The above sentence uttered by an influential war theorist is noteworthy for those who question the role that history plays in shaping the present and carving out a future. History and statecraft are intrinsically concomitant, as the past factors in chalking strategic goals for the future.
A few lines on the need to dabble into the nuances of history were merited in order to understand Pakistan’s security thinking.
The Pakistani security establishment has been continually berated for having a traditional India-centric threat perception. Bob Woodward in his famous book “Obama Wars” opined that: it is mighty difficult for a Pakistani General to turn west. Commentators, analysts, and foreign governments have questioned Pakistan’s fight against the menace of terrorism, despite the fact that the state, at least on the kinetic front has successfully undertaken major Counter Terrorism Military Operations. Furthermore, eyebrows are raised at her nuclear program, something which has picked up momentum ever since Pakistan has brought nukes at the tactical level. Moreover, serious allegations are leveled on the state for camouflaging terrorists, playing the “favorite” game in Afghanistan and double dealing.
Pakistan, like any other state, tries to look after its national security: the most vital national interest. Therefore, it has a security psyche which dictates its policy in the realm of national security.
It is important to succinctly outline our security thinking, especially the main threat perception that forms the basis of our planning.
The Pakistan military is currently engaged in various counter-terrorism operations against militant outfits across the country. Yet, the armed forces maintain a deployment balance heavily on the Eastern Theater on the Line of Control, Working Boundary and the International Border with India. The strategic fraternity deems India as the major threat to the security of the country. Pakistan justified its order of battle by pointing out the deployment pattern of the Indian armed forces, as full-fledged commands are operationally deployed on the border.
In addition, the highly touted Cold Start Doctrine (CSD) of the Indian army gives credence to Pakistani fears of Indian grandiose designs. Though not operational, the incendiary nature of rapid thrusts of Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs) to bite and hold chunks has significantly helped Pakistan stick to its long-held view about India. The top brass of the Pakistani military thinks that invoking CSD will lower the nuclear threshold, and hence Pakistan is all set to induct Tactical Nuclear Weapons (TNWs) in its armory. Ostensibly, Pakistan wants to fill the deterrence gap at the tactical level and guard itself on the whole spectrum. Regardless of the effectiveness of TNWs in deterrence, Pakistan is reacting to an action by its rival state: a norm in international politics.
The current escalation in military confrontation along with alleged surgical strikes on Pakistani territory vindicates the “look east” approach of the Pakistan military. David Singer defined threat perception as a function of estimated capability and estimated intention. Off-late India has backed up its capabilities with the will to fight in shape of tactical skirmishes, not to forget the increase in the caliber of weaponry.
The aforementioned factors and events are enough to deride arguments for thinning out forces on the eastern border.
However, it is not only the military planning that is censured by detractors .Pakistan is lambasted for harboring terrorists, involvement in Afghanistan and blaming India for internal trouble. Let us deal with all these assertions.
The spirit of Hart’s quote above is that history impinges on a psyche .The cataclysmic and fateful episode of the separation of East Pakistan is engraved in Pakistan’s security thinking. The massive role played by India is conspicuous, well-celebrated and now well-documented. There is no denial or remorse by India, from the creation of the Mukti Bahini to the armed intervention which led to sequester of Pakistan. In the language of international politics, an enemy state directly intervened to separate a legal territory from a country. Pakistan did not react in the same vein to this blatant violation of international law by its arch-rival. It is blamed of fomenting trouble in the Kashmiri resistance movement since 1990. Pakistan is believed to be using proxies to damage India to an extent that the Kashmir issue is resolved in accordance with what Pakistan wants. It must be stressed that Kashmir is a disputed territory; Pakistan from the lens of realism is trying to wrest back a land that it feels is not belonging to India. In an anarchical world, Pakistan is doing what any other state would do, if we take allegations on face value. Recriminations on fostering terrorism in Indian Occupied Kashmir can only end if the Kashmir dispute is resolved. Peace between states in the Westphalian System is achieved if and when casus belly is done away with. Kashmir remains the major flashpoint between the two acrimonious neighbors.
Hence, Pakistan has an undeniable evidence from history to feel uneasy about Indian proclivities of meddling in its affairs. The overt support to secessionists in Baluchistan and the confession of a serving Indian spy of R&AW further exonerates continued fear of India.
In all earnestness, Pakistan’s primary concerns in Afghanistan pertain to the rising Indian influence. Afghanistan and Pakistan have had turbulent relations, and India has shown a continuum in supporting the former on the issue of Pashtunistan and the Durand Line. Pakistan’s quest for a “friendly government” in Afghanistan is because it wants to obviate chances of being encircled by inimical neighbors. The paranoia that dictates our Afghan policy is that India and an India-controlled Afghanistan would be a major security threat. Therefore, like other states, Pakistan will try its best to lessen the role of its perennial enemy on its western border.
In sum, Pakistan’s security thinking is India centric owing to historical reasons and ever increasing imperious aspirations of India. There are no reasons to suggest a paradigm shift in Indian policy towards Pakistan. From the realist prism, Pakistan will alter her security thinking if, India as a relatively stronger state will assuage her fears. Besides, the resolution of the Kashmir dispute is central to peace between the two countries. Harmony would mitigate animosity and lead to peaceful co-existence.