Bajwa’s ‘Hand of Peace’

IN a significant statement Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Wednesday called for resolving the Jammu and Kashmir issue in a “dignified and peaceful manner” between India and Pakistan. Speaking  at the graduation ceremony at a Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Academy,  General Bajwa  said that Pakistan and India must resolve the longstanding issue of Jammu and Kashmir as per the aspirations of people of Jammu and Kashmir. He said that Pakistan stands “firmly committed to the ideal of mutual respect and peaceful co-existence. It is time to extend a hand of peace in all directions”.
General Bajwa didn’t talk about a third party mediation but about a bilateral resolution of Kashmir issue. The statement came at a time when the relations between India and Pakistan have plunged to their lowest low in the wake of the revocation of Article 370 in August 2019. It has now been years since there’s no formal dialogue between the two countries. And there’s little hope of such a dialogue in near future. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is on record to have said that there will be no dialogue between the two nations as long as India doesn’t reverse the withdrawal of Kashmir’s autonomy. This is why General Bajwa’s offer of “a hand of peace” has attracted some attention. For, it reveals a certain change of heart in Pakistan on engagement with India.
Whether, it’s only a one-off statement will be known in the weeks and months ahead. In India, there has been no indication over the past two years that the government wants to reach out to Pakistan. Nor has Pakistan made any such effort. The reason for this is that the repeal of Article 370 has irrevocably altered the paradigm under which the two countries engaged. By integrating Kashmir, New Delhi has signalled that it no longer considers this side of Kashmir as disputed. Pakistan sees India’s withdrawal of Kashmir’s special status enshrined in Article 370 as a dilution of what it sees as the disputed status of the region. But New Delhi sees the changes to the constitutional position of J&K as its internal matter. Two positions look all but irreconcilable. But for a durable peace in the region, the two countries have to find a way to get together. This requires statesmanship on both sides. And this will only be possible if there’s willingness on the part of the neighbors to resolve their issues

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