Pakistan Army Chief’s remarks signal desire for peace with India

In remarks that signal Pakistan’s powerful military establishment’s desire to seek rapprochement with India, Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa has exhorted the two countries to “bury the past and move forward” to unlock the potential of South and Central Asia.

While addressing a session of the first-ever Islamabad Security Dialogue, Gen. Bajwa asserted that the two “nuclear-armed neighbors” remained hostage to disputes and should widen their horizon to “unlock” the potential of South and Central Asia.”

The powerful Army Chief, however, put the onus for a meaningful dialogue on India. “Our neighbor will have to create a conducive environment, particularly in Kashmir, for any effort to improve ties without addressing the core issue would be vulnerable to external political factors,” he said.

“The Kashmir issue is at the heart of this. It is important to understand that without the resolution of the Kashmir dispute through peaceful means, the process will always remain susceptible to derailment to politically motivated bellicosity,” asserted Gen. Bajwa.

Talking about the concept of national security, Gen Bajwa said: “It was not solely the function of the armed forces and required a national effort to safeguard a nation. The leading drivers of change in the world are demography, economy and technology. However, one issue that remains central to this concept is economic security and cooperation.”

“Gen. Bajwa’s remarks have come days after Imran Khan’s overture to India which invoked economic benefits of better India-Pakistan relations. This suggests that the civilian leadership and the powerful military establishment in Pakistan, the twin power centres, are converging in  their approach towards seeking better relations with India,” said Manish Chand, Editor-in-Chief, India Writes Network and India and The World magazine. However, given the past record of Pakistan’s systematic duplicity, India will have to wait and verify the sincerity of these sentiments before charting future course of engagement vis-a-vis Pakistan,” he said.

“India will be benefitted economically by having peace with Pakistan as it will enable New Delhi to directly access the resource-rich Central Asia region through Pakistani territory”, said Mr Khan at the launch of the two-day Dialogue.

Alluding to opportunities in oil and gas, PM Khan said that having a direct route to the Central Asian region will economically benefit India.

The engagement between India and Pakistan remains stalled due to Islamabad’s failure to act against the perpetrators of anti-India terror attacks in Pulwama, Uri and Pathankot. Bilateral ties dived further after India scrapped the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 and bifurcated the state into two union territories.

India has repeatedly conveyed to Pakistan’s top leadership that “talks and terror” cannot go together and has asked Islamabad to take demonstrable steps against terror groups responsible for launching various attacks on India.

(Palak Chhabra contributed inputs for this article)

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