Arms Build Up, War Mongering and Critical Debate in Pakistan

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Indian sand artist Sudarsan Pathnaik sand sculpture at Puri Beach on October 8, 2014 -AFP photo

By Muhammad Adil Sivia 15 September 2019

Historically from birth Pakistan was overwhelmed by the conventional military superiority of India. After the separation of East Pakistan and birth of Bangladesh, the narrative and policy building nuclear weapons was sold to the national as panacea by the military establishment to the  millions of destitute Pakistanis. The economic cost of military buildup was justified as necessary sacrifice for ensuring the survival of the country. Threat to the survival of country from India was given top priority by military dictators and civilian stooges of the establishment in the past. The threat was played to the level whereby Pakistan became a hard state and foreign and security policy of the state became de facto domain of the military establishment. The civilian government distrusted by the military establishment, was presented as traitors to the cause of national security and hence it was kept aloof from nuclear program. After the second nuclear tests were conducted by India in May 1998, Pakistan followed the suit and conducted its first nuclear tests. The military imposed martial law again in 1999 and in following years conscious organized campaign was launched to create the image of overthrown civilian leadership as cowards and traitors who were forced by the military establishment to conduct retaliatory nuclear tests. Constant campaign has been followed by the Pakistan military establishment that civilian leadership cannot be trusted when it comes to national security of the country especially relations with the USA, China, Saudi Arabia and India. The logical dividend of building nuclear weapons in the form of declining defence budget has not been realized by the Pakistan after becoming nuclear power. The size of armed forces is constantly on the rise resulting in ballooning defence budget of Pakistan. Since the overall base of the Pakistan’s economy has been shirking for many years now, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to Defence Budget ratio has worsened further.

The recent abrogation of article 370 and 35A from the Indian Constitution by Narendra Modi’s BJP led government of India and stripping Kashmir from its special status, which effectively recognized Kashmir as bilateral disputed territory, has increased war mongering in Pakistan. The annulment of special status of Kashmir by the Indian government has given unique opportunity to military establishment in Pakistan for further trampling the civilian leadership under the banner of national security.   Irrespective of the how this territorial disputed is being framed by India and Pakistan, reiterating hard position and claiming the disputed territory in entirety has made peace very precarious along the Line of Control (LoC). The Pakistan Prime Minister and Army Chief have been making implied references to the use of nuclear weapons for resolution of this disputes. The civilian leadership in order not to look weak and avoiding the labeling of selling Kashmir, has taken even harder position. The veiled reference to the nuclear weapons is presented through strategic communication by the civilian leadership of Pakistan: Pakistan is willing to go to any extent for the freedom of Kashmir’.  Policy statements are issued by the military head and the Director General Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) by effectively taking control of Pakistan India relations. Instead of deescalating the situation, Pakistani military conducted night time training launch of short-range ballistic missile capable of carrying tactical nuclear weapons. The utility of force for overtaking each other’s Kashmir by India and Pakistan has declined to the extent that outcome will be overwhelmed by unimagined the cost of nuclear exchange between the two countries. The Pakistani leadership should avoid playing into the hands of military establishment that has been framing the civilian leaders as disloyal to the country for decades.  Any rational policy maker on the Kashmir dispute would underscore from start that any possible settlement of the dispute has to be reached out through dialogue and not through threat or actual use of force which very well may culminate to the nuclear exchange. Any low intensity conventional war, the likes of Operation Gibraltar or Kargil War adventure done by Pakistan military in the past will not remain enveloped in the disputed territory between the two countries. Any misadventure by Pakistan in Kashmir through regular military or infiltration of so-called military personnel turned mujahedeen may force India to operationalizes its Cold Start doctrine for dissecting Pakistan in such a manner that Pakistan would accept Indian primacy in subcontinent. The civilian leadership of Pakistan should tread very carefully and not endorse and buy the military brinkmanship policy on Kashmir. Every nation deserves the universally recognized right to self determination. Denial of such right to Kashmiries by India or Pakistan is grave injustice to humanity.  Use or threat of using force has not resolved the Kashmir dispute for over seven decades and time has come to look this issue beyond force paradigm.

The civilian leadership who has the constitutional right to deliberate upon, decide and oversee the policies for the nation has been reduced to rubbish.  Direct military rule in form of martial laws and soft military coups by deep entrenched vested interests of military establishment have cut out the civilian leadership from policy making process. The business of orchestrating toxic war mongering narrative, under the rubric of strategic issues linked with the national security of Pakistan, is furthered through organizing seminars and conferences on the subject matter. The so called strategic community of think tanks in Islamabad, majority of whom claim to be independent research centers are heavily funded by Strategic Plans Division (SPD) for promoting the toxic narrative to generate legitimacy to arms buildup and arms race mindset vis a vis India. The critical and truly independent people in academia who are genuinely expert in strategic issues are cut off from such conferences by denying them the forum whereby they can express a different perspective promoted by the military establishment.  Such seminars and conferences are used as means to promote the “group think approach” to garner vehement support by sell out academics and research centers who tow the agenda of their financiers. These disgusting intellectual mercenaries are doing great disservice to the country by promoting and endorsing erroneous ideas extremely dangerous to peace and stability in the region.