Saluting wisdom

General Kayani’s call for peace and a resolution of all issues, including Siachen, is no small matter.

Editorial April 19, 2012

The comments made by Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani after he visited the site of the devastating avalanche at the Gayari sector are a rarity and rather pertinent to the needs and interests of Pakistan. General Kayani needs to be saluted for suggesting that Siachen, with its virtually inhabitable terrain be vacated by troops from both sides and progress towards peace be made with India. Such a proposal, coming from the army chief, is virtually revolutionary in terms of its content. The army has traditionally been regarded as a body dominated by hawks, unwilling to consider friendly ties with India. Against this backdrop, General Kayani’s call for peace and a resolution of all issues is no small matter.

Just as important was his suggestion that the defence budget should be cut and more ought to be spent on development. His acknowledgement that the strength of a country lay in its people indicates a vital change in outlook towards relations with India. For decades people have pointed this out at various forums and spoken at length about the benefits this would reap. The realisation that our nation will progress, not through military might alone, but also through developing the tremendous potential of our people, is a significant one. Many nations have discovered that the will and strength of their people count more than the power of arms. We must capitalise on this notion immediately.

A window of opportunity has been provided by the army chief’s comments. We must now take advantage of the comments made by Kayani. The cooperation of the military in building a system where more resources can be allocated for development and taken away from defence would be invaluable. The power of the army has long been seen as an obstacle to reallocating resources and also to building peace with India. It now seems that an impediment may have been removed and the path for greater institutional cooperation may have been laid. Let us not allow this opportunity to go to waste.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 20th, 2012.

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gp65 | 9 years ago | Reply

@Mustafa Moiz: "We can’t do it on our own. If we could we would have decades ago. India needs to step forward too."

Bangladesh has a much smaller army than Pakistan, has India attacked it or tried to snatch their land? What about Nepal and Bhutan? Answer is No, no and no. If Pakistan feels that it is better for Pakistani citizens to spend less on arms and more on education, health and internal law and order it should do so. India is not going to change its defence policies just to suit Pakistan. But historically India has not attacked other countries. IF using this fact Pakistan wants to spend less on defense well and good. If it wants to continue to spend highly on arms with the idea that some day it can snatch KAshmir from India, you can continue to dream on.

One basic set of facts you need to consider is that India's GDP is 9 times that of Pakistan and tax to GDP ratio is double that of Pakistan. In other words India collects 18 times the tax revenue as Pakistan. Keep that in mind while making a decision about your defence expenditure and foreign policy.

gp65 | 9 years ago | Reply

@Falcon: "I think political leadership should use this unprecedented opportunity to negotiate curtailment of defense expenditure before Gen. Kayani’s retirement next year."

For such changes to last they have to be institutional and cannot depend on an individual. Even if pliticians negotiate something with Kayani, =what is the guarantee that his successor will not reverse course? Musharraf had almost reached a solution for Kashmir but Kayani when he initially came in took a 180 degree turn reverting to the India is an arch enemy theme and also activating non-state actors that were kept under tight lead by Musharraf.

But overall I do share your hope that over a period of time, if Pakistani civilian and army leadership step back from their revisionist stance, it will make life better for everyone on this subcontinent.

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