Pakistan’s outgoing military chief warned India on Tuesday it would be dangerous to mistake his country’s “restraint” over recent tensions in disputed Kashmir for weakness, as he handed over power to his successor.
General Raheel Sharif spoke at a colorful ceremony welcoming incoming chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa at a stadium at Army headquarters in Rawalpindi.
“Unfortunately, in recent months, increasing state terrorism in [Indian] occupied Kashmir, and India’s aggressive steps have put the region’s peace in danger,” Sharif said. “I want to make it clear to India that considering our policy of restraint a weakness would be dangerous for her,” he said to applause. “This is reality, that in South Asia, lasting peace and progress is impossible without solution of the Kashmir issue. For that, international community’s special attention is necessary,” he added.
Tensions between nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan have spiraled following a deadly assault on an Indian army base in September that New Delhi blamed on Pakistan-based militants. India said it had responded to the September attack by carrying out “surgical strikes” across the heavily militarized border, sparking fury from Islamabad, which denied the strikes took place.
There have been repeated incidents of cross-border shelling and gunfire from both sides since, claiming the lives of dozens of people, including civilians.
Sharif spoke on Tuesday as Indian police said armed militants had launched a fresh attack near the border with Pakistan, killing two soldiers.
Officials said the attack took place in Nagrota in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, which borders Pakistan and has seen repeated outbreaks of cross-border firing in recent weeks, and blamed it on “terrorists.”
Pakistan on Saturday named Bajwa as its new military chief as Sharif stepped down from a three-year tenure, winning praise for respecting democracy even as many Pakistanis called for him to extend his term.
Military bands played as uniformed soldiers marched at the ceremony on Tuesday, where the outgoing chief gives his wooden cane to his successor, symbolizing the handover of power.