Sunday, May 18, 2014

Relevance of Pakistan: India’s Foreign and Security Policy

Pak Air Force Mirage Fighters (Source: PAFwallpapers website)
It’s hard to believe that Indian military and foreign policy makers tend to consider Pakistan as a central factor in policy-making. The discussion of Pakistan’s centrality itself is misleading as it militates against facts and the reason. It’s difficult to find a similar situation globally. To make the absurdity clear, imagine a hypothetical situation where the US foreign and security policy would consider Mexico as the main factor.

Geographically, Pakistan is not even one fourth of India’s size and consists of a population which is smaller than one sixth of Indian population. India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is nearly eight times bigger and the military expenditure about five times higher. Consider this, when Indian military expenditure is not even 2 percent of its GDP, Pakistan spends more than 3.2 percent to sustain its military. The following table explains this issue with clarity:

Table 1: India and Pakistan

Geographical Size
3.28 Million sq km
0.796 Million sq km
1.2 Billion
0.18 Billion
1.84 Trillion
0.236 Trillion
Defence Budget
36 Billion
7.6 Billion (est.)
                           (Source: SIPRI, IISS, World Bank Reports, Daily Times)

However, the main difference begins with the nature of the state and quality of life-style in both countries. India is a peaceful democracy with regular elections, consistent economic growth, young and aspirant population which wants to unshackle its economy and entrepreneurship capability and make it an economic and political power. India is also one of the strongest military powers in the world and its ground, air and naval forces are constantly rated high.
Church Attack in Pakistan (Source: Islamic Voice Website)

Compare it to Pakistan which is the wretched example of a weak unstable democracy with frequent military coups and dictatorships. In last 67 years of its existence, it has remained under military dictators for 35 years and only the last government, led by Asif Jardari, became the first civilian government to complete its full term. This country is full of anti-social elements, from fundamentalist radical mullahs to Islamic terrorists, insurgents, suicide bombers, journalist killers, you name it, they have it. The government is in cahoot with these elements and constantly tries to confuse the civilian population by differentiating between “good terrorists and bad terrorists”. Moreover, years of frustration against political oppression, dampened economic growth, persistent insurgency and terrorism and misplaced Islamic fundamentalism has degenerated even the civilian population to the extent that no ethnic or religious minority is safe in Pakistan today, whether Christians, Shias, Ahmadiyyas, Iranians, Afghans, almost everyone is being either killed or persecuted under its shady blasphemy laws.
Pak Electricity Problem (Source: Pakistan Today Website)

Economically, it’s a diseased country where even the basic electricity shortage has turned into a crisis. In fact, Islamic fundamentalists and terrorists are Pakistan’s most successful export product at present, fighting their so called “Jihad” in Syria, Yemen, Mali, Afghanistan, India, China and wherever possible. India-Pak trade, despite a decade of efforts of Indian Prime Minister Dr MM Singh, has remained stuck at USD 2 billion annually. Moreover, unsavoury characters in Pakistan have tried to use the trade route to bring illegal fake Indian currency and intoxicating drugs and once caught on the border, Pakistan government defends them, losing all its credibility.
PNS Hurmat (Source: Defence.PK website)
Additionally, Pakistan’s military is manpower intensive and owing to its feudal and Zamindaar (landlord) oppressed society, serving in military becomes a crucial method to improve social and economic status. That explains its half-a-million manned army with 13 corps and equal reserve formations. However, situation in sister services is not so promising. Pak Air Force consists of 18+ squadrons with about 380 fighter aircrafts. However, barring 125 F-16 Falcon and JF-17 Thunder aircraft, rest all fighters are obsolete and ready for retirement. Similarly, its aircraft strength in terms of force multipliers is hopelessly inadequate. The situation is not very different in Pakistan Navy as well whose largest combat vessel is a second hand US Navy retired Oliver Hazard Perry Class frigate. This Navy doesn’t have any combat naval aviation or destroyer type principal surface combatant or other three-dimensional naval assets. Pak Navy’s surface element consists mainly of eleven frigates out of which five are over 40 years old and should have retired long ago. It has five submarines in total, out of which two (PNS Hashmat & Hurmat) are about 35 years old and unsafe for open-sea patrol.
PNS Tariq (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Therefore, Pakistan as a military power is not a threat to India. There are two aspects of Pakistan which India needs to address in particular. One is Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and other, its export of terrorists. In whichever situation possible, Pakistan would commit harakiri if it ever uses its nuclear weapons on the Indian sub-continent as the Indian retaliation would ensure the demise of Pakistan. Even though, Pakistan has maintained the ambiguity in its nuclear weapons use policy, leading to grave doubts among Indian policy makers, no Pakistani worth his salt would afford to endanger his country’s entire existence by taking a nuclear misstep.

However, the issue of cross-border terrorism is not so straight forward. As long as the Pak Army remains a principle actor in Pak politics, it would keep terrorism as a tool for unconventional warfare and a pressure point. No matter which dispensation is ruling in Islamabad, the terrorism would remain central to Pakistan for a long period. No Pakistani ruler has shown any resolve to take on this monster, whether it’s Asif Ali Jardari or Nawaz Sharif and the future is also not very promising.

China's helicopter Based LORROP Camera for Border Surveillance (Source: Trishul Blog)
Nevertheless, dealing with terrorism internally, while defining red-lines in bold colour, would certainly help contain this problem. Terrorists infiltrating to India can be eliminated with the help of a cooperative framework between security agencies and effective intelligence network. Reinforcement of border security through electronic monitoring, helicopter based LORROP Camera monitoring, drone based surveillance and military modernisation can effectively reduce the threat. In addition, it needs to be made clear to Pakistan that any repeat of Mumbai-Style terrorist attack would immediately invite a severe punitive measure. No bilateral discussion or outside intervention would be able to save Pakistan in such event.

In sum, looking for quick solutions, historic agreements and other similar sentimental outcomes from India-Pakistan relations would be unrealistic and a strict adherence to the reciprocity rule needs to be followed. Pakistan is not a major threat to India and hence, it should be relegated to its worthy status in the Indian foreign and security policy at the earliest. India should do everything possible to reduce tension with Pakistan and increase the bilateral trade as that is the need of the hour. However, eagerness for bilateral trade should not be replaced by a sentimental approach to solve all outstanding issues with Pakistan in a jiffy. In case, nothing works, just IGNORE Pakistan for a while. India’s government has to solve numerous issues of its own and Pakistan can wait.


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