Stable relations with India key to unlock South, Central Asia potential: Pakistan Army chief General Bajwa

Islamabad: Pakistan’s chief of Army staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa said on March 18 that stable Indo-Pak relations were key to unlock the potential of South and Central Asia.

“The potential, however, has remained hostage between two nuclear neighbours,” General Bajwa was quoted as saying by Pakistan media while addressing a session at the National Security Dialogue in Islamabad.

The Kashmir dispute, obviously, he said, is at the heart of this problem.

General Bajwa said without the resolution of the Kashmir issue through “peaceful means”, the region will always remain susceptible to tensions and conflicts.

“However, we feel it is time to bury the past and move forward,” he said, however, adding that it is up to India to take steps to make the atmosphere in the region conducive for peace.

Bajwa’s remarks assume significance as it hints at possible softening of Pakistan’s stand on Jammu and Kashmir and the country’s aim to improve bilateral ties with India.

The comments come about three weeks after India and Pakistan, in a joint statement, said that the two neighbouring countries have agreed for “strict observance of all agreements, understandings and cease firing along the Line of Control (LoC) and all other sectors” .

Prior to that, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said that Kashmir was the only dispute with India and it could only be resolved through dialogue. On February 2, Bajwa said that India and Pakistan must resolve the Jammu and Kashmir issue in a “dignified and peaceful manner”.

The “unsettled disputes”, General Bajwa said on March 18, were dragging South Asia back to poverty and underdevelopment “as the countries end up spending a huge chunk of financial resources on defence at the expense of human development.”

India has repeatedly said that talks and terror cannot go together and Pakistan must take demonstrable steps against terrorist groups operating from its soil and those responsible for terror attacks against India.

The change in Pakistan’s stand, many say, comes amid pressure from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a Paris-based inter-governmental watchdog that monitors terrorism and criminal financing laws. (Agency)

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