Pakistan’s military is recently been seen making an unusually strong effort to mend ties with arch-rival India, as top generals are worried about a deteriorating economy amid fractious relations with U.S. President Donald Trump.
Current and former Pakistani military officials have told Bloomberg that both a slowing economy and pressure from Beijing to improve ties with the West is prompting the shift on India. At the same time, they said, Pakistan is also wary of becoming too dependent on China after Trump cut some $2 billion in security aid.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who surprised many by calling for talks with India in his July election victory speech, said last week his political party and the military are “all on one page” in wanting to mend ties and resolve the conflict over the disputed region of Kashmir.
— EconomicTimes (@EconomicTimes) December 7, 2018
Among the proponents of a detente with India is Pakistan’s powerful army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who is heavily inclined to end the state of ‘No Peace, No War,’ but recognized that shifting views inside the huge Pakistan army would take time,” said Shuja Nawaz, author of a book on the armed forces and a former IMF official who is currently a distinguished fellow at the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council in Washington. “This may be another incentive to launch a peace initiative.”
General Bajwa, once served under an Indian general during a stint with a United Nations peacekeeping mission and is seen as more moderate than his predecessors. Entering his final year in office, Bajwa last week called a move to ease border controls with India for visiting Sikh pilgrims “a step towards peace which our region needs.”
Fear of Indian dominance continues to dictate strategy in a military that has directly ruled Pakistan for almost half its 71-year history. Since partition, Pakistan has fought three major wars with its larger neighbor and both nations accused the other of supporting cross-border insurgencies.