After months of speculation about the extension of General Raheel Sharif, Pakistan has got a new Army chief in General Qamar Bajwa. The new Army chief-designate is an infantry officer. He is from the 62nd Pakistan Military Academy Long Course and was commissioned in the army in October 1980. General Bajwa is credited with having spent a better part of his military service in the Rawalpindi-based 10 Corps, which is responsible for guarding the Line of Control. However, his time at Rawalpindi has been a period of relative calm following the 2003 ceasefire accord. This experience will come handy for Gen Bajwa as he takes command of the Army at a time when the LoC has been turned into a war zone between India and Pakistan.
Scores of lives of soldiers and the civilians have been lost in the almost uninterrupted skirmishes between the two countries since Uri attack on September 18 killed 19 soldiers. This has already severely tested the 2003 ceasefire agreement between the two countries. Tension between the neighbours came recently to a head when India conducted surgical strikes along the border in September– albeit denied by Pakistan. Therefore, as against General Sharif who was chiefly focused on the military campaigns against Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and the extremist elements in Karachi, General Bajwa’s initial priority will be the situation along LoC.
The continuing shelling and the consequent killings on the border have created a fraught regional situation prompting even United Nations Secretary General Ban ki Moon to issue a statement that he was "deeply concerned about the deterioration of the situation along the Line of Control in Kashmir in recent days". He called on "all involved to prioritise the restoration of calm and stability in order to prevent any further escalation and loss of life."
But this hardly appears to be the case. If the recent statements coming out of the both countries are any indication, the relations have only gone from bad to worse. And this is hardly a good sign for the region which is witnessing a profound geopolitical transformation with all its attendant risks and challenges. With China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project and the growing US slant towards India, a new power game is unfolding in the region. Such a scenario will not only defer the resolution of the festering issues between the neighbours so necessary for the regional peace but also keep the region divided during a fraught transition to a new order post US exit from Afghanistan. This calls for the neighbours to step back and introspect a future course of action. Continuing with the current stalemate is dangerous and fraught with the prospect of a dangerous escalation. Engagement is the only option if the two countries have to avert not only a major crisis but also to find an acceptable solution to the long-pending issues which alone will ensure a sustainable peace and the prosperity.