Islamabad, April 20 (IANS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani's statements on cutting expenditures on defence and using them instead to uplift the people has been lauded by Pakistani dailies, with one saying that the army chief's words on "the need for peace with India may open up new possibilities".
The News International in an editorial showered "praise and admiration" on the general for becoming "the first army chief in our history to talk so pragmatically and positively on cutting expenditures on defence and using them instead to uplift the people".
Pakistan's leading daily Dawn observed that with General Kayani's statements in favour of the demilitarisation of Siachen, "there is now a publicly stated consensus on the political - government and opposition - and military sides that the world's highest theatre of conflict should come to an end".
Both dailies hoped that the withdrawal of troops from Siachen, the world's highest battlefield, could become the starting point for talks with India.
The News said that General Kayani's unexpected comments "offer a glimmer of hope for the future".
"We can only wish there were more people in powerful places willing to think in the same fashion. Perhaps General Kayani's example will persuade them to do so," it said.
"Kayani's words on defence spending, development and the need for peace with India may open up new possibilities that we had not imagined possible before and we must hope that they will be followed up on by the government," the daily said.
Stating that General Kayani has said "just what we needed to hear", the daily said that the issue of demilitarisation of the frozen reaches of Siachen, "brought up before with India, could be used as the starting point for talks that might help us move towards closer ties with our neighbour to the East, making it easy for us to spend less on defence and more on development".
The Dawn said that with another round of talks on the Siachen issue due with India soon, "this may be the time to push for a political settlement to a conflict that few even in India believe makes sense".
"A key point is that Gen Kayani's statements were not limited to Siachen but referred to the overall framework in which the defence of the country should be ensured. To hear an army chief so openly talk about how the defence of a country was not dependent on just soldiers and weaponry but also on the robustness of its society and economy was a welcome nod to reality," it stressed.
It went on to say that to actually arrive at a situation where "Pakistan spends less on defence, however, remains a major challenge".
"A major factor would be to what extent the fears and suspicions on the country's eastern border can be reduced. Direct trade is a potential game-changer but as with any move in which there will be winners and losers, there is still some way to go before it becomes an irreversible reality," it added.
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