Balance, not parity

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.

5 thoughts on “Balance, not parity”

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  2. Far from it, India is getting all mushy. No pun intended. The General has been invited to watch cricket!

  3. I wonder why anyone has to believe that Pakistan needs an arms build up to prevent a supposed Indian invasion? Geopolitically, Pakistan is soundly placed. China would definitely develop a Kashgar-Gwadar roadlink to take advantage of the Gwadar Port.
    United Staes, on the other hand, has got its bases inside Pakistan. They will be there for a while since the American interest in Middle East, Afghanistan and Central Asia will not dwindle in near future. Pakistan, of course, is a good ally who can help the United States in achieving whatever Washington wants to achieve in these areas.
    There is hardly any nation where both the United States and the Chinese Army could have a presence. That way, Pakistan is unique!
    With the United States army inside Pakistan and the Chinese developing a capability to have a ring of army from the Arabian Sea to the Andaman Sea via Karakoram Highway, where is the fear of “mighty Indian Army’ demolishing Pakistan?
    That fear does not exist in the minds of the top brass in Pakistan. The fear is of losing domestic control to Pakistan’s so-called democratic forces. By developing military ties with Washington and Beijing, Pakistan’s military has got a significant level of support of both the democracy-lovers and the totalitarian regime-lovers.
    So, Pakistan Army has got the dubious Pakistani demorats by the short hair. India, Kashmir, Afghanistan etc.etc. are just to fill the empty heads and as insurance.

  4. does it matter ! guys if you keep your eyes glued towards our neighbours on the west so that someone else can concentrate on your other flanks u know where u will get the boot.the move is on the eastern side as of now.we will never grow to reach the status of a superpower if our defence policies are revolving around pakistan.

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