Pakistan cannot match India’s arms purchases. Trying to do so will get it into trouble
It serves the corporate interests of Pakistan’s military establishment to chant ‘arms race’ every time India buys as much as a bullet-proof vest. Now that the Indian defence establishment is taking ‘Indian-paced’ steps at changing the profile of its armed forces, it is unsurprising that the familiar phrase is thrown about more frequently. Shaukat Aziz, Musharraf’s prime minister, has declared Pakistan’s intent not to allow anyone to dominate the Indian Ocean. His statements are obviously not aimed at United States.
And as Syed Saleem Shehzad reports, given that Pakistan cannot hope to match India’s much deeper pockets, it is likely to ‘push for new clandestine operations, like access to the black market’ to counter India. Only those who think that Khan the Centrifugist ran a rogue operation without official complicity need to wonder what the old clandestine operation is.
Pakistan’s tendency to get into a debilitating arms race has always worked to its own disadvantage. Even if India does not consciously engage Pakistan in a spending war, given the relative sizes and capabilities, it is unlikely that Pakistani will ever be able to achieve parity with India. Its nuclear weapons were supposed to be the ultimate deterrent. But if that were so, Pakistan’s purchase of more conventional weapons to match India is a pointless exercise — because those weapons are unlikely to actually be used. It is more likely that its army will find more creative uses of conventional weapons like hammering Baloch rebels or arming jihadi groups.
Pakistan’s strategy of clandestine warfare (the proxy war in Jammu & Kashmir and elsewhere in India), clandestine procurement (the A Q Khan affair), and clandestine engagement in terrorism (through its patronising al-Qaeda and related groups) is what got it into internal and external trouble in the first place. Indeed, if not for its own territorial ambitions in Kashmir, there is little reason for it to fear India. Several of India’s neighbours, smaller and militarily much weaker than Pakistan, have little reason to fear an Indian invasion. Pakistan’s fear of India is a hostage to its own designs of Kashmir, kept alive by its military establishment.
American military and financial aid will perhaps reduce the incentive for Pakistan to set up another underground procurement network, but it will not wean Pakistan away from its preoccupation with keeping up with its larger neighbour.