If one were to tell you that you could defeat an ardent foe but would then need to feed their large family and keep their feral offspring from raiding your larder, would that be an idea to entice you? No one wants a wolf of their own making at their doorstep baying the arrival of winter.
It’s therapeutic applying the same logic to Pakistan’s prospects and the supposed legions out to sabotage us. For instance, it’s been drilled into us ad nauseum since independence that India wants to squash us and use our eyeballs to bake bread. Admittedly, wars have occurred in the past, when there was more parity of power. At the current juncture though, we have little that India could covet. Then, of course, there’s that argument that Americans want to neutralise our fantastically manly nukes and strategically castrate us.
Of course, per norm, what most haven’t considered are the ramifications. Consider this: a full-blown invasion by America occurs; and our utterly glorious forces are quickly defeated in battle — with the caveat emptor that their radars were under maintenance or were switched off, that the Fauji cornflakes were laced with soporifics that morning, or what have you (refer to a certain raid in Abbottabad in May for the entire litany of excuses). What then? At the very least, one would run into Iraq-like scenes; and while many will no doubt run to busts and portraits of Zardari to preserve them for future auction at Christie’s once his sainthood is papally sanctified, those better prepared will make for arms caches and help themselves to some good stuff of the radioactive kind. Yes, your friendly superpower will have contingencies in place for this, but the idea of them believing all possible sites could be secured without leakage is frankly ludicrous. And so, America, by its very actions, would arm anarchistic groups with the possible wherewithal of making American life very miserable.
One can also imagine India’s dismay. What was once a somewhat dysfunctional state on its borders will have suddenly turned into a delightful free-for-all where all strategy is useless. The problem with strategy as expounded by Sun Tzu and Machiavelli is it always assumes the enemy as rational. And by rational, one means capable not just of coherent thought but also concerted action. Multiple groups leave practical rationality adrift, because there is no overriding writ. So India, rather than tangoing with a foe it knows and comprehends, is suddenly left dealing with factions that do what they want when they want, based on whim and impulse, for they already have precious little left to lose.
No one wants a dead Pakistan. No one — not even India — wants a Pakistan so incapacitated it can’t keep itself in partial order. Despite all the jingoism, even if India has the military might to skewer Pakistan in half, what might it achieve by following through? It’d only have more states to add to the ones it can barely manage as is.
Flippancy aside, our purported carcass would turn into an excellent playground for opportunists. These will include Russia and China, who would quickly extend influence into the failed state. It’s easy to see how America won’t be happy with that. Iran will quickly mobilise its resources too, which would leave Saudi Arabia in conniptions. And all this will be happening on India’s borders. Not a good outcome for that erstwhile neighbour.
Yes, India is undoubtedly sponsoring the Baloch insurgency, but that’s only to keep us sufficiently busy that we can’t stir things up in Kashmir. And America is clumsily plying pressure any way it can, because it’s petrified of an explosive Afghanistan once it inevitably pulls out prematurely, rather like a poorly performing lover. It’s all realpolitik. But that doesn’t mean the world is out to get us.
Au contraire, the reason we keep limping along regardless of an economy that looks a wheel short compared to a unicycle and a leadership that makes Billy the Kid look like Mother Teresa, is that the entire world is united in at least one thing — Pakistan must be kept afloat at any rate. So the next time one brings up the idea of an existential threat from America, India or the bogeyman du jour, it might be a good idea to tell them that a Pakistan limping is far preferable for all concerned to one irrevocably broken.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 22nd, 2011.
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