News Analysis |
Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who is on an official visit to Brunei, held meetings with country’s top civilian and military leadership on Monday, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement.
ISPR said that the COAS held a meeting with Sultan of Brunei Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Muizzaddin Waddaulah, wherein the two figures discussed matters of mutual interest including bilateral defense cooperation and military-to-military ties between both the countries. General Bajwa also met Deputy Defence Minister Major General (Retd) Dato Paduka Seri Haji Awang Halbi bin Mohd Yussof, it said.
After the meeting with Sultan of Brunei, the army chief met with the military leadership of the country including commander of Brunei’s Land and Royal Air Force. The government of Brunei acknowledged Pakistan’s achievements in the War on Terror and lauded its efforts to root out terrorism from Pakistan.
The civilian government must take measures to strengthen Pakistan’s foreign policy. Foreign Office must be overhauled and a comprehensive foreign policy must be devised to secure Pakistan’s interests abroad.
Pakistan and Brunei enjoy cordial relations primarily because both are Muslim countries and are members of OIC. Relationship between both countries was bolstered in 2008 after the formation of Brunei-Pakistan Friendship Association (BPFA). Defense cooperation between both countries is also strong. Both countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Defense Cooperation in 2004. Moreover, hundreds of Brunei cadets have received training in Pakistan Military Academies.
In November 2008, Pakistan’s Defense Secretary Lt. Gen (retd) Athar Ali paid an official visit to Brunei to boost defense ties between the two states. Since then, both states have participated in various military exercises and exhibitions.
The recent visit by Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa is set to further strengthen ties between the two important Muslim countries. This is his sixth important visit to a foreign country this year. In January 2018, Gen. Bajwa visited Sri Lanka while in February; he visited Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan where he met top civilian and military leaders. He also visited Munich where he addressed the 54th Munich Security Conference in Germany on Feb 18, 2018. COAS also visited Oman on 22 March, 2018.
These important visits in 2018 are a continuation of visits by Gen. Bajwa in 2017. In the previous year, Gen. Qamar Bajwa visited Australia, Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia in addition to several other countries. These visits have helped in improvement of ties between Pakistan and its allies.
This vacuum is currently being filled by Gen. Bajwa who has successfully normalized ties between Pakistan and its allies in addition to exploring new avenues of military and civilian cooperation for Pakistan.
Gen. Bajwa’s Military Diplomacy
Military diplomacy may be defined as a set of activities carried out mainly by the representatives of the defense department, as well as other state institutions, aimed at pursuing the foreign policy interests of the state in the field of security and defense policy, and whose actions are based on the use of negotiations and other diplomatic instruments.
With the rapidly changing global geo-political environment, Pakistan Army is determined to dispel misconceptions on its role in the War on Terror and to enhance ties between Pakistan and its allies.
Critics of Pakistan Army have always accused it of meddling in country’s foreign policy and sidelining the civilian governments when it comes to country’s relations with international community. However, it is also a fact that the civilian governments in Pakistan have always exhibited ineptness when dealing with the foreign policy of the country.
Pakistan’s military, which is a powerful institution, held sway over major policy decisions in the country. However, this has changed considerably under the leadership of successive military chiefs. Gen. Kayani, Gen Raheel, and Gen. Bajwa kept the military away from politics and focused on the modernization of the Army and counter-terrorism/insurgency operations in FATA and Balochistan. This has helped in strengthening democracy while at the same time in the enhancement of military’s capabilities.
Defense cooperation between both countries is also strong. Both countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Defense Cooperation in 2004. Moreover, hundreds of Brunei cadets have received training in Pakistan Military Academies.
Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa who took over the military command from Gen. Raheel Sharif has shunned grand public appearances, focusing instead on promoting defense diplomacy. He has successfully bridged the gap in Pakistan’s foreign policy which is left due to the current government’s lack of interest in dealing with this all-important matter.
The ousted premier Nawaz Sharif kept the foreign ministry to himself which considerably weakened Pakistan’s foreign policy. Foreign Office lost its importance and the government was unable to translate the military’s achievements on ground into successful foreign policy tool to enhance Pakistan’s image worldwide and gain concessions from major power centers such as USA and EU. Despite losing thousands of lives in war on terror in addition to more than $123 billion, Pakistan faced constant threats of international isolation and sanctions.
The current army chief decided to reverse this trend and promote Pakistan’s interests worldwide. His first three visits after taking command of Pakistan Army were to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Relationship between Pakistan and GCC were hampered after the formers reluctance in sending military troops to fight in Yemen. India capitalized on this thaw in relations and made inroads into the GCC. Gen. Bajwa’s visits resulted in the normalization of ties between Pakistan and its gulf allies.
Afterwards, he visited Iran in a historic visit which resulted in reduction of tensions between the two neighbors which were strained after Pakistan’s decision to join IMCTC and its former Army Chief appointment as its head. Gen. Bajwa reassured Iran that it joined Islamic Military Alliance only to fight terrorism and not to isolate it.
Moreover, Gen. Bajwa’s several visits to Afghanistan have secured multiple objectives for Pakistan. Firstly, he made Afghan government realize that only a secure border between the two countries can end the cross border terrorism and smuggling. As a result, the Afghan government reluctantly agreed to the fencing of Durand Line or at least hesitated from publically denouncing it. Secondly, the provision of the concrete evidence to Afghan government about the existence of TTP hideouts in Afghanistan have resulted in several small operations and drone strikes on the beleaguered group. Finally, the recent offer made by President Ashraf Ghani to Afghan Taliban for dialogue is also the result of the tireless efforts of Gen. Bajwa who assured the Afghan government that only negotiations can end the bloodshed in Afghanistan and bring peace in the region. China’s offer of including Afghanistan in CPEC also resulted in reduction of tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Bajwa kept the military away from politics and focused on the modernization of the Army and counter-terrorism/insurgency operations in FATA and Balochistan. This has helped in strengthening democracy while at the same time in the enhancement of military’s capabilities.
President Trump’s new South Asia Policy which called for India’s increased role in Afghanistan threatened to isolate Pakistan internationally while sidelining Pakistan completely in the war-torn country. Gen. Bajwa rose to the challenge and pursued military diplomacy to secure Pakistan’s interests in the region. He also dissuaded USA from totally sidelining Pakistan.
Should Gen. Bajwa end Military Diplomacy?
Pakistan Army is criticized for interfering in the foreign policy of the country. GVS spoke to a source close to Pakistan Army (who requested not to be named) on this issue. He stated that Army does not want to intervene in country’s politics or foreign policy and this is clear from the actions of Pakistan Army in recent years. However, he mentioned that military circles are protesting that government has abandoned foreign policy and someone has to fill the vacuum. This vacuum is currently being filled by Gen. Bajwa who has successfully normalized ties between Pakistan and its allies in addition to exploring new avenues of military and civilian cooperation for Pakistan.
The civilian government must take measures to strengthen Pakistan’s foreign policy. Foreign Office must be overhauled and a comprehensive foreign policy must be devised to secure Pakistan’s interests abroad. This can be done by bringing bureaucratic and policy reforms. Appointment of Ambassadors to important countries must be made on merit. Once this is done, Army itself will be forced to focus only on the defense of the country.