Even Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who should be committed to permanent jihad under Islam, thinks that Pakistan has been damaged by the label of “national security state”.
I can’t find a better exposition of the national security state than what General KM Arif wrote in his book Khaki Shadows: Pakistan 1947-1997 (OUP 2001): “Most Pakistanis perceive a threat to their national security from a numerically superior and hegemonic India. The role played by India in 1971 strengthens their thinking. India desires a subservient Pakistan, too weak to defend herself and too fragile to pursue a foreign policy independent of the regional big brother. She wants to be the master of her own destiny but denies this right to her neighbours in South Asia. This raises doubts about her reliability and intentions.
“It is seldom comfortable for a weak country to live with a large and aggressive neighbour…. Pakistan’s location — proximity to the Gulf, Central Asia and South Asia — provides her with great geostrategic importance. Given internal unity, national cohesion and economic stability, this advantage can be a force multiplier.” (p.350)
What is ignored in the above statement are the finer points of the thesis. For example, who is the revisionist in the proposition? If India is the status quo power, then its power projection is for deterrence rather than aggression. It doesn’t want to change the map. Why does Pakistan end up attacking India?
When the nationalism of a state is revisionist — aimed at changing the map — it becomes a national security state, dominated by the army, since the map will change only through military means.
General Arif did not say what happened when the military replaced the politicians in power. Pakistan failed to attain security because defeat rather than victory was the consequence of military action against India. Not even the 1998 nuclearisation of Pakistan satisfied the generals: in 1999 another adventure at Kargil by them damaged Pakistan’s security more than the past aggressions. Prickly weak states are more seriously endangered by international isolation.
Living next to a stronger state is not an unusual challenge. Afghanistan feels the same way about Pakistan; so do Nepal and Sri Lanka and Bangladesh about India. But the response to the challenge of security can vary. Bangladesh took on India under its military’s influence; but today it is more secure because it has used its geostrategic position in a non-military way. India’s other neighbours have economies growing normally. Pakistan will look like North Korea unless it changes its hair-trigger image.
The security of an anti-status quo or ‘revisionist’ state like Pakistan is complicated by the strain on its resources, leading to internal instability. Chances are that such a state will be permanently unstable, especially if the state it seeks to challenge remains free of internal contradictions. The strong status quo power simply has to remain stable to destabilise the “revisionist” state. The strain on the weak revisionist state will show in its lack of internal cohesion.
Security doctrines come packaged in the process of nation-building. State-sponsored nationalism may strengthen the strategic elite but it may become more and more coercive through textbooks and legal sanctions against dissent. State security is endangered internally while the strategic elite continues to think of it as mere distraction to the pursuit of defence against external danger.
A weak state can face the neighbouring hegemon much better with economic strength. A strong economy — often not possible in a revisionist challenger spending too much on the army — paradoxically achieves better military defence because it can spend on it without going broke.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 27th, 2012.
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