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‘India should be careful about new Pakistan army chief,’ says ex-Indian army head

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NEW DELHI:  Former Indian Army Chief Bikram Singh, who has worked with new Pakistan Army Chief Lt Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa on a UN assignment, said India should be “careful” and watchful with regard to his approach.

According to Indian media, Gen (retd) Singh described Lt Gen Bajwa as a thorough professional who gave an outstanding performance with him in Congo.

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Pakistan’s army chief-designate Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa

India must be ‘careful’

“There might be great bonhomie when the goal is world peace under UN mandate but things change once you go back to your country. This is because your national interest comes first,” General Singh told Press Trust of India.


Read: Who is Lt Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa?


He said India should wait and watch and be “careful”. Asked if he sees any drastic change in Pakistani military policy once Lt General Bajwa takes over succeeding General Raheel Shareef who retires on November 30, he opined, “I do not see any change”.

‘Gen Bajwa holds command on border affairs’

General Singh hoped that Lt General Bajwa will continue to consider homegrown extremism as a greater threat than India as he has publicly said.

The new Pakistan Army chief has wide experience of LoC affairs due to his extensive involvement with Azad and Jammu Kashmir and Northern Areas.

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“He has served in all these areas (bordering India) and knows pretty well what kind of terrain and conditions exist on both sides,” the former Indian Army chief said.

General Bajwa will likely take charge of Pakistan Army in handover on Tuesday, when General Sharif formally retires.

Challenges facing the new army chief

General Sharif, 60, becomes the first army chief in more than 20 years to step down on time. Several previous military leaders had obtained extensions to their three-year terms.

Though security across Pakistan has vastly improved under General Sharif, with number of reported “terrorist” attacks down, Bajwa will face vast challenges at home and abroad.

Abroad, Pakistan’s relations with the United States, a long-time ally, as well as nuclear-armed rival India, have worsened over the past year.

Bajwa had also served abroad, commanding the Pakistan Contingent in Congo, and had spent time commanding infantry divisions.

Gen Sharif’s popularity

Outgoing Army Chief General Raheel Sharif, who hails from a military family, built a huge following among ordinary Pakistanis who saw him as a protector against terrorists, corruption and foreign aggression.

His popularity came on the back of the military operation Zarb-i-Azb, which drove back Pakistani Taliban militants from their tribal strongholds and improved security.

An army-led crackdown in Karachi also drastically reduced crime in the country’s biggest city.

General Raheel Sharif portrait

 

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