Asia

Pakistan's army chief says country ready to bury hatchet with India

ISLAMABAD (REUTERS) – Pakistan’s army chief called on Thursday (March 18) for arch rivals India and Pakistan to “bury the past” and move towards cooperation, an overture towards New Delhi that follows an unexpected joint ceasefire announcement last month between the two countries’ militaries.

General Qamar Javed Bajwa stressed, however, that the burden was on India to create a “conducive environment”, and said Washington had a role to play in ending regional conflicts.

Pakistan and India, both nuclear armed countries, have fought three wars and in 2019 tensions rose dramatically when they sent combat planes into each other’s territory.

“We feel it is time to bury the past and move forward,” Gen Bajwa said in a speech at a conference in Islamabad meant to highlight the Pakistani government’s new security policies.

“But… our neighbour (India) will have to create a conducive environment, particularly in Indian-occupied Kashmir,” he said.

Pakistan’s powerful army has ruled the country for nearly half of its 73-year existence, and the military has long controlled foreign and security policies.

India and Pakistan both control parts of the northern Kashmir region, but both claim the Himalayan region in full – which has been a source for most of the conflicts between the two.

Relations deteriorated in 2019 after Delhi stripped its part of Kashmir of the special status it long had under the Indian constitution.

Gen Bajwa said the economic potential of South and Central Asia had “forever remained hostage” to the India-Pakistan disputes.

The militaries of both countries released a rare joint statement on Feb 25 announcing a ceasefire along the disputed border in Kashmir, having exchanged fire hundreds of times in recent months.

The United States immediately welcomed the move, and encouraged the two to “keep building on this progress”.

Gen Bajwa said Pakistan had “hope” in the form of US President Joe Biden’s new administration, which he said could help facilitate peace in the region.

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