There is a small body

There is a small body of opinion in Pakistan that is advocating a paradigm shift in Pakistani thinking. Here’s an article from The News International dated 17 Sep 2003.

Time for paradigm shift

M B Naqvi

Following a flurry of news items about an emerging new US-Israel-India axis, rising tide of Indo-Israel military cooperation and Israeli PM Ariel Sharon’s New Delhi visit, Pakistan’s reaction was summed up by Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri: “We will do whatever is required to make sure that the minimum credible balance (with India) is maintained. We have done that for 56 years”. This is a clear declaration of policy that Pakistan will continue to run the arms race with its traditional ‘enemy’.

Given the background of 56 years of cold war, interspersed with four or five wars and half-wars, this is an expected knee-jerk reaction to the emergence of the informal US-Israel-India strategic convergence. US Assistant Secretary of State Ms Rocca has denied its existence, perhaps for the record. This is one of those terminological exactitudes that politicians take recourse to when being really truthful can hurt some of their interests. The trend of growing congruence of strategic perceptions among the governments of the three states is unmistakable. It is like an active living together already, whether or not formal wedding ceremonies have taken place.

There is no doubt it poses a painful dilemma to the ruling establishment of this country. Fifty-year old central plank of Pakistan’s foreign policy was to be loyal camp followers of the US. The latter in return sporadically supported (in 1950s) Pakistan over Kashmir, gave it military aid off and on, always supported the military-led establishment remain in power through the thick of dictatorships or thin of bogus democracies and has underwritten all military dictators, if also at a political price. Now here is a powerful undertow of strategic interests of the US coalescing with those of Israel and India (Pakistan’s ‘enemy’). This is tantamount to the Heavens falling or the earth opening up. Where will these forlorn elites go?

The military regime in power — no disrespect is meant to Messrs Jamali and Shujaat Hussain — has not distinguished itself for original thinking. Its eggheads have come up with a clever-by-quarter, not half, idea of recognising Israel. Which, in their expectations, would dilute the unwelcome potentialities of the new axis. In other words, US and Israel would be so overjoyed by this master stroke that they will either drop India altogether or somehow prevent it from becoming any greater threat to Pakistan. It is a silly notion. The very cornerstone of this trend is the growing US disenchantment with Pakistan for a variety of reasons, though exigencies of the Afghan situation require a lot of cooperation from Pakistan. Hence, the US’ alliance with it, though it is quite ambiguous. But real long-term US interests are not involved here, however much Islamabad shows Central Asia to the US in the atlas.

And yet a new policy orientation has to be found because putting all one’s eggs — military, political and economic — in American basket has brought Pakistan to a sorry pass. Despite the semi-success of stabilisation programme, expiry of debt rescheduling period if it coincides with the US disengaging itself from the commitment to underpin Pakistan economy, the going will get rough for Islamabad again after a while, quite similar to what was like in 1998. More so because of the new short-term high interest loans that will have to be contracted as a result of the policy well summed up by Mr Kasuri. The US will scarcely help Pakistan now to go on a buying spree of new arms.

The result of 56 years of cold war and arms races is before us. What has happened in or to India is not germane here. Pakistan now stands quite close to the bottom of the list of countries in terms of Human Development Indicators as a result of running an open-ended cold war with India. Poverty has grown — some say to 33 and some say 43 per cent of the people are living below the poverty line. The stunning prosperity of about 5 per cent of Pakistanis does not compensate for the mass poverty that has been caused by the long cold war and arms races with India. More of the arms races can only worsen the present conditions.

What makes this doubly unacceptable is to assess the chances of acquiring — yes, the aim was to acquire — Kashmir are less bright today than at any time in the past. The top general has said that there is no military solution of Kashmir problem. In fact, so long as sanity prevails neither country can go to war with the other. Then, why start on another long phase of expensive military build up that cannot, repeat cannot, either meaningfully facilitate the resolution of Kashmir tangle or significantly strengthen national security to enable Pakistan to fight a successful war.

Thinking about national security, a sane assessment of the events of 2002 shows that (a) the 56 years long arms build up has left Pakistan far behind India in conventional arms; and as for the Nuclear Deterrent, two facts need to be fully assessed: First, the very Indian threat of invasion in 2002, and it was a credible one, represented the initial failure of the deterrence of that Deterrent and secondly, India adumbrated a new doctrine that India can go ahead with its invasion despite there being Pakistan’s atomic forces. This was, on one hand, daring Pakistan to use the Bomb first and, on the other, reminding Islamabad why would not a larger nuclear deterrent (of India) deter more. The threat was explicit: if Pakistan made a nuclear strike first, Indian response would be so massive as to take out all six or seven major urban-industrial centres of Pakistan. That situation is likely to persist. What will be the point in such a war?

The situation however remains grim. The state of near-war between India and Pakistan has not ended; no peace has been negotiated; and, instead, there are clear indications that India remains committed to the objective of becoming a great military power. Pakistan has declared that it will go on trying to catch up. From a Pakistani viewpoint, the arms race with India is a foolish enterprise. Confront India — the logical result of arms race — in 2004 or 2006, the 2002 syndrome will still be repeated. The issue now is not Kashmir — that has been pushed back to Greek calends, if its solution means its inclusion in Pakistan. The more relevant question is what happens to the people of Pakistan.

If there is war and atomic weapons are used, all of Pakistan is threatened with a return to the Stone Age minus millions who will die. A war without the use of nuclear devices is hard to conceive: the losing side will be sorely tempted to use the Ultimate Weapon. More likely however is the prolongation of non-peace and no war, as of now — all of us only progressively becoming poorer and the elites getting richer — until an implosion destroys extensively.

A nuclear exchange will anyhow be the Big Tragedy. But a limitless vista of India endeavouring to become a military colossus and Pakistan struggling hard to catch up on a faster moving India will have evil consequences too. Both will destroy us in this country: a nuclear war will be a sudden end to what civilisation there is and other physical losses to both. But an indefinite continuance of cold war and arms race will mean inexorably moving towards a social bust up. The worst sufferers in this will be those whose politics and purses are benefiting immensely by this confrontation with India. How real is this danger? Nobody knows for sure. But if it could happen to the USSR, it can happen to Pakistan perhaps quicker because the basic policy orientation — more military spending at the expense of social amenities — is the same.

All of this leads to one major conclusion. It is time to stop confronting India altogether and pursue a policy of reconciliation and friendly cooperation with the Indian people. Allow India, if it wants to have an air force of 4000 top of the line aircrafts, an eight Ocean Navy and two million strong army with ultra modern gadgetry. They will surely pay for those things. Pakistanis should gradually disarm and give up all those juvenile macho notions of militarism and foolish extolling of physical bravery. What they should be concerned with is Pakistan’s survival in safety and honour and mainly engaging in economic and social construction.

Truth to tell. India would pose no radical threat to Pakistan if Pakistan were to de-link with it and ignores India’s infatuation with the notion that military strength alone will make for national greatness. Pakistan should, instead, worry about how much food, shelter, jobs, education and healthcare for its millions of poor it can provide. If Pakistanis do not interfere with its dreams, India will pose no greater threat to Pakistan than it does to Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan or Bangladesh. For the rest, if the Indians go berserk and attack for no reason, Pakistanis will resist as best as they can in addition to what the armed forces might be able to do. War in any case is unlikely.

Let us eradicate dire poverty by guaranteeing jobs to all able-bodied men and women. It is time to undertake this as a constitutional duty of the state: if it cannot provide jobs to all, let the unemployed be paid a social security allowance as a matter of legal right. That will force the state to shift the policy paradigm from national security to people’s social security. That would correct many imbalances at home and make human lives richer in more senses than one. Hopefully, the results of resulting peace dividends might make India change too. But that is up to historical forces.

(c) The News International Pakistan