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PAK SCAN: Subcontinent’s Security Dilemma


by Raashid Wali Janjua
‘Security dilemma’ is an international relations term that signifies a state of confused distrust between two states. This state of uncertainty and fear is brought about by the actions of a state, that in order to enhance its own security creates a threat for another state — forcing it to initiate military spending to match that threat. A classic example is that of the World War I German rearmament that set in motion counter armament and mobilization actions by other European powers. This arms race eventually culminated in the Great War. In the Indo-Pak context,it is the arms race between the two countries that leads to ever increasing defence by the two nuclear armed neighbours.
Indian attempts to undermine the Pakistani nuclear deterrence through Ballistic Missile Defence Systems and the enhanced range of its nuclear capable missiles invariably attract a matching response by Pakistan; either in the shape of a new delivery means capable of penetrating that defence shield or a diversification of its nuclear arsenal. The fear induced hysteria caused by this arms build-up leads to a perpetual arms race that drains both country’s economies, leaving the populace mired in poverty.
Kenneth Waltz argues in his “Theory of International Politics” that the anarchical structure of the international system compels states to maintain a defensive posture through moderate policies employing balance of power, bandwagoning and military spending as some of the tools in their diplomatic and military armories. In the international relations parlance of ‘Defensive realism’, the term Security Dilemma is considered a structural modifier that along with geography and elite beliefs constitutes a matrix capable of explaining the possibility of an outbreak of conflict between the two states. Pakistan is confronted with a Hobson’s choice while confronted with a perpetual security dilemma imposed by a dominating military power breathing down its neck carrying a viscerally driven load of historical animosities. Indians rationalize their military spending and arms build-up as a strategic necessity to maintain a middle power status in the world, compelling Pakistan to continue with its own military spending to maintain a precarious military balance vis a vis India. Unresolved conflicts, historical animosities, and India’s compulsion to act as a regional Gendarme in the service of a global power keep nourishes the security dilemma through epistemic as well as physical violence.
With an impoverished population in poor health and low in technological skills, the human security in Pakistan is gravely threatened imperilling national security as well. Unemployed, low skilled and frustrated semi educated youth constitute a tinder box that can erupt in a conflagration any time
A country like Pakistan that is supposed to spend every spare penny available on economic development is constrained to lock down a sizable part of national wealth for its legitimate defence needs. One would have hoped that after attaining the credible minimum nuclear deterrence and its subsequent graduation into full spectrum nuclear deterrence, Pakistan would be able to pare down its conventional forces to gain some breathing space in its military spending. No such luck however. India is compelling Pakistan to keep spending on both the nuclear and conventional front. The consequences of this military spending on a fragile Pakistani economy are not hard to fathom.
Pakistan is presently spending about 18 percent of its total national budget on defence. With the current defence budget of $8.78 billion that constitutes about 2.6 percent of GDP. This country stills lags way behind its nemesis India, whose defence spending has skyrocketed in the last two decades from $10 to $50billion. According to a World Bank report Pakistan spends 2.6 percent of the GDP on health.Meanwhile India spends4.6 percent of GDP on health.
With an impoverished population in poor health and low in technological skills, the human security in Pakistan is gravely threatened imperilling national security as well. Unemployed, low skilled and frustrated semi educated youth constitute a tinder box that can erupt in a conflagration any time. It takes little imagination to figure out the dangers such a large potential recruiting base of extremists and terrorists poses to national security.
Indian attempts to undermine Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence through anti-ballistic missile systems such as Russian S 300, Prithvi Air Defence (PAD) and Terminal High Altitude Air Defence (THAD) have forced Pakistan to diversify and improve its defensive nuclear delivery system. Indian strategic chimera of the Cold War Strategy and concomitant sabre rattling has compelled Pakistan to consider short range nukes in counter force mode while the Indian IRBM and ICBM fetish has compelled Pakistan to plan for Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles as well as sea based assets. There are obvious heavy costs for all the above mentioned weapons and delivery means that act as a noose around the economic necks of both the countries.
What is the way out of this dilemma? The first and the foremost step for both countries is to understand the sheer futility of their nuclear and conventional military one-upmanship. One lesson With an impoverished population in poor health and low in technological skills, the human security in Pakistan is gravely threatened imperilling national security as well. Unemployed, low skilled and frustrated semi educated youth constitute a tinder box that can erupt in a conflagration any time too. You cannot fight the trends of history and the currents of present strategic realities.
Both countries need to realize the sheer futility of spending arms on costly war toys like tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, and artillery guns. Nuclear deterrence is not quantitative but qualitative. It is a reality worth understanding by both countries. More is not necessary when less is enough. Nuclear war fighting in the inimitable words of American nuclear strategist Herman Kahn was summed up in his reproach to nuclear war planners, “Gentlemen you do not have a war plan, you have a war orgasm”.The father of US nuclear strategy, Bernard Brodie echoed similar sentiments in his famous quote, “Thus far the chief purpose of our military establishment has been to win wars. From now on its chief purpose must be to avert them. It can have almost no other useful purpose”. The Indian conventional war fetish is a folly whose time has long passed and any attempts to recreate the lost space for conventional war under the nuclear overhang would be suicidal for both countries.
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