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With a hardliner at the helm of the ISI, India set to re-strategise Pakistan policy


New Delhi, Oct 16: India's response to the appointment of Lieutenant General Asim Munir as the new ISI chief was a tepid one. Several officers, both retired and within the establishment that OneIndia spoke with said that they had no new expectations from Munir and he would continue from where his predecessor had left off.

Asim Munir

What makes Munir's appointment an interesting one is that he was handpicked by General Qamar Javed Bajwa. Moreover this was the first major call taken by the General after he took over as the Pakistan army chief in November 2016. While in the past too the ISI chief's have been handpicked by the army, this time around there was a slight difference.

Asim Munir is new ISI chief and why India expects nothing from him

Convention demanded that the army sends three names to the Prime Minister, who then choses and appoints the chief. This time Pakistan Prime Minister, Imran Khan did not have that privilege as only the name of Munir was sent to him. This sums up the allegation that the entire election in which Imran Khan won was said to be stage managed by the Pakistan army.

The army chief's guy:

Several reports in the Pakistan media have described Munir as the army chief's guy. Munir had always been General Bajwa's go to man. A Hafiz-e-Quran ( person who has memorised the Quran) and the recipient of the Hilal-e-Imtiaz, the second highest civilian award given to both civilians and military officials, Munir's tenure would be an interesting one.

His close association with Bajwa began when he was posted in Gilgit-Baltistan as a force commander. General Bajwa was the head of the Corps X in Gilgit-Baltistan and Munir reported directly to him.

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Munir's three major challenges would be India, China and Saudi Arabia. He has expertise in dealing with the Saudis and Chinese. His posting at Gilgit-Baltistan saw him being closely associated with the Chinese as it was here that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor starts.

He was also posted as a Lieutenant Colonel in Saudi Arabia. This means that he has first hand experience in dealing with two of Pakistan's most strategic partners. The Pakistan army on the other hand has major expectations from him especially when it comes to Saudi and China. Pakistan wants its military interests to be protected at any cost and this is when the role of Munir would come in having dealt with both those countries.

Danger signs:

A report in the Asia Times describes Munir as a hardliner. He was a hardliner when he was in the army. He would introduce the same approach in the ISI as well. This would mean that the ISI would increase its control over the people and would involve itself more in civilian matters.

The increasing ISI hand in civilian matters had come in for criticism by the Islamabad High Court. The court had noted the involvement of the ISI in the disqualification and imprisonment of former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif.

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This approach by Munir would have a direct bearing on India as well. The battle is on at Kashmir and Pakistan has shown no signs of relenting. The Indian Army too has upped the ante and in the wake several intelligence reports suggesting increased infiltration, the days ahead are hard. Munir, according to Indian agencies would engineer several more acts of terror in India, especially at Kashmir. His prime focus would be to keep Kashmir on the boil for as long as possible.

Moreover with Imran Khan having very little or no say in key matters, it is clear that the ISI and army in Pakistan would seek to take more control over the situation on the Indo-Pak border and in Kashmir as well. Indian officials say that they do not expect any change in the style of the ISI's functioning under Munir. He is a hardliner in terms of both his religious nature and also his style of functioning. This would only mean that the ISI will get more difficult to deal with in the days to come, observers in India say.

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