General Qamar Javed Bajwa reiterated the role of Kashmir in the relations between the two countries.
Pakistan Army Commander General Qamar Javed Bajwa said on Thursday that it was time for India and Pakistan to “bury the past and move forward” as he stressed that peace between the two neighbors would help to “unlock” the potential of South and Central Asia. .
Speaking at Islamabad’s first-ever Security Dialogue session in Islamabad, General Bajwa also said that the potential for regional peace and development has always been a hostage to disputes and problems between Pakistan and India – two “nuclear-armed neighbors”.
“We feel it is time to bury the past and move forward,” he said, adding that the responsibility for meaningful dialogue rests with India.
India last month said it wanted normal neighborly relations with Pakistan in an environment free from terror, hostility and violence. India says that the responsibility lies with Pakistan to create an environment free from terror and hostility.
India has also told Pakistan that “talks and terror” cannot go together and has called on Islamabad to take concrete steps against the terror group responsible for carrying out attacks in India.
Kashmir at the core
“Our neighbors must create a conducive environment, especially” in Kashmir, said General Bajwa, adding that any attempt to improve relations without addressing core issues would be vulnerable to external political factors.
“The Kashmir issue is at the heart of this. It is important to understand that without resolving the Kashmir dispute through peaceful means, the process will always be vulnerable to disruption towards politically motivated hostilities,” he said.
The powerful army, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 70+ years of existence, has until now wielded considerable power on security issues and foreign policy.
General Bajwa’s remarks came a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan made a similar statement at the same venue.
Prime Minister Khan said on Wednesday that India would benefit economically from making peace with Pakistan as it would allow New Delhi to directly access the resource-rich Central Asia region through Pakistani territory.
“India has to take the first step. Unless they do, we can’t do much,” Khan said during his inaugural address at the launch of the two-day Dialogue.
Mr Khan said that having a direct route to the Central Asian region would benefit India economically. Central Asia is rich in oil and gas.
Central Asia, in a modern context, generally includes five resource-rich countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
‘Central Asia awaits’
General Bajwa also said that the peace between Pakistan and India would help “unlock the potential of South and Central Asia” by ensuring connectivity between East and West Asia.
Although, Prime Minister Khan and General Bajwa did not specify the minimum steps India should take, many experts in Pakistan believe that some positive action in Kashmir could reduce pressure on the Pakistani government before holding talks or restoring normal diplomatic relations. .
General Bajwa also spoke about poverty which he said was linked to regional tensions hindering regional connectivity and integration.
“Despite being poor, we ended up spending a lot of money on defense, which naturally comes at the expense of human development,” he said.
However, he added that Pakistan resisted the temptation to be part of an arms race or increase its defense budget despite increasing security challenges.
“It’s not easy, especially if you live in a hostile and unstable environment. Nevertheless, let me say that we are ready to improve our environment by solving all our extraordinary problems with our neighbors through dialogue in a dignified and peaceful manner. way, “he said.
India and Pakistan announced on February 25 that they had agreed to strictly comply with all ceasefire agreements along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir and other sectors.
Relations between India and Pakistan took a nosedive after a 2016 terror attack on the Pathankot Air Force base by a terror group based in the neighboring country.
Subsequent attacks, including one on the Indian Army camp in Uri, further soured relations.
The relationship worsened after Indian warplanes pounded the Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist training camp deep inside Pakistan on 26 February 2019 in response to the Pulwama terror attack in which 40 CRPF jaws were killed.
Relations deteriorated after India announced the withdrawal of special powers from Jammu and Kashmir and the division of the state into two union territories in August 2019.
Talking about the concept of national security, General Bajwa said that it is not only protecting the country from external and internal threats.
“Currently, the main drivers of change in the world are demographics, economy and technology … However, one issue that remains central to this concept is security and economic cooperation,” he said.
He said, because national security includes guaranteeing human security, national progress and development, it is not merely a function of the armed forces and national efforts are needed to protect a nation.