In a surprising change in tone, Pakistan army chief General Qamar Bajwa remarked that it was time to extend a hand of peace in all directions and that India and Pakistan must resolve the Kashmir issue in a dignified and peaceful manner as per the aspirations of the Kashmiri people. While it remains to be seen if this softening of tone will actually lead to concrete action on Pakistan’s part, Bajwa’s remark could also be indicative of the intense pressure that he and Prime Minister Imran Khan are facing from an alliance of Pakistani opposition parties. It may also constitute a signal to the new Joe Biden administration in the US, in an attempt to curry favour with Washington to hedge against Beijing’s growing influence in Pakistan.
Whatever may be the motivation, any rapprochement between India and Pakistan has to be predicated on Islamabad’s genuine moves to dismantle the terror infrastructure on its soil. And so far there has been no concrete evidence of Islamabad willing to ditch terrorism as an instrument of state policy. The truth is that backing terrorists only helps the Pakistani military retain power and project itself as Pakistan’s sole security guarantor. And this disproportionate power to the military stymies democratic development in Pakistan, undermining the growth and aspirations of Pakistani citizens.
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But if Pakistan continues on its present course it will perpetually remain a basket case or become a Chinese vassal state, likely both at the same time. And that doesn’t suit the Pakistani military either. Hence, for Pakistan’s own sake and for peace in South Asia, Islamabad must genuinely dismantle its terror factories and sincerely pursue measures to repair ties with India. But Bajwa talking peace just to obtain a tactical advantage will get Pakistan nowhere. The ball is in Islamabad’s court.
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