Sandhurst: The visit of Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa to the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst is being seen as a strategic shift away by Islamabad from China and towards the West because of the country’s economic compulsions.

General Bajwa is the first ever Pakistani Army Chief to be given this honour of being the sovereign representative of the queen of the United Kingdom during the passing-out parade at the Military Academy Sandhurst which is the equivalent of the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun.

He also reportedly met other senior dignitaries in the United Kingdom including top UK Defence and intelligence officials. Facing a severe economic crunch, Pakistan is not getting any financial assistance from its close ally, China. The multi-billion-dollar investment in the name of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) failed to boost Pakistan’s economy. In fact China has now stopped all funding and Pakistan has seen the fate of Sri Lanka which fell right into the China-created debt trap.

Earlier this year, the Pakistan Army Chief reached out to the United States after the exit of Imran Khan as Prime Minister. He said that the army is not on the same page as (Imran) Khan on relations with the United States. Bajwa also spoke of better relations with the EU and the UK during the political changeover in Pakistan.

Pakistan has been facing economic sanctions from the West for its support and funding to terrorist organizations and the Pakistan Army chief is trying to balance ties between China and the West with his top priority being to find the money for the funds’ starved army.

Recently, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reached its preliminary agreement with Islamabad to revive a $6 billion bailout package. Pakistan and IMF originally signed the accord in 2019, but the release of a slightly over $1 billion tranche has been on hold since earlier this year.

Many analysts see General Bajwa’s recent visit to the UK as his personal image-building exercise among the Western nations.

Haider Mehdi, a Pakistani political analyst based in Canada said in his video statement, ” The world knows the reality of Pakistan as what is happening out here related to civil rights, human rights. The country has an unannounced martial law. Why was he invited to Sandhurst? It is because he wanted to build his image among the western nations. It is also to build the image of General Bajwa within Pakistan”.

Some observers call it a strategic shift but many have criticised the UK for hosting General Bajwa as chief guest at the prestigious Royal Military Academy – a person responsible for human rights abuses in his own country.

Exiled Pakistani journalist Taha Siddiqui tweeted, “Such Western powers are complicit with human rights #abuse in Pakistan if they invite a man like General #Bajwa to speak as chief guest. Shame on #Sandhurst UK”.

Pakistan Army and its intelligence wing are widely engaged in extrajudicial killings, tortures and kidnappings of political activists, intellectuals and students from different provinces of the country.

Due to ongoing military operations in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, a large number of civilians have been killed by the Pakistan Army.

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