Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has now cleared the name of Lt. General Qamar Javed Bajwa as the new chief of the army staff who is set to replace the Army chief Raheel Sharif whose three year term is to end on the 29th of this month. The appointment thus rests to all the speculations about the selection of new chief of the army in Pakistan where it was widely speculated that Raheel Sharif will get extension but now confusion is over. The appointment comes in the time when bilateral relations between India and Pakistan are at nadir if contemporary time is taken into account. The appointment also assumes importance as a new President in USA has been elected who does not hold good views towards the Pakistan due to its involvement in the sponsoring of the cross border terrorism.
The appointment also assumes significance because India has shifted its policy towards the Pakistan where its legitimate rights on Pak Occupied Kashmir have been voiced in impactful manner in the recent time. All these factors assume importance in cumulative manner in the South Asian politics because the second core member of the region, Pakistan has found itself under control of the Military establishment since the days of Ayub Khan and in all four military rulers have captured the political power with the support of the military system. The role of military in the political life of Pakistan has been quite at par with the political institutions and the decision making in defining the relations with India, USA, and Afghanistan etc is overpowering. Thus army plays a crucial role in the foreign policy decision making system. Moreover since the days of Zia ul Haq the ISI has been active to destabilize the countries in the region mainly India and this institution is blessed and sustained by the Pakistan army. Thus the chief of army in Pakistan is not just a military officer of the highest rank in the country but he is de facto controller of different policy decisions of the elected government. Therefore it is imperative to know the orientations of the new chief.
It is thought by the researchers and the journalists that new Pak army chief is not a very hard person like his predecessors. He is said to be apolitical and soft towards their fellow beings. It is also being understood that he has his own approach about the terrorism prevailing in the country where he feels that domestic terrorism needs to be controlled at any cost. It appears for him that Indian fear is not a substantive thing which in fact does not exist but has been highlighted by the government and the military establishment in Pakistan. Therefore it appears the first priority of him would be to contain the spread of the terrorism in the country, which unfortunately was germinated by the political-military elites which was also involved in nefarious designs to sponsor the cross border terrorism which has been the root cause of the destabilization of the region.
It is being in the news that he is expert in the Kashmir affairs . This makes him the more realistic person to assess the situation in the region. If he takes into account the role of the Pakistan army in developing the nexus with the cross border terrorist groups he may come to the conclusion that this policy has no relevance if peace is to be desired because the counter response from the Indiais always a real possibility but to avoid this to happen the first need is to restrict the activities of the Pakistan army in the affairs of the Kashmir where peace is at premium since a long time.
The moot point is to find out the real factor behind the elevation of him as the new chief though he was a dark horse and the other contenders were left to nurse their wounds of frustration and he was selected from unknown zone after informal discussion by the Prime Minister in which the outgoing chief had important say. The selection of the General Bajwa coincides with the election of Donald Trump in USA as the new president. Pakistan Prime Minister and the military establishment feel that General Bajwa’s anti terrorism image may be of utility in dealings with President-designate Donald Trump who is vociferous in his opposition to Pakistan’s involvement in such activities. Thus this is a clever ploy by the Pakistan government to elevate General in order to have good truck with the new dispensation in the USA. The outcome of this decision will be observed and the main scrutiny will be of Bajwa’s actions on the containment of terrorism within the country and in the sponsoring of the cross border terrorism. The reduction in this area will highly depend on the political decisions of new US administration and its calibration by the Pakistan. If Pakistan is influenced by US to restrict its activities then main decision maker will be newly elected General whose initial assessment shows that he may follow the US policies and may not be much keen to advance the terrorism against India. Pakistan army can never leave the monetary benefits which it gets by the US aid and it knows that in order to maintain the aid flow it will have to follow the new dispensation; hence the army officer with antiterrorism image has been placed on the position.
The situations in the region is quite different and need of the hour is to restrain the radical elements in the region who can talk about the war and attacks. The decision taken by new chief will tilt the dice towards war or no war.
Dr. Vivek Kumar Srivastava is Vice Chairman CSSP, Consultant CRIEPS, e email@example.com