The Pakistani military leadership led by Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa is reaching out to India because it has realised that the way to peace and prosperity is through military cooperation with New Delhi, a Pakistani analyst has said in a British think-tank commentary.
The powerful army, which enjoys considerable influence over policy decisions in Pakistan, has ruled the country for much of its life since it gained independence 70 years ago.
“In a historic first last month, Pakistan’s Army Chief of Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa invited Sanjay Vishwasrao, the Indian military attache, and his team to the Pakistan Day military parade in Islamabad,” wrote Kamal Alam, a visiting fellow at the UK-based Royal Unites Services Institute (RUSI).
In a sign that strain ties between the two neighbours are warming up Gen Bajwa followed this two weeks later by saying that the Pakistan military wanted peace and dialogue with India, Alam said in his report released last week. The two countries will also take part in joint military drills in Russia in September, with Chinese participation.
“These initiatives come against a background of almost weekly exchanges of fire along the Line of Control… However, they mark a change in attitudes that started when Bajwa became COAS in November 2016,” the report said.
During a visit to the UK last year, Gen Bajwa addressed a gathering at RUSI and announced that the “Pakistan army is now no more insecure and feels confident of its future and that he welcomes Indian participation in Pakistan’s flagship infrastructure project, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)”.
The report notes that both India and Pakistan have tried to forge relationships before as well. In the 1980s, Gen Zia-ul Haq, and then Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi became close. Then, Pakistani military leader Gen Pervez Musharraf and prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee also came close at a 2002 summit in Agra to resolving the Kashmir conflict despite a year-long tense situation on the border. “Approaches by Pakistani generals have been welcomed by some in India because they are seen to be able to deliver on peace,” the report said.
Another senior Pakistani officer, Lt Gen Aamir Riaz, headed the first-ever high-level contact group with India as Director-General Military Operation. Lt Gen Riaz has made public his stance of welcoming Indian participation in the CPEC project. According to the report, the military operations in Fata have brought security and stability on the western border, encouraging the Pakistan Army to approach India with the understanding that it will help Pakistan’s upward economic trajectory and allow regional trade flourish.
“However, India has so far rejected Pakistan’s offer of a transit trade dialogue on Afghan–Indian commerce. But with a sustained approach by Pakistani officers to India, it could only be a matter of time before Delhi agrees to at least talk to Islamabad,” it added