Will Qamar Javed Bajwa be as hostile as Raheel Sharif to India?
‘The Pakistan Army remains a motivated, extremely professional force that virtually holds the troubled country together’
NEW DELHI: Pakistan army’s deep-rooted professional hostility towards India will continue despite the change in guard, with General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s name being announced to succeed General Raheel Sharif as the next chief.
However, whether it will be as visceral as it was under General Sharif is something that remains to be seen in the backdrop of three days of relative calm along the Line of Control after the Indian Army pounded over 15 Pakistan army posts on Wednesday to exact revenge for an Indian soldier’s beheading and the two DGMOs talked to each other. “General Bajwa is well-versed with the complexities, nature of operations and terrain along the LoC. He has also handled Kashmir extensively during his career. But it’s actually too premature to say anything. Both Generals Pervez Musharraf and Kayani proved different from what their initial assessments were,” said a top Army officer. Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif, who has now handpicked six army chiefs during his different stints as the country’s leader, of course, selected General Pervez Musharraf in 1998 only to be ousted by him a year later and thereafter packed off to Saudi Arabia. Nawaz Sharif also did not enjoy a good rapport with General Raheel Sharif, who he had selected in 2013, and therefore would be extremely glad to see the last of him. General Sharif, who had projected himself as the great saviour of Pakistan and was widely regarded as one after he took on home-grown terrorists on the western front, was perceived to be extremely hostile to India.
After all, his uncle was killed in the 1965 war and brother in the 1971 one with India. Former Army chief General Bikram Singh, under whom General Bajwa served as a brigade commander in the UN peace-keeping operations in Congo in 2007, also says it’s important to “wait-and-watch” how Gen Bajwa conducts himself. “In the UN operations, General Bajwa’s performance was totally professional and outstanding. But a military officer’s conduct in the international environment is different from the way he conducts himself back home. There, he is governed by his country’s national interests,” said Gen Singh. “General Bajwa has commanded the important 10 Corps in Pakistan. So, he is acquainted with his country’s policy towards India. I believe there will be no let-up as far as Pakistan
army’s Kashmir policy is concerned,” he added. Several international South Asia experts echoed similar views. Asked about her opinion on the new Pakistan army chief General Bajwa, Georgetown University associate professor C Christine Fair tweeted, “Cut from the same cloth. It won’t make a difference.”
The assessment in India, too, is that Pakistan army’s long-standing “confrontationist attitude” towards India as well as its policy to covertly control the “terror tap” in J&K is not going to change anytime soon. Pakistan army, of course, remains incensed over what India described as “surgical strikes” against terror launch pads in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir on September 29. The force, in conjunction with its intelligence arm ISI, has after all been the prime driver behind Pakistan’s Kashmir policy to “bleed’’ India with a thousand cuts for decades.
Despite its history of interventions within and adventurism vis-a-vis India, the Pakistan army remains a motivated, extremely professional force that virtually holds the troubled country together from spiraling out of control, even though the Sunni-Deobandi radicalization continues to make deep inroads. Given the Pakistan army-ISI combine’s pathological obsession with India, the strategy to bleed India on its east through its jihadi proxies will continue unabated. The Indian response, consequently, becomes important rather than who is at the helm in the Pakistan army.
General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Pakistan new army chief.