Let Pakistan Army chief come through government for talks: Gen Bipin Rawat

Harinder Baweja  New Delhi Updated: Jan 24, 2019

The chief of the Indian Army, Gen Bipin Rawat, on Wednesday said that his Pakistani counterpart Gen. Qamar Bajwa will have to make any approach for talks only through the Indian government, dismissing reports that an overture was made to him by the Pakistan Army chief last year.

“Let Gen Qamar Bajwa approach me through the Indian government, and we will take a decision on whether to talk or not. I am neither saying yes, nor no,” Gen Rawat said.

“I am a soldier and we talk straight. We will take a call if I am approached,’’ Gen. Rawat said, before going on to indicate that terror and talks cannot be delinked.

Several media reports, including one in the New York Times last September, quoted Western diplomatic and Pakistani sources as saying that Gen Bajwa, “concerned about Pakistan’s international isolation and faltering economy, quietly reached out to archrival India about resuming peace talks, but the response was tepid”. According to the newspaper, the outreach was directed at Gen Rawat.

The two army chiefs served together in a UN Peacekeeping force in Congo a decade ago, that report added.

“I am the chief of the Indian army. The government’s stand is my stand. There are many questions that need to be answered. I will ask him if he [Gen Bajwa] is going to take action against the likes of Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar,” Gen Rawat said.

India has long held that Saeed and Azhar, the heads of terror outfits Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), which export terror into India, are proxies of the Pakistan Army. LeT was behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks, and JeM was involved in the attack on the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot in 2016.

Peace talks between India and Pakistan have been derailed following multiple terror attacks, and India’s position is that talks and terror cannot go hand in hand.

“When anything goes wrong in Kashmir, all of you are quick to blame the Indian Army. Why not blame the Pakistani army, which is inciting people on the ground?” Gen Rawat asked.

India believes Pakistan is funding the youth who pelt stones at the security forces.

Pakistan’s newly elected Prime Minister Imran Khan offered an olive branch to India in July, 2018, soon after he took over, and said he was willing to take two steps, if India took one step. India agreed to a meeting of the two foreign ministers, Sushma Swaraj and Shah Mahmood Qureshi, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September last yearbut pulled out abruptly citing the ‘brutal’ killings of three policemen in Kashmir as well as the release of postal stamps ‘glorifying’ slain militant commander Burhan Wani.

Several policy strategists, including former Research & Analysis Wing chief AS Dulat have called for talks between the army chiefs of the two countries but there has been no official response from the Indian government.

Reacting to Rawat’s comments, Dulat said, “There are several ways in which messages for talks are sent. India needs to make up its mind on whether it wants to talk or not. Don’t forget, even enemies like the US and North Korea came together to forge a fresh start.” ( HT )