Pakistan’s Evolving Security Paradigm and its Future Course
By Brig® Mehboob Qadir
World War 2 ended with a horrible bang; Nagasaki and Hiroshima were wiped out of existence with nuclear bombs and the devastation was of catastrophic proportions likes of which, the world had never seen before and one earnestly wishes never does again. Millions of people were simply incinerated to charcoal, buildings evaporated and whole blocks leveled like houses of sand before a steam roller. Those who survived were disabled for life and the land has become unusable for thousands of years due to residual radio activity. Nothing grows there as nothing can grow in that nuclear wasteland.
Only the formless ghosts of those who perished as a result of the nuclear attack may be wandering around every now and then wondering about the ultimate human cruelty? What had happened to all the sermons of humanity, kindness and compassion? Where had those fiery speakers and saintly campaigners of goodness and charity gone when they decided to bomb these cities? However what goes around comes around. Right now there is some important business to attend to at home.
There is a particularly pernicious government that has risen to power in neighboring India whose ambition coupled with ominous submission to the hard crusted savants of RSS to the extent of being physically made to appear before them and account for their performance in governance is rather worrying. That kind of culpable accountability before the mighty doctrinaires on their high podium used to take place in Stalinist Soviet Union, Nazi Germany or to a lesser extent in Khomenite Iran. But that too not with so much of grim authority as was exercised by RSS high command over Modi and his Cabinet ministers recently at Ahmad Abad( Modi Blows His Cover-and the Loss is India’s by MK Bhadrakumar , September 10,2015).This should be practically a terrible dilution of India’s prized secularism. ‘In fact following the cross examination of government ministers,the RSS spokesmen in their media briefings interalia brought up the explosive doctrine of Akhand Bharat as the guiding principle for the Modi government as regards the India-Pakistan relationship’ said Bhadrakumar. Modi’s India is going to be a Saffron India, reads the banner across India Gate. But it is not just Modi who is foaming at the mouth or for that matter BJP; Pakistan has turned out to be the ‘unfinished agenda’ of Partition for the Indian political philosophers, leaderships, academicians and policy makers across almost the entire national spectrum. There had been patches of sanity and sagacity in that vast inhospitable landscape but few and far between.
In their bitter disagreement with Jinnah, the Indian leadership tipped over and disastrously overlooked reconciliatory and extremely significant amity signals which Jinnah was radiating.But when dark sentiments overtake state policy, a sickly animus grows between the countries like what has happened between India and Pakistan. None of the common citizens of these Siamese twins had ever asked for such a pervasive revulsion to spread as has so insidiously done ever since. Bloody massacres at the time of Partition acted as wheels of hatred and a poignant indicator of physical and moral atrocities to come, which have occurred with discomforting regularity, mainly ,in India. Sorrowfully, none on both sides of the divide but more so in India had the vision and strength of conviction to reverse the ever expanding tide of hostility toward Pakistan and corresponding sense of insecurity in that struggling country.
The unfortunate but logical upshot of this politically hard baked and ideologically prejudiced mindset towards Pakistan’s existence as a whole has been an incipient realization of insecurity and destructive aggression by all and sundry in Pakistan. Slowly but surely, this unremitting animosity began to push Pakistanis and their leaders to look elsewhere for support. Pakistan walked into the web of US regional treaties knowingly, as it gave her a sense of security. It opted for Muslim Umma fraternity much against the logic of thousands of years of history, in the hope that the country will get some help, moral if not material, in the time of need. Soon the time arrived when her psychological and military breastworks were put to test. Indo-Pakistan War of 1965 was instructive in many ways. The foremost lesson was that Pakistan will have to depend upon itself to defend her itegrity; US pacts or no US pacts. The second was that Muslim Umma can help only as much as it did; a cup of tea and sympathy. Pakistan was on the edge of the precipice in September 1965 but for the superhuman fight put up by our vastly outnumbered forces.
That harsh and cheerless realization sowed the first seeds of yearning for nuclear capability, as a balance of conventional forces with India was not a possibility even in the distant future. If you are following what one is looking at, then we may agree that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons stock pile is a direct corollary of the continued but utterly senseless military threat posed by India to Pakistan’s security, US failure to strengthen our defensive capabilities and toothlessness of Muslim Umma. The nagging sense of acute and present vulnerability and inadequate defense ability , spurred the search for nuclear weapons technology.
A decisive moment arrived in 1971.As a result of India’s adroit diplomacy and successful military invasion on the back of our hopeless failures in nation building and statesmanship, Jinnah’s Pakistan was destroyed. It split into two and with that the shaft of India’s visible determination to wipe out truncated Pakistan squarely and irretrievably ran right through the bruised Pakistani psyche. It confirmed in one single deadly stroke what the nay sayers were saying since a long time; that India and Pakistan were mutually incompatible. Radical anti India sentiments began to find traction among people.
Borders expand and shrink, centre of gravity of power shifts hither and thither but what gets hot-ironed into popular belief is extremely hard to erase. Indian leadership of 1971 comprehensively failed to realize the horror of their miscalculation under the heady feeling of Pakistan’s reduction in size and has now to pay for that massive error. It was firmly established that Pakistan in its reduced geo -strategic capacity can not survive for any considerable length of time given India’s mounting military power and increasingly strident anti-Pakistan rhetoric.
There was another more toxic and unexpected consequence. While Pakistani leadership fully and finally concluded that nuclear arsenal was essential for the country’s survival, a lot of disillusioned people in the cities and villages were deciding upon a different but known resolve; an ominous resort to their age old and tested resilience under duress as enunciated in Islam. Meanwhile India’s deep state(Hidutva ideologues, Akhand Bharat political philosophers and enormously powerful and entrenched patron IAS bureaucrats) went on to compound matters. Contentious issues like Kashmir dispute, Siachen, fair distribution of river waters and Sir Creek demarcation were deliberately left unresolved. Pakistan’s diplomatic isolation and degradation became an article of faith with South Block and the campaign to delegitimize Pakistan was widely and openly patronized. Popular disillusion ultimately found its expression in various shades of jihadist movements that one sees in Pakistan these days.
India detonated her nuclear device in Pokhran in 1998 ,Pakistan matched the response at Chaghi Hills and both the states were now formally nuclear armed. Under a perverse but effective logic of mutually assured destruction, Pakistan’s security was considered as assured. As also a full scale war between the two adversaries has been successfully held at bay since 1984, the time Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program was made known.
Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979 and Afghan resistance to foreign occupation was, fatefully, converted into global jihad as a clandestine arrangement between USA, Pakistan and meddling Middle Eastern kingdoms. Money, arms and glory seeking volunteers started to pour in, eventually the Afghans won and the Soviets retreated. So did the US in indecent haste, who had master minded the great but odious conversion. Coincidently Soviet invasion of Afghanistan occurred a few years after dismemberment of Pakistan. Already percolating notion in Pakistan to fall back on Islamic precepts of active resistance against aggression found a practical and physical form in Afghan Jihad and its success confirmed their belief in its effectiveness.
It is reasonable to assume that radicalization and militancy in Pakistan is the cumulative result of India’s momentous invasion of Pakistan in 71 , her needlessly Pakistan centric military and nuclear build up and the US exploitation of Afghan war of freedom riding over our leadership of the time’s quest for legitimacy and quixotic ambition.
To obviate a future nuclear war in South Asia, a vigorous policy of positive persuasion and constructive engagement from a position of reasonable strength is still possible. Despite the storm clouds over the horizon, one sees a window of opportunity for just such a sensible strategy. An example in mind is that of post WW 2 Japan which is relevant in many ways particularly with reference to her nuclear weapons policy. Notwithstanding full technological and industrial potential Japan very wisely decided upon seeking nuclear security umbrella from US in return for giving up offensive military build-up and ensured her highly enviable rise as a secure and peaceful economic power house in the world.
Ensuring national security is not the end in itself but means to a more productive purpose. The purpose of security is to ensure peace, wholesome progress and economic prosperity of people under a coercion free and respectable regional environment. Potent geo –strategic factors are fortunately converging just in time for Pakistan to undertake a serious reappraisal of her national priorities and chart a sensible and practical future course in the region.
China has long been an object of Euro-US strategic containment, forcing her to perform below par. That steel ring is disintegrating. Two factors have expedited the break out since; US courtship of nuclear armed India under a rather reckless Modi regime and an extremely energetic President Xi heading the all powerful Politburo in China ,riding the unbeatable rising trajectory of her global power potential. India is being set up to be a counterpoise and if needed pitched against the expanding Chinese sphere of influence, while Chinese gaze on South Asia appears to have been fixed in a decisive manner which has the power to alter the regional strategic balance comprehensively and to the detriment of Indo-US grand coalition.
US has created a mosaic of dialogues and consultations with India, notably Joint Strategic Vision for Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean Region as agreed between President Obama and PM Modi,India –US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue, Space Security Dialogue and India -US Consultations on Africa besides a deepening defense sector cooperation. All the five processes are substantive whose strategic effects tend to singe Chinese sensitivities in those spheres.US is also pushing for India’s permanent seat in the Security Council and a role in Afghanistan. US global design envisages to woo India as her proxy and partner into her geo- strategic cordon around China just where it is coming apart-Indian Ocean and the Asia Pacific region.
China understands this grand design quite clearly .If Narendra Modi is strident, Xi is the strongest Chinese leader in decades. President Xi has a ‘China dream’ and ‘ seems to have a grand plan,a sense of historic destiny for the Chinese nation during his period of paramount leadership in a way his predecessors did not.’ ‘Xi’s new world order envisions a Chinese –led regional bank and globetrotting state owned companies, along with expanded trade networks radiating from China that could tie together some 60 nations, much as the ancient Silk Road once did’. China’s Power Play by Hanna Beech, The Time, September 21,2015.
It is a lively face off but with a difference. India is being pushed into while China is pulling it off.To realize ‘historic destiny’ for the nation and become an economic powerhouse of the kind, Xi’s ‘grand plan’ has to be driven by an arc of paramount security far beyond Chinese borders in tandem with a stable regional/global market for assured returns. Hence Xi’s famous economic corridors; one through to Mayanmar-Singapore and on to Bay of Bengal bypassing Malacca Straits choke point, and the other and strategically of greater significance ,through Pakistan to Gawadar on the Indian Ocean,at the flank of the huge oil , trade and power projection sea highway.
This chess like move would mean hardly much if it did not checkmate the arch rival: USA. It does so in a classic manner and with brilliant economy of effort. China constitutes a predominant part of the pivot area with-in Eurasian heartland as identified by Sir Halford Mackinder. This pivot area extends from the Persain Gulf to Yangtze River and ‘ has remained the fulcrum of future world power’ as claimed by Alfred W McCoy in his excellent essay titled’ The Geo-politics of American Global Decline’. It is this fulcrum or the pivot area which the US tried to encircle just as British Empire began to recede in 1945. Mackinder had insisted in his seminal paper titled ‘The Geographical Pivot of History’ ‘ Who rules the Heartland rules the World Island( Africa-Europe-Asia)’.To that end by 1990 as the Cold War ended the tally had risen to 700 US overseas bases, 1763 jet fighters, more than 1000 nuclear tipped ballistic missiles, 600 naval ships including 15 nuclear carrier battle groups, all linked by satellite communications system. This is besides 60 operational bases for high endurance sensors fitted armed drones patrolling the same area.
China watched this encirclement with great poise and went about quietly to chisel their strategic response. Her grand strategy for securing a global power status appears to be in two steps: build a transcontinental high speed infrastructure for economic integration of the world island from with -in ,and in step two marshal military forces to surgically slice through US encirclement at two places, Gawadar and Singapore.That will sever the US chain link in three disjointed parts. In this way operating from strategically interior lines, Beijing hopes to shift the locus of geopolitical power deep into the heartland. This inspired but unstoppable manoeuvre once matured would result in a position of formidable power and advantage for China.
In this perspective it should be quite clear by now that Pakistan is a very important pillar of Chinese global strategic plan, therefore the $40 billion package for the Economic Corridor and a special status for the country. The other major conclusion is that Pakistan’s future has become firmly tied to articulation of China’s global strategy and design of power projection leaving less elbow room to pursue truly indigenous foreign and regional policies. Pakistan’s liberty of action in foreign policy formulation is going to depend more upon Chinese leadership’s understanding in future. Fortunately both the countries enjoy a very large measure of mutual cordiality , remarkable understanding in their world views and there are no outstanding contentious issues to be resolved between the two. Their borders are contiguous, trade and people to people contacts are flourishing and there is a deep collaboration in defense, industrial, energy, culture and infrastructure sectors.
This rather detailed premise should lead us to certain conclusions. One, India needs to realize the futility of her becoming a US proxy being pitched against China in this global great game. US has a Midas touch. India will needlessly waste effort, national resources and perhaps jeopardize her territorial integrity trying to match or oppose China. Simultaneously Pakistan is well on her way to becoming a strategic partner with China along her South Asia spur, which means she may not maintain an independent nuclear deterrence against possible Indian aggression. That will be taken care of by China, as a threat to Pakistan will be a threat to the strategic corridor which, as it may be appreciated would be unacceptable. All that Pakistan is required to do is to work out the modalities of this promising and unique alliance with clarity, as the road to enduring peace and prosperity has been reached. It is for India to choose between peace and pointless confrontation. That places a caution on mercurial Afghanistan too.