At a time once India and Afghanistan are trying to sandwich Pakistan through direct and indirect threats, the change of command in General Headquarters (GHQ) is significant and being watched eagerly both by friends and foes of Pakistan. With the appointment of General Qamar Javed Bajwa as the new Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan Army, there came an end to the assumptions, spread over month and months.
The outgoing Chief Of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif has left a challenging legacy; very high standard of military professionalism, military diplomacy, popularity among the masses and global acceptability of the achievements of Pakistan’s Army against terrorism and radicalization. Nevertheless, there are challenges too.
At the domestic level though ‘Operation Zarb-e-Azb’ is still continuing, the primary objective of dismantling the terrorist hideouts has been achieved. In fact, continuation of this operation is aimed at combating the terrorists, entering Pakistan from Afghanistan. Pakistan has to eliminate the terrorism, the terrorists and their abettors and financiers, if it wants to be a peaceful and economically stable country.
Besides battling terrorists at home, the biggest challenge for the new chief is to have a balance in the civil-military relationship within Pakistan. This aspect would strengthen the state and armed forces while defeating those trying to create rifts. The security leakages like the one done by Cyrial Ameda through the consent of someone or independently needs to be addressed and causing unnecessary fissures should be avoided.
As far as the policies of Army are concerned, there will be continuation of the existing set of policies, since there always exist a consensus in the decision making process of Army in Pakistan. Indeed, opinion of everyone, especially the formation commanders is respected and taken into consideration in the military culture of Pakistan Army. General Sharif’s professionalism and dedication made him the most favorite personality of Pakistan in last two years. North Waziristan Agency (NWA) was hub of terrorists once operation Zarb-e-Azb started, General Sharif led operation destroyed their  networks and their facilities; who were using to carry out their terrorist activities throughout the country.
In the regional context, Pakistan has been emphasizing on peaceful means of resolution of issues, including the core issue of Kashmir. However, India decides to choose the difficult course; promoting terrorism through its spying network and military escalation on the borders, heavy and long-range firing all along the LoC and Working Boundary. Under such a scenario, India needs a befitting response to its aggressive military postures, the aggressive heavy and small arms firing across the LoC, so far killed over 50 civilians and 12 soldiers. The Modi’s doctrine of pressurizing Pakistan to accept the Indian domination will not work as Pakistan is committed to respond, bullet by bullet.
Alongside India, there has to be re-thinking of Pakistan’s policies toward Afghanistan. Afghan leadership is playing in the hands of India, which needs to be tackled carefully. Afghan NDS and Indian RAW are involve in creating internal instability within Pakistan. Pakistan has to formulate ways and means to disengage the Afghanistan from India, since India is exploiting that poor country for 2 billion dollars. India desires a continuous conflict between Pakistan and Afghanistan. This strategy would ease India along its western borders. Afghan leadership must understand that, India is an anti-Muslim state, how can it be friend of Afghan people. The friendship is limited to economic and geopolitical interests of India. Pakistan and Afghanistan have to come closer for the regional peace and economic stability.
Iran is yet another very significant brotherly Muslim country, Pakistan need to improve its bilateral relationship with. A close and intimate Pakistan-Iran relationship will improve regional security, political stability and economic prosperity in this region. China has proved itself as the most trusted friend of Pakistan; strategically, politically and through economic cooperation. There is a need to continue this cooperation, while safeguarding the future interests of Pakistan. The project of CPEC must be completed in time, since it will bring economic prosperity for everyone in Pakistan.
Internationally, Pakistan is facing a mix response; challenges and cooperation. In last few years, Russian collaboration and interest with has increased. Pakistan needs to further invest in this friendly relationship with a visionary approach. There has been vicissitudes in the relationships between Pakistan and the Trans-Atlantic Alliance (US and EU). These countries have used Pakistan in the past, thus, there is a need to be more visionary, articulate and futuristic, while formulating the policies towards these countries.
Nevertheless, there has to be continuation and enhancement of greater military-to-military cooperation and collaboration. The wider propagation of Pakistani achievements in the war against terror, telling effects of strategic significance of Pakistan Army in the regional geopolitics and commitment with Kashmir cause at regional and international level are other significant aspects need to be kept in mind by the new command.
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Prof Dr. Muhammad Khan is one of the leading academics, served as Head of Department, International Relations, National Defence University; his areas of interest are as, Politics and Security issues of Asia-Pacific. South Asia: Politics, State and Society, Kashmir Dispute, Dynamics of China as a rising power, U.S interest in South Asian politics, Foreign Policy Pattern of Major powers, Dynamics of Terrorism: Pakistan-Afghan Co-relation and the world, Energy and Pipeline Politics (Central and West Asia).