Pakistan’s Land-Centric Defence Calculus Needs Overhauling

Key Points: 

  • Since its independence from British rule in 1947, Pakistan’s national security apparatus has viewed India as a nemesis and persistent existential threat.
  • The years of counter-terrorism and counter insurgency operations carried out almost exclusively by Pakistan Army and its special forces, with the occasional support of Pakistan Air Force, kept its security matrix focused inland.
  • The Pakistan Army has exclusively dominated higher-level strategic planning (JSHQ) despite the changing world order after 9/11, whereas, India improvised both its land-air strike capabilities (Cold Start) and naval force capabilities (Maritime Manoeuvre from the Sea).
  • As Pakistan’s land and air forces were occupied in internal security operations within the mainland, India began to slowly but steadily lay out its influence network in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
  • Indian security establishment views CPEC not through the geo-economic lens but from a purely geostrategic and military-centric perspective. Thus, any maritime project by Pakistan involving the Chinese is viewed as an attempt to validate India’s perceived ‘String of Pearls’ theory. Any misunderstanding in the Strait of Hormuz could lead to a full-blown conflict, thereby impacting commercial marine traffic toward Gwadar.
  • Countries along the IOR, excluding Pakistan, are shifting to a maritime-centric security calculus. For Pakistan to catch up with these realities, it is imperative that measures beyond development of sea-launched missiles be emplaced. Joint forces doctrines or policy directives, if any, should be revised to prioritise threats from the sea and maritime thinkers should be encouraged to provide overall strategic guidance for Pakistan Armed Forces’ direction in the coming 10 to 20 years.


Zaki Khalid

Zaki Khalid is a strategic analyst and freelance commentator based in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. His areas of interest include national security, geopolitics, cyberspace and maritime affairs. He is also the founder and editor of 'Pakistan Geostrategic Review (PGR)', an independent platform publishing a premium newsletter and podcasts on geostrategic developments. He can be reached on Twitter @misterzedpk.

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