The ever-growing military role of the USA in Asia and the rise of China and India has radically transformed the security environment and strategic calculus in the region. This change in the regional security sphere has direct bearing on the strategic culture of South Asia, which is already very complex due to decades’ long enmity between two nuclear archrivals, India and Pakistan. The partition of Indian sub-continent stamped a shared knowledge that Pakistan and India are enemies, and they continue to behave so. This shared knowledge, along with scores of other unresolved issues like Kashmir, Rann of Kutch, Sir Creek, water dispute and Siachen, has contributed to formulate threat perception and response doctrine of the two neighbouring states.
In case of Pakistan’s threat perception, an expressed desire for parity with India in conventional and non-conventional means of response and a security doctrine predicated on “strategic depth in the west” in case of a conflict with India, shaped its (Pakistan) responses to security challenges, driven by, mostly out of manufactured perceptions rather ground realities. This flawed threat perception and response calculus put Pakistan on the path of becoming a national security state, dominated by the garrison mentality of its defence and security establishment. Thus both of these [mis]conceptions – thrust for parity with India and achieving strategic depth – continue to dominate local and foreign discourse about Pakistan.
The parity with India notion has its own deep roots. A shared history over thousand years, wherein the minority Muslims ruled the Hindu dominated sub-continent. Then independence in 1947, which resulted in the birth of Pakistan as a Muslim state, contributed very much to seek and realize parity with the earlier ruled Hindu majority, which emerged as an independent state of India, one day after the birth of Pakistan. Indian, due to its sheer large size and past antagonistic behaviour towards Muslims became a naturally perceivable enemy state for Pakistan. The grant of this status to India put Pakistan in a state of persistent security dilemma, wherein though being too small as compared to India in geographical, demographic and economic milieus; Pakistan tried to match India in military capability field and thus invited insistently self-inflicting disaster.
Meanwhile, Pakistan fell prey to the strategic depth conception due to the Indian strategic calculus, which is fundamentally based on renowned Indian strategic thinker, Kautilya’s (350-283 BC) philosophy. Kautilya in his famous book Arthashastra (treatise on military strategy), which became the corner stone of Indian strategic thinking suggests that “[Y]our neighbour is your enemy and the neighbour of your enemy is your friend.”[i] India is pursuing ambitious policy objectives in Afghanistan keeping in mind Kautilya’s military philosophy. Pakistan being apprehensive of Indian designs to encircle it by installing an Indian friendly regime on the western borders i.e. Afghanistan[ii], responded by the pursuit of strategic depth policy (with totally different objectives from the original policy goals) in order to contain the Indian influence. According to its new policy goals, Pakistan, though imprudently, not only sought to divorce India from Afghanistan, but tried to install a puppet regime in Kabul. The bid to realize this overly stretched policy of strategic depth put Pakistan in a collision course with regional and international powers, especially in the aftermath of September 11 attacks.
Against this backdrop of perceived security priorities by the Pakistan security establishment and radically changing ground realities, the security analysts and theorists of the world in general and Indian and Afghani in particular criticize Pakistan by invoking these two security [mis]calculus. They keep on castigating Pakistan without realizing little that the burden of unfolding security circumstances – a bloody security crisis stretching from the north to the south and a crippling economy – have not only diverted the focus of Pakistani security establishment from the past flawed notions, but also brought the security and political (Parliament) decision making elites closer through the unprecedented activism of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security in the backdrop of May 2, 2012, US raid inside Pakistan to kill Al-Qaeda chief, Osama bin Laden.
While, the Indian narrative denoting Pakistan’s security doctrine, in particular is enfolded in clichés that hardly reflect the ground realities of the present day Pakistan – an embattled country, struggling to a) fend off several challenges to its security and b) survive economic meltdown arising out of the domestic security crisis spanning the last ten years. Meanwhile, a keen student of world history does know that it is natural for states to seek parity with other states, and especially with its neighbours. Why does India spend over $40 billion on defence budget annually and keeps increasing it up to 15 percent per year? Isn’t it a quest for parity with China on the one hand and pushing Pakistan into a classical security dilemma? Aparna Pande’s “Pakistan’s Eternal Quest for Strategic Balance” is one such example. It seems like Indian analysts draw pleasure from Pakistan’s current woes, and invoke all possible scenarios to disparage Islamabad. She underlines that “Pakistan’s eternal search for military parity or strategic balance with a much larger neighbour has drained most of its resources without providing the security, the Pakistanis sue for.”[iii]
In order to justify his claim of Pakistani rush to seek parity with India, Ms Pande refers to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ findings in 2011 to assert that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is now the fourth largest in the world and ahead of countries like the United Kingdom. She says Pakistan has consistently refused to sign the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT).[iv] This she does to the total exclusion of India, which itself is shy off signing the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) and FMCT. On the contrary, Pakistan never hesitated to sign FMCT, but asked the world community, first to address the issue of existing fissile material stockpiles, lying with the world nuclear powers and especially with India.[v] Pakistan has always emphasized this point, since the existing fissile material stockpile disparity between India and Pakistan is so huge that it can easily tilt the ‘balance of terror’ equation in the favour of India.[vi] Moreover, the infamous Indo-US nuclear deal of October 2008 has further created frenzy inside the security establishment of Pakistan, as India would have huge stockpiles of fissile material from its reactors which are not under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspection and will easily divert it to military use.[vii]
With this quest on the part of India to alter the balance of power in its favour and unfolding geo-strategic and domestic security realities with taxing consequences for Pakistan; security analysts and theorists overlook a fundamental trait of state behaviour i.e. all states, like human beings, tend to have secure backyards. A state may wrap the idea in its self-serving diplomatic jargon but the basic philosophy revolves around the desire to have a secure and stable neighbourhood. History offers a plenty of examples of that. The US did that in Cuba in 1962 and as a result of 13 days’ standoff with the Soviet Union forced the latter to remove nuclear missiles from Cuba. India manifested similar behaviour more than once; like in 1971 it trained and armed the militant wing of Awami League in what was then East Pakistan to fight against Pakistan Army. It also helped Sri Lanka in crushing Tamils Tigers, since autonomous state for Tamils in Sri Lanka would have created serious troubles for India in suppressing Tamil led insurgency in its own mainland. Likewise, it consistently backed the Nepalese government in its fight against Maoists, again in this case, India acted out of its core national interest. Hence following the traditional course of state behaviour, Pakistan also supported Kashmiri freedom fighters in the 1980s and 1990s against India. It also used Pashtuns in Afghanistan to deny the space to the hostile states, especially India and Russia, in its backyard since the mid-1970s. But Pakistan’s strategy to seek safe and friendly backyards backfired, bringing plethora of existential challenges for the society and state itself.
Thus states do seek parity with its rival states and continue the quest to have secure and stable backyard so that it may not fall back on them at any given time. If that was not the case, why would India jack up its defence budget to over $40 billion – with an almost 18 percent annual increase – in an apparent attempt to catch up with China and completely overwhelm Pakistan? Isn’t it an Indian pursuit to match China in military capability sense? India keeps on increasing its defence budget despite the fact of fighting some 30 insurgencies across north-eastern India, particularly in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Kashmir, erupted mostly out of socio-economic discontent? What gave birth to about 68 major groups in India designated as terrorists? Nobody talks about the UNDP report that says around 37 percent of Indian population is living below the poverty line (more or less the same as Pakistan).
Pakistani quest to realize its security-centric paradigm, on the other hand, met with severe backlash— primarily because of the decline it has endured on the state and society level since its inception. Its problems are rooted primarily in undemocratic culture, and self-serving and imprudent policies of its civilian and military ruling elites. But imprudence of its rulers saw its climax during the former military dictator General Zia ul Haq’s tenure, when he volunteered to serve as the front-line state for the US-sponsored jihad against the Soviet Union. This earned him the legitimacy to run the state without the regard for civilian will, as well as the brazen authority to inject “Islamism” in the Constitution, and hence set in motion a process that has culminated in the multiple crises that the country faces today.
Then subsequent governments could not reverse this self-destructive security policy and pushed Pakistan deeper into the chasm of chaos and bloodshed. Though senior civilian and military leaders do not seek parity with India and strategic depth paradigm any longer, but the state cannot come out of the hole it dug for itself by pursuing these polices in the past. They have now realized that the tools Pakistan used for implementing strategic depth, such as Hizb-i-Islami leader Gulbdin Hekmatyar or Taliban leader Mullah Omar, are irrelevant in unfolding regional security environment. Now they have realized that the international community is not leaving Afghanistan lock stock and barrel, and even if it did, Taliban cannot be expected to retake Kabul. Against this backdrop of stalemate, the future of Afghanistan looks dangerously uncertain and the looming uncertainty will have serious repercussions for national security of Pakistan. Although international community and Afghan government is seeking Pakistan’s help in negotiating with the Taliban, but things seems difficult as theories of religious terrorism denotes that religious terrorists hardly believes in negotiations as they don’t like to share power.[viii]
Now Pakistan seems to have realized that hunting with proxies is no more possible in the new regional security order, since proxies will not sacrifice their lives and compromise their mission for the sake of Pakistan’s questionable and outdated security doctrine of strategic depth; therefore it should redefine its strategic goals and hence the tools to achieve them. Indeed Pakistan’s core strategic interests and its long-term salvation lie in putting the house in order first rather seeking the destruction of its enemies. It needs a pro-Pakistan security doctrine and should depart from the India-centric policies. A gradual change is possibly in the air, also discernible from the Indian Foreign Minister S M Krishna,’s recent statements ( — friendship between the two countries has become inevitable, especially after they have reconciled over several sensitive issues.”[ix] Krishna further emphasized that — “the acrimonious debate and slanging match between Pakistan and India will not help either country and that even global conditions require that both the countries maintain good bilateral relations.” Thus at a time, when mistakes in the past are falling back on Pakistan, it should adopt new level of understanding and strategic thinking to come in terms with peace for its sake and for its neighbours.
Pakistan’s foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar is also enthused by the positive vibes out of New Delhi. “We are encouraged by these statements and if the string of visits of Indian dignitaries ( Krishna is scheduled to visit Pakistan on Sept.7-9) continues this would imply New Delhi now appreciates what we are trying to achieve,” Ms Khar told a select gathering of writers at her office in Islamabad on August 2. “We have consciously changed the course (of relations) to trade and economic linkages to be able to move out of the mutual negative zone,” Ms Khar underscored, radiating the confidence that the Indo-Pak relations were on course for the better.
(Contributed by Ibrahim Khan,CRSS Research Fellow)
[i] Kautiliya, “The End of Six Fold Policy”, in Arthashastra, available at http://www.bharatadesam.com/literature/kautilya_arthashastra/arthashastra_7.php (accessed on July 23, 2012).
[ii] Qandeel Siddique, “The Future Policy of Pakistan towards Afghanistan”, DIIS Report, Available at: http://www.diis.dk/graphics/publications/reports2011/rp2011-08-pakistans-future-policy_web.pdf (Accessed on July 23, 2012).
[iii] Aparna Pande, “Pakistan’s eternal quest for strategic balance”, The Friday Times, July 20-26, 2012 – Vol. XXIV, No. 23, available at http://www.thefridaytimes.com/beta3/tft/article.php?issue=20120720&page=6
[v] Zia Mian and A.H. Nayyar, “Playing the Nuclear Game: Pakistan and the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty”. Available at: http://www.pk.boell.org/downloads/Arm_Control.pdf (Accessed on July 23, 2012).
[ix] “Friendship with Pakistan inevitable: SM Krishna”, The Express Tribune, July 26, 2012.
Tags: Afghanistan, Cuban Missile Crisis, diplomatic jargon, FMCT, Gulbudin Hekmatyar or Taliban leader Mullah Omar, Hina Rabbani Khar, India, India-Pakistan, insurgency, Kashmir dispute, Kautilya, Khar, Krishna, military parity, national interests, NPT, nuclear weapons, security dilemma, security paradigm, Siachen conflict, SM Krishna, strategic calculus, strategic thinking, terrorist proxies, threat perception, trade