Multiple media reports and analysts have suggested that there is civil-military divide in Pakistan on the question of relations with the United States. These reports cite General Bajwa's statement that "We share a long history of excellent and strategic relationship with the United States" and the fact that this statement came a day after the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan formally protested to the United States for allegedly backing his opponents in a parliamentary no-confidence vote seeking his ouster from power. However, a look at more detailed remarks by General Bajwa at the Islamabad Security Dialogue 2022 (ISD20222) lead to an entirely different conclusion: There is no civil-military divide in Islamabad on the question of US-Pakistan ties.
|Prime Minister Imran Khan (L) with General Bajwa
Answering a question about US-Pakistan ties at the Islamabad Security Dialogue 2022, Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa said China is "off course our neighbor, a very important neighbor, and our military ties are growing".
He complained about the US denying helicopter engines for T129's Pakistan ordered from Turkey. Similarly, he said France & Germany denied submarine engines for Pakistan under Indian pressure.
He said Pakistan wants good relations with the US & western Europe but it is being left no choice but to seek its military hardware from China & Russia. He encouraged Western participants at the Islamabad conference to think about these things.
The ISD 2022 hosted 17 foreign speakers from the US, China, UK, Russia, European Union, Japan, and elsewhere.
Bajwa reminded the West that Pakistan was a part of US-led military alliances SEATO & CENTO. He said Pakistan helped the West dismantle the Soviet Union.
“Our commitment to defeat terrorism remains unwavering,” he said, adding that with the help of security and law enforcement agencies, Pakistan has made significant gains against terrorism.
“Pakistan, as a country located at the crossroads of economic and strategic confronts, is navigating these shared challenges in our immediate region and through our partnership in the international community,” he said.
“It [National Security Policy] recognizes the symbiotic relationship between the economic, human and traditional security, placing economic security at the core,” he said.
“It is our collective responsibility towards the people of Afghanistan to ensure timely and adequate flow of humanitarian aid into the country; however, the world, especially the west is preoccupied with the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Ukraine,” he stated, reminding that we must not forget the 40 million Afghans during these times.
“Inability to address the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan will not only lead to the refugee crisis but will again make Afghanistan an epicenter of terrorism where Daesh — which has a global agenda — flourishes which may result in more than one 9/11s,” he said.
“Good or bad, it is important for the international community to keep the Afghan government’s nose above the water.”
Mentioning the performance of the interim Afghan government, he said: “The performance of the present Afghan government is not satisfactory, to say the least, but we have to be patient and accommodative.”
“Instead of imposing sanctions, which have never worked, we must incentivize Afghans for their positive work and behavioral change,” he said, reiterating that disengagement with Afghanistan is “not an option.”
“India’s indifferent attitude in not informing Pakistan immediately about an irrelevant launch of a missile is equally concerning,” he said, hoping that the international community will realize that this incident could have resulted in the loss of lives in Pakistan or an accidental shooting down of a passenger plane that was flying along the path of the cruise missile.
“On our part, like early 2019, when Pakistan demonstrated its role as a responsible member of the international community by returning the captured pilot of an intruding fighter aircraft we have once again demonstrated maturity and responsibility in our response,” he said.
Bajwa reiterated: “Pakistan continues to believe in using dialogue and diplomacy to resolve all outstanding issues including the Kashmir dispute and is ready to move forward in this front if India agrees to do so with one-third of the world in the Gulf region involved in some sort of conflict and war it is important that we keep the flames of fire away from our region.”
“I believe it is time for the political leadership of the region to rise above their emotional and perceptional biases and break the shackles of history to bring peace and prosperity to almost three billion people of the region,” he said, highlighting the intransigent behavior of the Indian leaders.
“While with Russia, Pakistan had cold relations for a long time due to numerous reasons; however, recently there have been some positive developments in this regard,” he said.
“Sadly, the Russian invasion is very unfortunate as thousands of people have been killed, millions made refugees and half of Ukraine destroyed,” he said, stressing the need to address the issue “immediately”.
“Pakistan has consistently called for an immediate ceasefire […] we support immediate dialogue between all sides to find a lasting solution to the conflict,” he said, highlighting the humanitarian assistance sent to Ukraine from Pakistan.
“The continuation or expansion of the conflict in Ukraine will not serve the interest on any side least of all the developing countries which will continue to face the social-economic cost of the conflict — a conflict that can easily get out of hand,” the COAS said.
“Pakistan today has a unique position where it has very cordial historic relation with both the camps,” he said.