In a surprise statement on Tuesday, Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa said that the country is committed to the ideal of mutual respect and peaceful co-existence and “it is time to extend a hand of peace in all directions”.
He was speaking at the graduation ceremony of Pakistan Air Force cadets with an aim to reach out to India.
“Pakistan and India must also resolve the longstanding issue of Jammu and Kashmir in a dignified and peaceful manner as per the aspirations of people of Jammu and Kashmir and bring this human tragedy to its logical conclusion,” General Bajwa said according to a statement issued by the military.
His remarks, however, were a sharp contrast to his pitch against India, particularly after New Delhi carried out aerial strikes at terror training camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir after the 2019 Pulwama bombing and later scrapped Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.
Meanwhile, New Delhi has not reacted to his remarks.
A counter-terror official said it may be too early to conclude that General Bajwa had changed his position. “We will need to track if this is a one-off comment or there are other indicators of a possible change as well,” he said.
Either way, it will take a lot more than words to help put bilateral ties between the two arch-rivals.
Pakistan, the official said, would have to take concrete steps to dismantle the terror infrastructure on its soil and end support to terrorists to convince New Delhi that it was serious about improving ties.
General Bajwa’s move to tone down his rhetoric against India came at a time when he and Prime Minister Imran Khan have been facing fierce attacks from an alliance of opposition parties that joined hands last year to try to force PM Khan to step down.