Pakistan’s young Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, scion of the Bhutto Zardari family must carry the burden of his family’s long legacy in Pakistan’s often ruinous relations with India when observed from the vantage point in Delhi.
In Islamabad too, Bilawal is facing a political challenge as his party the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is confined to the province of Sindh where too Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf (PTI) led by the ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan is challenging it due to misgovernance. How far the Bhutto’s can depend on the old family loyalist in the feudalist order remains to be seen?
Even as his Party remains confined to a province, on the leadership scales as well with the emergence of likes of Imran Khan and the Sharifs including daughter of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) Maryam Sharif, Bilawal has yet to make his mark in the popularity hierarchy.
Under the circumstances there is pressure on the young foreign minister to perform, but that does not explain the personal attack made by Bilawal on the Indian Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi and the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS).
Evidently fundamentals of differences with the perceived ideological stance of the RSS in Pakistan have driven the vile attack on the top leader of a neighbouring state in an international forum.
Thus, from the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) India’s intelligence agency which is routinely blamed by Pakistan for fostering terror in the country including supporting Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) there is a shift to the RSS seen as the fountainhead of the anti Pakistan policies adopted by the ruling government of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Delhi.
This is not unique to statements made by Bilawal Zardari Bhutto in New York but have been often made by other political leaders including the ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan.
In the competitive political phase that Pakistan is going through thus the Foreign Minister grabbed an opportunity which cannot be said to be at the spur of the moment but is driven by a deeper antipathy.
Shifting the narrative and resetting relations between India and Pakistan remains insurmountable for now with the symptoms of the disease – terrorism and Kashmir remaining on the visible agenda of discord.
Thus to note, apart from the tactical factors of projection of his own image to match that of his grandfather Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and mother Benazir Bhutto, it is the fundamentals evoked by Bilawal of a animosity towards the RSS that is expected to remain the stumbling block for India Pakistan relations for some time to come.
Despite the strong criticism from India and the implications of the statement to impact India Pakistan relations, Bilawal has persisted with his narrative. In an interview with Bloomberg, the Pakistan foreign minister said: “I was referring to a historical reality. The remarks I used were not my own. I did not call […] I did not invent the term ‘Butcher of Gujarat’ for Mr Modi.
The Muslims in India following the Gujarat riots used that term for Mr Modi. I believe I was referring to a historical fact, and they believe that repeating history is a personal insult,” he said.
Terror and Kashmir as the backdrop
The two – terror and Kashmir formed the backdrop which egged on Bilawal to make the unsavoury remarks on Indian Prime Minister Modi after a series of actions in the past two months starting with the special UNSC counter terrorism meet in Mumbai, a conference on No Money for Terror and culminating in adoption of a statement under the Indian Presidency led by External Affairs Dr S Jaishankar by UN Security Council warning of increasing dangers of terrorism which has led to crisis in many countries.
In the media briefing that followed a reference by Dr Jaishanker to Osama Bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan led to the recriminations from his counter part which went far beyond the norms of diplomacy as well as decent interstate relations.
In parallel Pakistan has been building up the narrative of India using terrorism to destabilise Pakistan.
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar who is from the same Party as Bilawal said on December 15 that “no country had used terrorism better than India.”
This was a day after Pakistan Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said India was behind 2021 bomb blast near Jamaatud Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed’s Johar Town residence in Lahore, which claimed four lives.
“To play on the back of the attention of the world on terrorism and to play the victim, no country has benefitted from it better than India.” These allegations are not unique to the present ruling dispensation in Pakistan.
The government of the day when the bomb blast occurred, then information minister Fawad Chaudhry and national security Adviser Dr Moeed Yusuf told a press conference that the mastermind of the attack was “an Indian citizen and he is associated with [Indian intelligence agency] RAW”.