The new head of Pakistan’s military took command of the country’s armed forces on Tuesday amid rising tensions with India over disputed Kashmir and as ties with Afghanistan remain rocky.
General Qamar Javed Bajwa was installed at a ceremony in the garrison town of Rawalpindi, replacing General Raheel Sharif, who stepped down after completing his three-year term.
In his first comments after assuming charge of the country’s army, Bajwa called for a resolution of the Kashmir dispute for the sake of regional stability.
But he also warned that any miscalculation on the part of India could be dangerous.
“I want to make it clear to India that taking our policy of constraint and patience as any sign of weakness will prove dangerous for itself,” he said.
Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder, reporting from Islamabad, said General Bajwa has inherited a complex set of problems with intensified ceasefire violations along the LoC, the de facto border dividing Indian and Pakistani-administered Kashmir, and tensions with Kabul.
“He is going to be very focused on what is happening on the LoC, and that he also has to deal with what is happening on the country’s western frontier with Afghanistan,” our correspondent said.
Bajwa was fourth in seniority on a list of five army generals sent to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and had been little discussed before he was selected.
According to the constitution, the prime minister can pick any officer from the list forwarded to him by the Defense Ministry.
Observers believe Bajwa will offer further support to Sharif’s efforts to improve ties with Pakistan’s neighbours, including Afghanistan and India.
Pakistan’s relations with Kabul have soured amid allegations from Afghan officials that Islamabad is sheltering the Taliban, who have intensified attacks against the government of President Ashraf Ghani.
Bajwa, who was commissioned in the 16 Baloch Regiment in October 1980, is a graduate of the Canadian Forces Command and Staff College in Canada, and the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.