In a gesture that has taken India by surprise, Pakistan's army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa has urged his country's lawmakers to try to improve relations with India, assuring them that their efforts would be fully backed by the army.
"The military is ready to back political leadership's initiative for normalisation of relations with India," Gen Bajwa said at the senate committee of the whole assembly during his first appearance before a parliamentary forum on Tuesday.
Gen Bajwa was invited by senate chairman Raza Rabbani and was accompanied by Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Naveed Mukhtar as well as senior aides Major General Sahir Shamshad Mirza and Major General Asim Munir. The session continued for nearly four-and-a-half hours.
At the same time, Gen Bajwa reminded the legislators that a large part of Indian military deployments was against Pakistan, even though it cited other threats.
He also recalled that India was fomenting instability and terrorism in Pakistan and had to this end developed a strong nexus with Afghan intelligence agency National Directorate of Security (NDS).
Some commentators said Gen Bajwa's remarks were a consequence of pressure from the US to improve ties with India. His offer was particularly significant because Indians allege that the Pakistan army has been blocking peace efforts.
The Indian response is keenly awaited, especially since Pakistan-bashing is a major plank of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party government, as witnessed in the recent Gujarat state elections.
Gen Bajwa said that relations with all neighbours needed to be normalised.
According to a couple of senators quoted by leading local daily Dawn, Bajwa urged the political leaders to try and improve relations with India and assured that the efforts will be fully supported by the Pakistan army.