Should we adjudge the ‘intent’ of India while framing our military defence, or should we look at India’s ‘capacity’ to harm Pakistan? Intent is when India says it wants a stable Pakistan and wants normal, good-neighbourly relations with it. Capacity is the actual capability of the Indian army to harm Pakistan, its induction of new weapon systems and the upgradation of the systems it has. Our army chief, General Kayani, adheres to the second ‘realist’ assessment. He says he will frame Pakistan’s defensive strategy in line with India’s acquisition of Pakistan-specific weapons.
On Tuesday night, November 9, 2010 Dunya TV had anchor Najam Sethi saying that General Kayani’s doctrine opened Pakistan to an arms race that Pakistan simply could not afford and that the ‘doctrine’ was a new concept in Pakistan’s confrontation with India. Anchor Dr Moeed Pirzada, a well-read person among our TV commentators, said that the ‘realist’ doctrine of General Kayani was the widely accepted yardstick of defence response among nations. It was much safer to study the war capability developed by the enemy state than to pay heed to the peaceful ‘intent’ expressed by it.
The doctrine was embraced by the US in its confrontation with the Soviet Union. It paid off because the latter also tacitly accepted it in the bilateral arms race at the global level. Finally, the Soviet Union quit the field of military competition in the face of President Reagan’s planned escalation under the rubric of ‘space wars’ initiative and was made to disintegrate later by its other internal contradictions. This happened after the ‘disarmament’ efforts by the two super-rivals had reached an advanced stage, delineating the nuclear status quo and precluding accidental nuclear conflict as far as possible. India and Pakistan are not even there as yet.
The Soviet Union simply could not keep up with the capacity of America’s free economy to innovate in the development of weapons. The totalitarian vision of Lenin, which rejected competition by calling it ‘economy of waste’, was gone by the time Brezhnev came to power in the Soviet Union in the 1970s along with much more realistic regional leaders like Gorbachev in Leningrad and Yeltsin in Moscow. The Soviet economy simply could not keep up with the new advances that competition in the US market had made possible. Where does one place Pakistan in this ‘realist’ military paradigm?
India’s economy, its high growth rate and its ability to indigenise military technology at a far higher scale than Pakistan, will go on compelling Pakistan to match India by inducting technologies it does not own. The ratio of its defence spending to the GDP is already too high to sustain. The arms race with India — including the acquisition of nuclear weapons — has damaged Pakistan; and the doctrine of escalation is already somewhat comparable to an imaginary acceptance of it by Cuba vis-à-vis America.
India has always thought of dictating Pakistan’s military build-up till Pakistan can no longer sustain it without affecting the quality of life of the common man. India ‘supported’ Pakistan’s nuclear programme when Pakistan’s growth rate was hitting rock bottom as opposed to India’s record high growth rate at the time of Pokhran. Pakistan did Kargil when its economy was almost belly-up, once again indicating the lack of realism among its military leadership. Now that its internal situation causes alarm across the globe, is it right to articulate this ‘realist’ policy of escalation?
Pakistan has always known that it can’t match India in military capability. That is why it adopted the asymmetric approach. India had the same kind of problem vis-à-vis China but it ignored the doctrine that General Kayani has embraced in his India-centric strategy. It also did not adopt the asymmetric war approach against China. Pakistan has come to grief after half a century of using non-state actors against India. It is isolated internationally and is under attack from the very non-state actors it once nurtured and patronised.
It is time we changed the paradigm of defence in Pakistan and returned to the normalcy of trade and trade routes. Pakistan’s revisionism vis-à-vis India must give way to compulsions of self-correction; and Pakistan must become open to international finance as an important adjunct to South Asia’s rising economy.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 14th, 2010.