ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Imran Khan yesterday granted a fresh three-year term to army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa as tensions with India soared to new levels.

Prime Minister Imran Khan said the extension was given “in view of the regional security environment” after India changed the status of disputed Kashmir and merged the held territory into its union.

Officials said the decision was taken due to the situation along the eastern border, nuclear threats from India and Afghan peace talks.

“General Qamar Javed Bajwa is appointed Chief of Army Staff for another term of three years from the date of completion of current tenure. The decision has been taken in view of the regional security environment,” a notification from the PM’s House said.

General Bajwa was appointed the chief of Pakistan Army by then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to replace Raheel Sharif, in November 2016.

His extension marks the second time in nearly a decade. Earlier, it was former army chief Ashfaq Pervez

Kayani whose traditional three-year term was extended.

The service extension of the serving COAS comes as tensions have skyrocketed with New Delhi.

US President Donald Trump had urged the

 nuclear-armed rivals over the weekend to come back to the negotiating table, conveying to Prime Minister Imran Khan the importance of “reducing tensions.”

Both Pakistan and India have controlled portions of the former princely state of Kashmir since independence in 1947. The dispute over the Muslim-majority region has been the spark for two major wars and countless clashes between them.

Earlier this year, they again came close to all-out conflict, after an attack in Indian-held Kashmir in February was claimed by Jaish-e-Mohammed, igniting tit-for-tat air strikes.

The Pakistani military is also believed to be playing a vital role in ongoing peace talks between the US and Taliban that aim to secure a withdrawal of American troops in exchange for insurgent promises that Afghanistan will not be used as a safe haven for groups such as Al-Qaeda or Daesh - the so-called IS.

Pakistan’s influence over Taliban, who have waged an insurgency since their ouster from power by US-led forces in 2001, is seen as key in facilitating a political settlement with the government of President Ashraf Ghani.

Defence analyst Talat Masood, a former Lt. General, said the main reason behind the extension was ‘continuity.’ “Under these circumstances (tension with India), the change in command was hard to imagine,” he said.

General Masood said there was an excellent understanding between PM Khan and General Bajwa. He said a huge change in Afghan was also expected so the continuity was needed at the military’s top level.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi lauded the decision of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s about extension in service of Army chief and said that the decision will give a message of national unity.

Speaking to journalists here, FM Qureshi said that the PM, keeping in view the regional situation, used his constitutional powers and granted three years extension in General Bajwa’s service.

“The decision has been taken due to the security situation,” he said, adding the Kashmir situation was deteriorating every day.

“The move will give a message that Pakistan’s civil and military leadership are on the same page,” he added.