IN his crisp but wide-ranging address to the participants of Islamabad Security Dialogue, Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa made a strong case for peace and development, allaying apprehensions of the international community on some critical issues and seeking cooperation of the world in realization of his vision of a friction-free region on the path of progress and development.
He spoke about internal policies of Pakistan, challenge of extremism and terrorism, relations with India, prospects of peace in Afghanistan, regional connectivity and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
What the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) propounded was not rhetoric or lip-service as practical steps have been taken to move towards realization of the four-point geo-economic vision that seeks to move towards a lasting and enduring peace within and outside; non-interference of any kind in the internal affairs of our neighbouring and regional countries; boosting intra-regional trade and connectivity; and bringing sustainable development and prosperity through the establishment of investment and economic hubs within the region.
Pakistan’s peace credentials are verifiable as the process of dialogue to resolve the longstanding Afghan issue is the outcome of consistent approach of Pakistan that the military option was not the viable course for restoration of lasting peace and security in the neighbouring country.
Pakistan convinced the US on the issue and its efforts led to the Doha peace accord between Taliban and Washington, which has formed the basis for the next phase of peace process i.e. intra-Afghan dialogue.
Similarly, Pakistan has dealt with the menace of terrorism in a comprehensive manner as a result of which normalcy is there not just in other parts of the country but also in regions that were previously considered as hot-spots of terrorism – formerly FATA, Balochistan and Karachi.
Its project of border management is also aimed at regulating movement of people and goods on the western border while initiatives like re-energizing Pakistan-Afghanistan Transit Trade Agreement and establishment of border markets would take care of issues that could create fissures in bilateral relations with Afghanistan.
The genuineness of Pakistan’s quest for peace is best manifested by its peace overtures to India despite Modi Government’s aggressive and mischievous posture and its provocative policies vis-à-vis Jammu and Kashmir.
A day after Prime Minister Imran Khan hinted at the possibility of a thaw in relations with India, the Army Chief also emphasized the need for normalization through conflict resolution, highlighting that stable Indo-Pak relation was a key to unlock the untapped potential of South and Central Asia by ensuring connectivity between East and West Asia.
His well-considered thoughts have sent a clear message across the eastern border that civil and military leadership of Pakistan were on the same page as for as the relationship with India was concerned.
The emphasis of the Army Chief on peaceful resolution of the core issue of Kashmir would also help assuage the impression of any deviation from the principled stand of the country on the issue.
General Bajwa rightly pointed out that without the resolution of Kashmir dispute through peaceful means, the process of sub-continental rapprochement will always remain susceptible to derailment due to politically motivated bellicosity.
His remarks that ‘for resumption of the peace process or meaningful dialogue, our neighbour will have to create a conducive environment, particularly in India-occupied Kashmir’ also clarify the unexplained statement of the Prime Minister at the Islamabad Security Dialogue a day earlier that India will have to take the first move towards normalization.
However, we would once again emphasize that short of reversal of illegal measures by Modi-Government, Pakistan should not enter into any kind of dialogue with India and, as pointed out by the COAS himself, it should be a ‘meaningful’ dialogue aimed at just settlement of the longstanding Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN resolutions and aspirations of Kashmiri people.
It is also a verifiable fact that Pakistan has long been floating proposals for regional cooperation and connectivity like Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project (which originally also included India but New Delhi opted out from the proposed cooperative venture under pressure from the United States); Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project; CASA-1000; and a number of other regional rail and road projects that could foster peaceful co-existence due to inter-dependability factor.
General Bajwa’s remarks about CPEC also augur well not just for unhindered implementation of all projects under its framework but also his invitation to other countries to participate in the venture sends strong signals to the world that there were no hidden motives of this collaborative framework.
The full realization of the peace, security and development vision of the Army Chief depends much on the ability of the country to ‘put its own house in order’ as has been stated by him.
Internal environment, especially political instability is the biggest hurdle in the way of realization of the cherished objectives that the COAS envisions for the country and the problem can be addressed through a national dialogue.