Pakistan: New army chief brings no change in policy
Pakistan: New army chief brings no change in policy
Lt. Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa will replace retiring Army Chief Raheel Sharif when his three-year term ends on Tuesday, a rare example of a smooth transition in a nation where army chiefs have a history of clinging to power.
Gen. Sharif, who is not related to the prime minister, has proved popular with ordinary Pakistanis but during his tenure relations between the army and the civilian government have often been tense.
Relations abroad have also frayed, with the United States and Afghanistan complaining of a lack of action by Islamabad against Afghan Taliban militants based on Pakistani soil, while a stand-off with old foe India over Kashmir has soured relations.
Bajwa was one of several high-ranking candidates put forward for the job by the army but little is publicly known about him or his ideological stance on key issues, including relations with India or how to tackle home-grown militants.
Defense Minister Khawaja Asif dampened any expectations that Bajwa would immediately push for a radical policy shift.
“The military policy will continue and there will be no immediate change in it,” Asif told Geo News TV channel.
“The legacy of Gen. Raheel Sharif would continue in the light of the examples he set,” Asif added.
Security in Pakistan has vastly improved during Gen. Sharif’s tenure, but the country remains vulnerable to internal strife, with militant groups carrying out major bomb and gun attacks. In recent months a hospital, a mosque and a police training college have been targeted.
Daesh, which has claimed several large-scale attacks in recent months, is also trying to establish a foothold in the nuclear armed nation of 190 million people.
The United States on Sunday issued a statement welcoming Bajwa’s appointment and said it wanted to assist Pakistan with its domestic and regional counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism efforts.
In a statement, the US Embassy in Islamabad also said it wanted to help “Pakistani authorities to honor their pledge to prevent the use of Pakistan’s soil for terrorist attacks against its neighbors.”
India has in recent months sought to isolate Pakistan after an Indian army base in the disputed Kashmir region was attacked and 18 soldiers killed in a September raid that New Delhi blames on Pakistan-based militants. Islamabad denies involvement.
Gen. Sharif will become the first army chief in more than 20 years to step down at the end of his term. Previous army chiefs have either obtained extensions or in the case of Gen. Pervez Musharraf, staged a coup.
One Cabinet minister told Reuters Bajwa was chosen because of his low-key approach and a belief by Prime Minister Sharif that he would shun the limelight, in contrast to his predecessor, while ceding more policy space to the civilian government.
The army plays a big role in Pakistani politics, including dominating foreign policy strategy on key areas such as relations with India, Afghanistan and the United States. The military also runs a vast business empire.
Zahid Hussain, a security analyst, said heightened tensions with India, kept inflamed by fierce cross-border shelling in the Kashmir region, means in the short term the army was likely to maintain a tight grip on foreign policy issues related to India.
“Since the tension is so high, Nawaz (Sharif) is not in a position to maneuver out of that,” Hussain said.
Bajwa, who was first commissioned in the army in 1980, has served in Kashmir and other regions bordering India but it is not clear if he will take a less hawkish approach to Pakistan’s historic foe.
Gen. Bikram Singh, a former head of India’s army who served with Bajwa in the Congo as part of a United Nations peacekeeping force, praised Bajwa’s conduct as a soldier during their time in Africa.
“In the international environment, his performance was professional, outstanding,” Singh told India Today TV channel.
But when reporters asked Singh if he expected Bajwa to alter Pakistan’s military policy, he said: “I do not see any change.”
Indian cancellation of defense equipment orders hurts investor sentiment: Experts
- New Delhi scrapped a $500 million deal for Israel’s Spike Anti-Tank Guided Missile. Israel had agreed to transfer the technology to India, and had set up a factory in a venture with an Indian company
- Modi wants the country to decrease its reliance on foreign firms, reduce its import bill and manufacture equipment in-house
NEW DELHI: The Indian government’s penchant for canceling or withdrawing tenders for defense equipment at the last minute is likely to hurt investor confidence in the country, experts said on Sunday.
New Delhi called off a $9 billion deal to co-develop with Russia a next-generation fighter aircraft, after the state-owned Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) said it would do the job in-house, Indian media reported this week.
Under the deal, a significant amount of the research would have been carried out in India. Russia had agreed to tailor the aircraft to Indian needs, and was to hand over all the technology, the Economic Times reported.
India is the world’s largest importer of defense equipment, and imports at least 90 percent of its equipment, including parts for assembly.
The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants the country to decrease its reliance on foreign firms, reduce its import bill and manufacture equipment in-house.
But India lacks much of the high-end technology needed for such equipment, which is why deals where foreign partners agree to share technology are useful for its long-term plans, experts say.
When such deals are canceled, “it greatly reduces confidence in India,” said Saurabh Joshi, editor of StratPost Media Pvt Ltd., a defense news website.
“We can’t willy-nilly… accept arguments that a particular equipment can be developed and produced indigenously before such tenders are withdrawn,” he added.
“There should be an adequate test to develop and produce indigenously. Otherwise, we’re simply postponing an acquisition process by 10 to 15 years, and it’s the armed forces that have to go without critical equipment until then.”
Experts say one reason for the government canceling orders could be a lack of funds. The Russian deal is not the only one to be jettisoned recently.
New Delhi scrapped a $500 million deal for Israel’s Spike Anti-Tank Guided Missile. Israel had agreed to transfer the technology to India, and had set up a factory in a venture with an Indian company. The reason given for the cancellation was the same: To develop the missiles indigenously.
A tender was also withdrawn for short-range surface-to-air missiles, with Israel’s SPYDER system having been the front-runner, experts said.
On average, it takes a tender at least six years to go through the various steps before the final purchase order can be placed.
Any company that loses a bid has to account for that time and investment to its head office and its board, Joshi said.