Gen Bajwa was appointment of the new Army Chief in Pakistan replacing General Raheel Sharif on November 29th the Indian media drooled over the appointment. There are many predictions going on our side from various analysts which may be superficial.
Let us see the concrete repercussions of this change of guards.
Gen Bajwa | Background of the new Army Chief
- General Qamar Javed Bajwa is a second generation infantryman from Baluch Regiment, like three previous Chiefs, Yahya, Aslam Beg and Kayani.
- He has just served as the Inspector General Training and Evaluation, virtually the DGMT of the Pakistan Army.
- The General is called apolitical by the Pakistan media which is also being repeated by the Indian media.
- He is from the Oct 1980 batch of the Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul.
- Internationally too he has greater experience having commanded a Pakistan Army Brigade in South Kivu in Congo as part of the UN mission there.
- He has also handled extensive operations in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir which makes him an obvious choice due to the current tensions in the region.
Given his international experience, good academic record with exposure abroad and the record of service in Kashmir Gen Bajwa was a natural choice as Chief for the Pakistan Army. The General, has had three tenures in Pakistan’s 10 Corps; as Chief of Staff at the Headquarters, GOC Force Command Northern Areas (FCNA) which also looks after Pakistan’s glaciated terrain opposite our deployment in Siachen and Saltoro ridge, and as GOC 10 Corps (Pakistan’s Kashmir Corps).
Moreover, if we shall set parameters for an Army General, it should be kept in mind that the maturity of a General is displayed when he does not play to the galleries.
Gen Bajwa | Status of Pakistan Army
- Right from 1977 when Gen Zia ul Haq spelt out his demonic plan for ‘retribution against India’ as the core of Pakistan Army’s existence, it has always been in the dominant position that must be occupied in Pakistan’s polity, either directly or indirectly. Therefore, it is an exercise in futile to assume that the change of guards might bring some hopes for India.
- The Pakistan Army is professional and extremely strategic in its orientation. It prime concern is itself and its power. It is not going to give a Prime Minister the space to rejig himself into a dominant position to dictate to the Generals. So General Bajwa is nobody’s man but his own and that of the Pakistan Army.
Gen Bajwa | Challenges
Gen Bajwa comes at a time when equations and axes are also changing –
- General Raheel Sharif’s positive legacy has been the manner in which he went after the Lashkar e Jhangvi (LeJ) and TTP even as he tried to cleaning up the mess in Karachi. These organizations are not down and out and would be looking to rearing their heads again. They would be assessing the commitment, understanding and energy that General Bajwa brings to the appointment.
- Chinese are increasingly looking at the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) with a more serious intent. They would not want Gilgit-Baltistan in greater tension, neither Baluchistan. But if the current tensions with India only get worse India is going to play both cards; diluting of tension in J&K is therefore in Pakistan’s interest.
- US appears to be ignoring Pakistan as its strategic interests shift. With President Elect Trump’s likely isolationist policy Pakistan’s significance will further dilute. It is only nations with whom economics and business will be strong, that US is likely to strengthen relations and India is one of them. Despite the recent telephonic conversations between Prime Minister Nawaz Shareef and President-elect Donald Trump, no concrete assurances of cooperation were being communicated in return for the Pakistani overtures. General Bajwa has to manage an isolationist United States, which the former Army Chiefs have milked beyond their force, in the name of fighting terrorism.
- Pakistan’s relationship with Afghanistan is not improving and the Taliban in Afghanistan are under no one’s control. That means continuation of Pakistan’s dwindling strategic space and India’s continuing influence. This would also have serious implications on Afghanistan peace process and deliberations with the Taliban.
- Although a positive step in the emergence in the context of improving relationship with the Russians and feasibility of some weapons and equipment from that source, the Russians too may not be too happy to see their weapons in use against India with whom it still has a strong strategic relationship.
Gen Bajwa | Concerns for India
- Much weightage is being given to his Kashmir record because of the current impasse along the LoC and the possibility that he will follow a very proactive approach towards Kashmir. It is to be seen what the Rawalpindi under his nose plans to do in relation to India, especially in Kashmir and the region beyond that.
- There are large scale rumors of an Ahmadiya connection with General Bajwa which puts him in line with former army chiefs belonging to the ‘minority’ and ‘suppressed’ communities of Pakistan. In 1974 Pakistan passed a constitutional amendment declaring Ahmadis a ‘non-Muslim’ minority. In 1984 Pakistan passed another law which made it a criminal act for Ahmadis to identify as Muslims. India always possess this ‘trump’ card to play at the opportune time to create factions within the society. (Realpolitik)
- If reports are to be believed and the limitations in international space of Pakistan (as discussed above) is concerned, the new Army Chief has no option but to instil a faith in relationship with India. General Bajwa may after initial briefings and unbiased review realize the above. If offered tactical escape routes without loss of pride, we could yet see the LoC tension drawing down. The need may be to reduce rhetoric from our side too to allow this to take place.
India needs to give some time to explore the response from the new General Qamar Bajwa to make his assessment, send messages through the hotline that Pakistan may wish to re-appraise its policy in context of the LoC and Kashmir issue. A diligent response is awaited and hoped for in the power circles of North and South Block to overturn the past inadequacies in the rebuilding of trust amongst the two neighbours.