eventually, I can’t say who exactly will end up taking the boldest steps. If the person does that, well, he’ll be remembered for doing his utmost for the poor in the subcontinent. He’ll be remembered for doing his maximum to alleviate poverty in the region… I say that with absolute conviction.
That, for you, is the priority…
We must reduce hostility and increase trade… The issues need to be discussed and resolved… The person who does that would go down in history as the No.1 hero in the subcontinent. It’s mind-boggling the benefits to be had if there’s peace and a manifold increase in trade. Believe me, the face of the subcontinent would get recast. Modi, indeed, has the platform to change the subcontinent. Now, let’s see where does he go from here.
Briefly, your thoughts on the state of Indo-Pak relations?
Very briefly, we’re stuck in a vicious spiral (of moving forward and back)… Somebody has to take a stand and say that the next terror strike will not derail the process of dialogue. To settle issues, you need that to happen.
Are you still a fan of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal?
Because Kejriwal knows how to change the way governance is done… He wants to bring in the best elements of governance and is against corruption. Kejriwal comes across as a man of vision and, yes, he has ambitions. I wish him the very best.
There’s plenty in common between Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party and your Tehreek…
I’ve been pitching for good governance for years… I’ve been raising my voice against corruption… There’s much that is common.
Are there plans to meet Kejriwal on this trip to India?
I’d like to. Could even be on Sunday, depending on Kejriwal’s schedule.
(This reporter has, in fact, facilitated Imran’s appointment with Kejriwal “at some point” on Sunday evening. Confirmation came from a top aide of the chief minister around 11pm on Saturday.)
After 10 years in power, the Congress got routed in the 2014 general elections… Have you been tracking the party’s fortunes? Rahul Gandhi seems to be shedding his reticence…
Look, after such a massive defeat (down to 44 seats), it would take a lot of character on the part of Rahul to lift the party. This is the real test for the Congress and its top leaders… If Rahul can analyse the reasons for the party’s failure and is able to rally the Congress’ rank and file behind the leadership, then he’d actually be its leader. One’s character is never tested in the good times, but when the times are bad. This, then, is Rahul’s test. A test for the party as well.
You’re eminently qualified to comment on who qualifies to be a leader. So, what qualities are a must?
A leader must have a vision which is bigger than the others… He should have the ability to inspire others, so that they embrace his vision… He has to have integrity… He should, through his own character, he able to command respect… Equally, he needs to have the ability to bear pressure and to honestly analyse setbacks, if any… All the qualities are absolutely essential.
Have you come across a leader with all the qualities?
Of all the modern leaders, I’d perhaps go for Nelson Mandela. Of course, there have been a lot of other leaders with some of the qualities I’ve talked about.
It took you an hour-and-a-half to reach your hotel from the airport in the capital…
Gosh, I wouldn’t be able to live in a city with such traffic snarls… I hear the odd-even formula for cars has been tried once… Eventually, if the snarls continue, there may be no way out but to only have public transport on the roads.
Finally… Do you always travel on special flights?
(Smiles) No… A good friend of mine was coming to Calcutta for Saturday’s match at the Eden, so I hitched a ride via New Delhi… I don’t, frankly, have the time to fly to Dubai and, then, take another flight from there to Calcutta. Islamabad to New Delhi took an hour and 15 minutes. It took much longer for me to reach my hotel from the airport… The traffic issue needs to be quickly addressed.