Indian media: New Pakistan army chief

Media hope new Pakistan army chief will be more "pragmatic" towards India
Image caption There is hope in the India media that the new Pakistan army chief will adopt a more "pragmatic" approach towards India

The consensus in the Indian media is that the appointment of a general, considered to be a moderate, as head of the army in neighbouring Pakistan could help improve often-strained relations between the two countries.

Lt Gen Raheel Sharif will take over as new Pakistani army commander on Friday.

Newspapers say the appointment comes at a crucial time for Islamabad - ahead of the beginning of the pull-out of foreign troops from neighbouring Afghanistan in 2014, and at time when Pakistan has to deal with its own terrorism problem and the Taliban.

Commentators, however, add a third item to the list of priorities for the new Pakistani army chief - relations with India.

Writing in The Tribune, Pakistani author and columnist Nasim Zehra says that "India and Afghan policies" will be Gen Sharif's "acid test".

An article in The Pioneer predicts that the army chief will play a "crucial role" in Pakistan's "diplomatic parleys" with India, the US, China and the Gulf states.

The paper recalls that Gen Sharif had been a "key player" in developing new army doctrines, "where the infantry training manual has essentially been re-written under his watch to move the largest fighting arm and backbone of the army from the traditional India-centric role to a more diversified counter-insurgency capacity".

"India hopes for pragmatism," reads a headline in The Asian Age. "The Indian Army is hoping that the Pakistan Army Chief-designate will take a more pragmatic line on relations with India instead of the hawkish and confrontationist stance of his predecessor - current Pakistan Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani," says the paper.

Relations with Japan and China

Media also feel that Japanese Emperor Akihito's six-day visit to India from 30 November could "signal or augment a shift in Japan's foreign policy", and create an alliance to counter-balance China's influence in the region.

The visit is "being seen as a move by Japan to remove any 'psychological gaps' that exist in forging closer ties with India," The Business Standard reports.

"Coming as the visit does at a time when both India and Japan believe they have been at the receiving end of Beijing's high-handedness, diplomatic sources were hard-pressed to convince media persons that there was no China angle in the emperor choosing to visit India," The Times of India points out.

Commenting on the air defence zone that China declared recently over disputed islands in the East China Sea, The New Indian Express feels that "New Delhi should stoutly support the US and Japan and make it clear that China cannot unilaterally appropriate airspace rights".

Italian Marines on trial

Meanwhile, the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is probing the case against two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen, has suggested that they should be "charged under an Act that mandates the death penalty", the Hindustan Times reports.

The paper adds that this has created tension between the NIA and the foreign ministry, as Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid had assured the Italian government that the marines would not be charged with the death penalty.

The marines are accused of shooting the fishermen off the Kerala coast in February 2012. They were guarding an Italian oil tanker and said they mistook the fishermen for pirates.

"Suffering" Indians

Moving to social affairs, The Economic Times reports that, according to a Gallup survey, one in every four Indians is suffering due to the country's "poor economic performance in recent years".

"Average suffering in India more than doubled between 2006 to 2008 and 2010 to 2012," the poll found out.

And finally, India's first women's bank - Bhartiya Mahila Bank - is set to offer free health insurance to all its female customers, the Hindustan Times reports.

"The free health insurance cover is aimed at pulling as many women as possible who currently do not have a bank account into the banking fold," Rajiv Takru, financial service secretary, was quoted by the paper as saying.

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