ISLAMABAD: Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who has acknowledged his force is “India-centric” due to unresolved issues between the two countries, will continue playing a key role in shaping foreign policy after the three-year extension granted to him as Pakistan’s Army chief.
Announcing the government’s decision to extend Gen Kayani’s tenure, the Prime Minister, Mr Yousuf Raza Gilani said the move was necessary to ensure continuity of military leadership for ongoing operations against terrorists.
Mr Gilani also noted that Gen Kayani had always emphasised that democracy is crucial for peace and progress in Pakistan. Though political commentators often speak of Pakistan’s “power troika” comprising the President, Prime Minister and army chief, insiders in the government acknowledge that it is the publicity-shy Gen Kayani who has emerged as the most important player in shaping Pakistan’s foreign policy, especially relations with India and the US.
A day before the Foreign Minister, Mr Shah Mahmood Qureshi spoke to his Indian counterpart, Mr S M Krishna on May 11 to set up a meeting, he went to the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi and held consultations with Gen Kayani, officials said. On March 16, Gen Kayani chaired a meeting of federal secretaries at the General Headquarters to prepare Pakistan’s agenda for the Strategic Dialogue with the US. More recently, the Pakistan Army has played a key role in facilitating talks between the Haqqani terrorist network and the Afghan President, Mr Hamid Karzai.
Though the army chief has always played a key role in Pakistan’s politics and foreign policy, Gen Kayani is probably the first chief who has done so while always staying away from the limelight.
The 58-year-old rarely grants interviews to the media but in an interaction with editors in February, he said his force was “India-centric” because of the unresolved issues between New Delhi and Islamabad.
Gen Kayani described India’s Cold Start military doctrine as a “very offensive” strategy and an issue that needs to be addressed in bilateral relations. He also expressed concern over the training of Afghan troops by India.
While the Pakistan Army has led the operations against the Taliban in the northwestern Swat valley and the volatile tribal belt, it has given no indication that it will crack down on anti-India groups like the Lashker-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, diplomatic sources said. Shortly after assuming office in November 2007, Gen Kayani initiated several measures to insulate the military from politics.