ISLAMABAD - Shortly after assuming command of Pakistan Army as 16th chief of army staff on Tuesday, General Qamar Javed Bajwa sent out a surprising peace message even as almost on daily basis India is violating ceasefire across the Line of Control in Kashmir.

Gen Bajwa, who has wide experience of LoC affairs, sounded optimistic that situation at the Line of Control would improve soon.

Answering a question during an informal brief chat with media persons about frequent incidents of unprovoked firing by Indian troops and violation of ceasefire at the LoC, the new army chief expressed the hope that the tensions would ease soon.

Asked to comment on the statement of former Indian army chief General Bikram Singh in which he praised Bajwa, the army chief thanked him for his appreciation.

Gen Bajwa also called on the media for their support, asking them to play a part in keeping the morale of the troops high. He said he would be holding a meeting with representatives of the media soon, adding he had a heavy responsibility on his own shoulders and that he would not let down the nation.

Earlier, the outgoing Army Chief Raheel Sharif handed over the traditional Malacca Cane to 57-year-ol General Bajwa symbolising the change of command at an impressive ceremony at General Headquarters in Rawalpindi.

In his farewell address, the outgoing army chief warned India it would be dangerous for New Delhi to consider Pakistan’s restraint over LoC violations as weakness.

“Unfortunately, in the recent months, the increasing state terrorism in Indian-held Kashmir and India’s aggressive steps have endangered the region’s peace,” Gen Raheel said.

He made it clear to India that considering Pakistan’s policy of restraint a weakness would be dangerous for her,” he said amid applause. He said this was a reality that lasting peace and progress in South Asia was impossible without solution to the Kashmir problem and for that international community’s special attention was necessary.

For regional peace, he said, issues should be resolved politically.

Gen Raheel also warned those conspiring to sabotage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project. “Enemies of the CPEC should better think of benefitting from it,” he added.

“The departure of the first cargo from Gwadar port has shown this journey cannot be halted now,” he warned.

Tensions between the nuclear-armed south Asian neighbours increased a few months before Raheel Sharif’s retirement and after India claimed in September that it had carried out ‘surgical strikes’ across the heavily militarised border, sparking fury from Islamabad which denied the strikes had taken place.

Since then there have been repeated incidents of cross-border shelling and gunfire from both sides, claiming the lives of dozens of people, including civilians.

Gen Raheel who earned huge popularity for turning the tide against militancy said his every decision was motivated by national interests and priorities. Raheel said he believed in stability and supremacy of institutions. It was his efforts that all institutions worked together for security and prosperity of the country, he added.

He thanked the entire nation, armed forces, Pakistan Rangers, Levies, security agencies and police for fully backing and supporting the mission to defend and secure the motherland.

Raheel said challenges of the country had not ended as the security situation of the region remained complicated. He said there was a need to remember sacrifices of the martyrs to stabilise the successes of the recent years.

He said it was need of the hour for the nation and the institutions to work in harmony towards external threats. For this purpose, internal weaknesses, including criminality, extremism and corruption, would have to be eradicated.

The outgoing army chief said implementation of the National Action Plan would continue till realisation of the goal of complete peace.

He said the Army fought a successful war against terror, giving a new hope for peace to the people of Pakistan and the region. He also praised his successor for being capable of taking tough decisions.

The ceremony, held at Army Hockey Stadium, was attended amongst others by National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, members of the federal cabinet, services’ chiefs, former services’ chiefs, parliamentarians and senior civil and military officials.

The military band presented tunes of folk and national songs for the amusement of the audience, also included foreign dignitaries.

The outgoing army chief inspected the guard of honour upon his arrival at the venue. Prior to the ceremony, Gen Raheel laid a floral wreath at Yadgar-e-Shuhada.