Pakistan’s Strategic Perspective in Evolving World Order

Author: Brigadier Vinod Anand (Retd)

Period: April 2006 - June 2006

Pakistan’s Strategic Perspective in Evolving World Order

Brigadier Vinod Anand (Retd)

Pakistan’s strategic perspective has been shaped by circumstances of its birth, its geography, history, its struggle for forging a Pakistani identity and the role played by its dominant elite in formulating and sustaining its strategic culture. External and internal shocks have continually impacted the strategic discourse in Pakistan which at different points in its history have forced it to veer away from its much cherished strategic goals. Forces of globalisation and ascendancy of economic and human security over military security have caused the Pakistan establishment to rethink its strategic perceptions and make an attempt in moving towards a more cooperative approach in its regional, economic and security issues. Pakistan is said to have embarked upon Musharraf’s path of ‘enlightened moderation’ with mixed success.

Evolving World Order and Pakistan

1990s witnessed Pakistan becoming the most sanctioned country in the world. This decade increasingly drew focus on Pakistan because of terrorism emanating from the region, nuclear weapons proliferation and the nuclear tests of May 1998, not to forget the Kargil misadventure and overthrow of democracy in October 1999. The 11 September 2001 attacks on the USA were a defining moment in Pakistan’s strategic history and had the greatest impact on its strategic policies. The current international relations have been marked by a few notable features:-

(a) The emergence of the US as the sole super power and rise of China as an economic power.
(b) The recognition of terrorism as the biggest threat to world peace and focus on terrorism emanating from Pakistan-Afghanistan region.
(c) Geo-economics as the most important paradigm and ascendancy of non-traditional aspects of human security.
(d) Military confrontation is not a preferred option even though the US believes in preemption and unilateralism as enunciated in their National Security Strategy documents of 2002 and 2006 and the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) of 2006.

Pakistan fashioned its responses to the evolving world order by absorbing the changes in its environment and then devising ‘appropriate’ strategies to maintain its Indo-centric approach as a solution to all its strategic dilemmas. In spite of a continuous flux in the strategic environment, Pakistan’s construct of the world order is very simplistic. A Pakistani analyst while commenting on India-fixation of Pakistan’s strategic thought has observed that “Despite claiming an extra regional identity (greater cultural and regional affiliation with the Middle–East) Pakistan has never ventured to expand its security vision beyond India. In fact, Islamabad’s view of entire world appears simplistic, with the world divided between states that are considered important for their ability to provide any direct or indirect help in strengthening Pakistan against India and those that are of no help in this regard”1. Its relationship with other countries has been underscored by this fundamental perception. The US, and China occupy an important place in Pakistan’s quest for security.

Pakistan-US-China Equation 

In its quest for balancing equation with India, Pakistan has always endeavoured to remain strategically relevant to the US. The US-Pakistan strategic relationship is underscored by different strategic perspectives. Some of these are outlined below:-

(a) Pakistan has traditionally responded to regional dynamics and the US to global imperatives. Their strategic and tactical goals, short term and long term objectives are apparently quite different.
(b) Earlier, the threat from outside (USSR) was the basis of relationship, now threat from inside (i.e. terrorism emanating from Pakistan) is basis of relationship. And the US sees Pakistan as having contributed significantly to this condition with its internal dynamics and external behaviour.
(c) Pakistan perceives the American presence in their country as an inhibiting factor for India to implement perceived aggressive designs against Pakistan. Continued engagement of Pakistan besides addressing the aims of global war on terrorism also allows the US to checkmate the rising Chinese influence in Pakistan.

China has been all weather friend of Pakistan since mid-sixties and over the years Pakistan’s strategic interests have largely been satisfied with its relationship with China2.

(a) China has supported Pakistan militarily and diplomatically and has promoted Pakistan as a balancer to India.
(b) In the 1990s, when the US played down its ties with Pakistan, China continued with its comprehensive relationship with Pakistan. It built up Pakistan’s nuclear and missile arsenal which strategically benefited both the countries.
(c) Pakistan views China as a more reliable ally than the US in addressing its security concerns especially regarding India.
(d) While the US wants to promote India as a major power and apparently as a competitor to China in Asia, China is looking for a unipolar Asia with India confined to South Asia.
(e) In Pakistan’s understanding of emerging order, the growing Indo-US nexus has enhanced Pakistan’s strategic importance to China which needs to be exploited by Pakistan.

However, at another level India’s rise as an economic power and its growing cooperation with the US also enhances India’s strategic relevance in China’s calculus. China has been encouraging Pakistan to solve its differences with India, especially the Jammu and Kashmir issue, bilaterally and was almost neutral during Pakistan’s adventure in Kargil.

The Middle East and the Islamic Card

Since Pakistan was created on the basis of Islam, it has strived to be identified as leader and champion of Islam. It stresses its importance as the only nuclear capable Muslim nation of the Ummah. Its solidarity with Islamic causes like Kosovo, Palestine and active participation in Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) is generally aimed at addressing its strategic concerns. A former Ambassador of Pakistan argues that “while favouring an enlightened and moderate approach, Pakistan must defend the core interests of the Islamic world, whether in political matters (as in Palestine and Kashmir), or in ideological or economic affairs.”3 Pakistan’s relationship with Saudi Arabia and Gulf Cooperation Council countries has provided it with political, diplomatic, economic and even military support for its competition with India. Its 1.5 million expatriate community in the Middle East countries provides for a significant amount of foreign remittances. Saudi Arabia have promoted Madrassa culture in Pakistan and contributed to spread of Wahabi Sunni religious orthodoxy which has led to rising sectarianism in Pakistan. With Iran, Pakistan’s relations have gone through many ups and downs as Pakistan had competing interests in Afghanistan and Central Asia. Pakistan’s perspective is to develop itself as an important trans-Asian hub for Afghanistan, Central Asian Region (CAR) and beyond and provide access to Arabian Sea through its territory. In 1990s Pakistan proliferated nuclear technology to Iran as part of its westward orientation and a vision of acquiring a larger pan Islamic perspective. It has also embarked on the path of improving its relationship with Israel to promote itself as an enlightened and a moderate Muslim state and also to address its concerns on growing Indo-Israeli defence and technological cooperation. It makes good sense to improve its relationship with another anchor of the US Middle East policy and with whom many other Arab nations have diplomatic relations. Pakistan believes that it can play a crucial role in bridging the gap between Arab and Israeli views4.

Central Asian Region and Russia

The emergence of new Islamic countries in CAR was seen as a strategic opportunity to extend its influence. It also fitted in well with its policy of westward orientation and evolving Pakistan as ‘hub of Islam’. It is the founder member of Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) which comprised Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan and six members of CAR. The objective was to build infrastructure links, development of transport and communication corridors, network of gas and pipeline grids and interconnected power grids. However, Pakistan’s vision of a new Islamic block with non-Arab component has been stymied by continued instability in the region to which Pakistan has contributed and is still believed to be contributing in not a small measure5. Pakistan has strived to remain strategically relevant by becoming an observer in Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) a status held by India6.

A weakening of Indo-Russian equation is viewed as an opportunity for Pakistan to exploit the emerging strategic space especially for obtaining defence and military supplies from the nascent states like Ukraine. It has also supported Russia’s case for membership of OIC7. In its strategic perspective, the long term presence of the US in Afghanistan and Central Asia goes contrary to Russian and Chinese interests and a Sino-Russian convergence can be useful to Pakistan’s ambitions in the region. After the signing of Indo-US nuclear energy deal, besides looking at China as an alternate source for its nuclear energy needs, Pakistan may also focus on Russia. Pakistan is viewed by Russia as an evolving hub of energy grid between West Asia, Central Asia and vast markets of South Asia. And, therefore, Russia has (during Russian Prime Minister’s visit to India in March 2006) expressed willingness to have a stake in the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline.

Pak perspective is more of a military perspective rather than a holistic national strategic perspective. Pakistan’s strategic edifice is supported by three pillars. First is to seek military parity with India, second is to leverage its geo-strategic location and Islamic linkages and seek military oriented8 (for instance CENTO & SEATO earlier and now Pakistan is most favoured non-NATO ally) and diplomatic alignments that are of help in restraining India and third is to seek asymmetric ways of warfare and strategies for cost effective options. Perceived threat or rather building of threat to its ideology and Islamic nature of state has been used as a powerful ideological and strategic tool by military and civil governments to advance their own agendas. Progressive Islamisation of Pakistan society has created societal dysfunction and the effects of culture of jihad have had world wide reverberations. Policy of jihad in Jammu and Kashmir and Afghanistan were basically to serve India-centric strategic designs of Pakistan establishment. For dominant elite of Pakistan any accommodation with India despite the dictates of realpolitik is an anathema. Strategic culture of Pakistan shaped by its elite prevents it from getting out of the Indo-centric rut and also inhibits it from seeking harmony with India except on the terms defined by this select group. 

Strategic Culture: Who shapes it in Pakistan? 

Strategic culture to a great extent affects the formulation of strategic policies and adopting a course of action in a given situation. Jack Snyder describes strategic culture as “the sum total of ideas, conditional emotional responses and patterns of behavior that the members of national strategic community have acquired through instruction or imitation and share with each other”9. It is widely recognised that in order to understand a nation’s strategic culture one has to study its history, its outlook and how it has conducted itself. A Pakistani writer, however, cautions that too much should not be read into Pakistan’s strategic culture because Pakistan is yet to become a modern nation state and what is being seen is only evolving trends. According to him “developing nations have national psyche and strategic outlooks based on their holistic experience, which might differ from the Western experience. Strategic choices are often determined by narrow parochial interests driven by local factors and in response to a regional based competition. In countries such as India and Pakistan dominant elites build narratives, hypothesise threat perceptions and develop notions of war and peace. They create narratives and myths to help consolidate local interests, domestic politics and organisational interests.”10 The author’s observation about Indian dominant elite seems to be ill founded since there are many checks and balances in Indian political system and no single group or elite can dictate a dominant discourse. Also it is not very far back when India was perceived to be having no strategic culture (as highlighted by George Tanaham). In case of Pakistan, the dominant elite have created strategic myths in order to consolidate its bureaucratic and organisational interests and to continue to hold onto reins of power and affluence. Propagating notions of competition and parity with India have had debilitating consequences for the state of Pakistan.

Pakistan perceives itself not as a state but as a religious community. It has as yet to learn to behave like a modern state based on comparative advantages in political and economic terms instead of religious terms. Pakistan’s elite insists on running it as a Muslim minority being persecuted by a Hindu majority within the South Asian geopolitical construct. Any onslaught on this process or calculus can only occur due to threat of dire consequences, e.g. threat by the US of post 11 September 2001 incident reprisals. But then escape routes and ways and means are found to reassert Pakistan elites’ old thought processes and tenets of strategic behaviour. All present, past and even likely future actions, in a general sense, can be said to be as a result of such a fixation of the dominant elite11. Dominant elite in Pakistan which is instrumental in shaping its strategic culture is said to consist of military and civilian bureaucrats. They are ‘slow to respond, slow to change, resist alternative world views’ would follow the rut rather than chart out a new path and would be more loyal to the King than King itself. The members have to be loyal to a core of set of principles. This establishment or strategic elite is said to share the idea that India is the main threat to Pakistan and must be countered militarily thereby giving military a paramount role. Accordingly, armed forces are considered as best guarantors of security; and democracy is seen as good only as long as it does not interfere with governance of the elite. Alliances and alignments are necessary to achieve objectives of its Jammu and Kashmir policy. Pakistan establishment also has a longstanding belief that some one or something will always come to Pakistan’s rescue because of its (geo-strategic) location12.

The strategic myths13 made popular by the elite has been that Islam is a unifying force in Pakistan, antagonism and animosity to India is a rallying point for drawing attention away from domestic issues, and patronage and hegemony of the US and China helps Pakistan militarily and economically and enables to withstand Indian pressures. That Islamic ideology and its unifying effect could not help Pakistan keeping its both parts together in 1971 is conveniently glossed over. Pakistan’s troubles like insurgency in Balochistan and unrest in Northern Areas is attributed to India’s machinations. Notions of strategic depth in Afghanistan are also post-Taliban creation. Hussain Haqqani argues that even the reference to Jammu and Kashmir as ‘core issue’ is of recent origins. This concept was invented in 1980s and was entirely absent in 1960s14. Although this oligarchy professes desire for peace with India, it is yet to make a paradigm shift. According to Haqqani the top five per cent of Pakistani individuals (which naturally includes the elite) account for 42 per cent of national income and bottom 20 per cent account for only 8 per cent of national income15. The vested interest of elite continues to maintain a certain degree of hostility against India to maintain it’s pre-eminence.

Main Components of Strategic Perspective

Forging of an Islamic identity and appeasement of religious fundamentalism.
Hostility and confrontation with India and quest for parity with India.
Salience of its Jammu and Kashmir policy to the exclusion of others.
Primacy of military security over all other areas of security.
Seeking strategic depth in Afghanistan.
Developing and securing its nuclear assets16.

A major shift in Pak policies is said to have taken place in the wake of 11 September 2001 events when General Musharraf did his famous U-turns on a number of issues connected with both its internal and external dynamics. The four areas of strategic transformation to which Pakistan was expected to devote its energies were: Islamic terrorism and extremism, restoration of democracy and democratic institutions, dialogue with India and change in its Jammu and Kashmir policy and its nuclear proliferation activities. 
During his speech of 19 September 2001 Musharraf cited the following reasons for changing his strategic outlook :-

Pakistan’s strategic assets are not neutered.
Safeguarding of Pakistan’s Jammu and Kashmir policy.
Avoid being labeled as a rogue state helping terrorists.
Prevent an anti-Pak dispensation taking hold of power in Afghanistan.
Improve the image of Pakistan as a responsible nation.

Pakistan’s Jammu and Kashmir policy came into international focus again following terrorists’ attacks on 1 October, 2001 in Kaluchak and 13 December, 2001 attack on Indian Parliament in New Delhi. This led to India mobilising its forces and launching Operation Parakram in order to force Pakistan to change its policy of cross-border terrorism. Pak president in his famous speeches of 12 January 2002 and June 2002 promised again to prevent use of Pakistan’s territory by terrorists for their activities. 

In December 2004, General Karamat, Pakistan’s ambassador to the US had acknowledged the misdirection of Pakistan’s strategic policies and was at pain to emphasise that these have been transformed and Pakistan had to pay a price for this strategic re-orientation. This transformation, according to him included the following:


From a policy of active interference and destabilisation of Afghanistan, Pakistan is now working with the US for a stable and friendly Afghanistan.


From a policy of hostility and confrontation with India, Pakistan now has a policy of dialogue and conflict resolution.


From a policy of appeasement and political expediency with extremist religious elements, Pakistan has moved to confronting them to end the negative influence within the country.

(d) From a clandestine nuclear programme with proliferation consequences, Pakistan has moved to a regime of command, control, and international cooperation.
(e) From vendetta-oriented political leaderships and dictatorial regimes, Pakistan is moving, slowly but surely, toward sustainable democracy and political stability.
(f) From a military-centric concept of security, Pakistan has transited to realise the importance of a broader concept of security with the emphasis on economic and internal stability17.

This can be said to be a frank recognition of Pakistan’s obtuse policies and it is also an indicator that Pakistan has not been able to achieve anything of substance in its objectives of strategic redirection even though its strategic elite is seized with the necessity since September 2001. However, the elite leaves no opportunity to impress the international audience about the sacrifices Pakistan had to make to alter its strategic direction and, therefore, it needs the support of international community in its endeavours, especially in terms of military and economic aid and in overlooking of its transgressions of nuclear proliferation activities. Even lack of progress in instituting democratic and social reforms is expected to be glossed over by the international community due to unique security environment of Pakistan and its status of frontline ally in the war against terrorism (FATWAT). Before General Karamat took over as ambassador to the US, Pakistan had been given the status of major non-NATO ally of the US in June 2004, as a reward for its ‘contribution’ to war against terrorism.

Afghanistan Perspective: Pakistan still looking for Strategic Depth

A review of events in Afghanistan would reveal that there has been resurgence of Taliban in Afghanistan with active connivance of Pakistan. In 2005, former US President Bill Clinton observed that ‘keeping Afghanistan out of the hands of Taliban and undermining Al Qaeda should be priorities because that is by far the biggest threat to our country’. 9/11 Public Discourse Project Report of November 2005 while reviewing progress made on recommendations of 9/11 Commission Report has emphasised that Pakistan continues to be a sanctuary and training ground for terrorists and advises the US government to put pressure on Pakistan to do more to crush terrorism. Besides the terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, the Report stresses that Pakistan should act forcefully to close Taliban-linked madrassas, shut down terror camps and prevent Taliban from operating across Pakistan-Afghan border18.

Pakistan is waiting to claim its self assigned strategic space once the American withdrawal takes place from Afghanistan which according to Pakistan’s thought process may take place eventually. Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz has stated many times that a strong prosperous and stable Afghanistan would be in everybody’s interest. But then a strong and stable Afghanistan may not be favoured by strategic elite of Pakistan. It has not as yet abandoned its visions of gaining illusory strategic depth vis-à-vis India. It was for only six years of Taliban reign from 1996 to 2001 in Afghanistan that Pakistan had some semblance of so called ‘strategic depth’. In a paper written by a think tank in 2003, the Pakistani author even talks of inevitability of an eventual federation between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Historically, a strong and stable Afghanistan has always been a rival of Pakistan and except for Taliban government no other dispensation in Afghanistan has either been under Pakistan’s tutelage or favourably disposed to it. A strong government in Kabul has always been a motivator for Pashtun and Balochi nationalism in Pakistan and has raised questions on controversial Durand line, the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan had also entertained vision of extending the strategic depth to include Islamic nations of Central Asia through Taliban held Afghanistan.
Taliban are major cause of the US and Afghan troops casualties across the border. Musharraf has also refrained from dismantling the terrorist organisations that carry out terror attacks against India. A Washington Post editorial reflecting on Damadola incident of 13 January 2006 opined that ‘in keeping with his double game Musharraf’s government publicly criticised the latest attack even though his intelligence services reportedly cooperated with the US’. The editorial also castigated Musharraf for not cleaning up the madrassas and for protecting and pardoning AQ Khan, the ‘greatest criminal proliferator of nuclear weapon technology in history’. During the visit of the US President George Bush in March 2006, Afghan President Hamid Karzai apprised him of the intensification of Taliban activities in Afghanistan with the support of Pakistan. However, at official level, Musharraf’s contribution to war against terrorism has always been praised as according to the US thought process, alternatives to him could be worse.

Internal Dynamics: Uncertain Direction

Fundamentalism, extremism, bigotry, intolerance and violence in Pakistan society have grown rather than abated. Pakistan has not progressed towards democratic practices and its military controlled government has been instrumental in destroying or degrading democratic institutions and structures and human right abuses have increased. The current situation is largely due to flip-flops on the very issues which General Musharraf, as a president cum Army Chief, could have handled in a deft and firm manner.
In the pre-11 September 2001 dispensation Musharraf subscribed fully to culture of jihad. Musharraf has attempted to draw distinction between terrorism and Jihad in Jammu and Kashmir but the reactions from the West were not favourable and ironically even his own Jihadis do not understand this distinction as they continue to carry out sectarian killings inside Pakistan and so called Jihad against India. And these are same Jihadi elements that are helping the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Waziristan. In the period 2003-2004, Shia community was at the receiving end of the worst sectarian violence and it reached peak in 2005.

There is also a conflict of interest between Musharraf‘s desire to perpetuate his own rule and his path of enlightened moderation. He side lined the mainstream political parties and gave more political space to Islamist parties which enabled politico-religious combine Muttahida Majlis Amal (MMA) to come to power in Baluchistan and NWFP. MMA is the most vociferous opponent of Army’s actions in Waziristan or for that matter MMA is against any step, which is remotely connected with moderation or enlightenment. Yet MMA colluded with Musharraf to approve 17th Amendment to the constitution so that Musharraf as President and head of National Security Council (NSC) could acquire supra-parliamentary powers. Armed with these powers, President can dissolve the National Assembly thus enabling Musharraf to become both king and kingmaker. The role of Military in dictating terms has been institutionalised in the shape of NSC (established in April 2004) for all times to come. Musharraf’s promise of shedding his uniform by end December 2004 did not materialise. Pakistan has been cited as ‘not free’ country in the areas of political rights and civil liberties by the Freedom House Report for the year 2005 (sixth straight year). Mainstream political parties’ leaders have either been exiled or jailed or marginalised and Musharraf has changed Prime Ministers depending on his convenience. It is yet to be seen whether scheduled general elections in 2007 are held and Musharraf sheds his dual charge of President and the Army Chief.

The collusion with MMA has been correctly interpreted by many analysts as contributing to weakening of Musharraf’s resolve to fight militancy and it is also being seen as manifestation of military mullah alliance that has existed since days of Zia. However, Musharraf, through his siding with the US war on terrorism, wishes to be seen as a moderate and pro–democracy leader, yet his record so far shows lack of purpose and direction in moving towards this goal of moderation.

Despite his promises to reform madrassa system of education, no concrete steps have been taken to modify this type of education which promotes violence, intolerance, hatred and militancy. 

Ahmed Rashid a well known analyst had written in the wake of London bombings of 7 July 2005 that “the enormous Islamic extremist infrastructure that the military maintained before 11 September 2001 to fight its wars in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan and Indian Kashmir have not been broken up, only put to temporary sleep while clandestine training camps still spring up at new locations. Some militant groups have been banned three times, only to re-appear under different names”. 

Musharraf’s war on religious intolerance had also included reforming and amending Hudood Ordinances and Blasphemy Laws promulgated through edicts during Zia’s years. Over the years, these draconian measures have been abused and misused against women and minorities. Musharraf is either unwilling or unable to steer the nation towards his oft-stated path of enlightened moderation.

Human Rights Watch in its annual report of the year 2005, published in January 2006, has observed that Musharraf’s military backed government has done little to address human right concerns and Musharraf has continued to tighten its grip on power. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has objected to Pakistan Army’s and para-military forces’ violation of human rights in Balochistan and Northern Areas. It is also critical of lack of political freedom and abuse of women rights and treatment of minorities. Similar reports have been issued by Amnesty International.

Revisiting Military Security and Economy

Pak’s strategic elite has been stressing on the changed focus on economy and non-traditional areas of security due to not only forces of globalisation but also the need to address the more important issues of human development. The macro-level indicators point towards an upward trajectory of Pakistan’s economic growth. According to World Bank figures, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth has been 6.4 per cent in 2004; in 2001 it was 
two per cent, in 2002 it was three per cent, in 2003 it was five per cent. For fiscal year 2005-2006, it is expected to be around 
6.2 per cent, somewhat less than expected because of the impact of earthquake in October 2005. The foreign exchange reserves have also grown to over $ 12 billion compared to $ one billion not long ago. Pakistan’s per capita income of $ 480 in 2000 has grown to $ 600 in 200419. However, these macro-economics conceal a number of variable factors which may affect the sustainability of economic growth in the long term.

A number of reports have cautioned that long term economic outlook of Pakistan is uncertain because Pakistan is highly dependent upon foreign lending and import of basic commodities besides its public debt being 70 per cent of its GDP. Pakistan has been receiving aid from World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other international institutions in a more liberal manner after it became ally of the US in war against terror. Even Pakistani diaspora which had become cautious in sending foreign remittances after military take over in October 1999, resumed sending funds after 2001. In 2003, it received $ 4 billion in foreign remittances compared to one billion dollars in 2001. What might compound the problem is consistently substantial fiscal deficit every year.

Pakistan’s external debt of $ 33 billion has grown to $ 38 billion in 2005 (one third of the GDP). Defence expenditure and interest on public debt take away 67 per cent of total revenues leaving very little for expenditure in areas of infrastructure, health and education. Economic reforms have been slow and hampered by political instability or lack of political will. In February 2005, President World Bank remarked that even though macro-economic indicators were looking good, ‘Pakistan has a long way to go in terms of achieving its human development goals’. World Bank President committed to increase lending to Pakistan by 50 per cent for the period 2006 to 2009 and cautioned that there are many problems that remain to be tackled.

In the current fiscal year, Pakistan’s trade deficit in first six months has increased by 132 per cent amounting to $ 5.6 billion compared to $ 2.4 billion for the same period last year. Pakistan’s oil import bill has also increased by 62 per cent. Moreover, Saudi Arabia has declined to resume $ two billion special financing arrangement (SFA) for crude oil imports thus creating more problems. Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves of $ 12.5 billion are not adequate to cover $ 13.65 billion worth of six months imports- ‘a benchmark that the Pakistan’s government used to take pride in recent years’20.

Further, the defence expenditure as a percentage of overall government expenditure has been consistently high at an average of 18 per cent for the last five years or so. Similarly the percentage of GDP spent on defence budget has been maintained at four per cent plus levels with large annual increments in real terms in spite of the avowed change in emphasis on military security21. For 2005, its defence expenditure has gone up to five per cent of its GDP22. The US $ three billion aid package for Pakistan apparently lays more emphasis on military component of the aid rather than the civil aid even though the US claims to split its aid evenly between both the components. According to Pentagon, Pakistan received coalition support funding of $ 1.32 billion for period January 2003 to September 2004, an amount roughly equivalent to one-third of total defence expenditure during that period23.

Even though purchase of F-16 fighter aircraft has been deferred by Pakistan due to earth quake and resulting unpopularity of the military government, Pakistan has been given major equipment through US military grants and sales. Another deal signed a week after the earthquake for $ one billion with Sweden for purchase of six early warning aircraft was quietly allowed to continue in spite of urgent requirement of funds for rehabilitation, reconstruction and provision of relief aid (estimated to cost $10 to 12 billion) for the earth quake hit areas24. The inventory of military equipment being provided by the US includes six C-130 military transport aircraft ($ 75 million grant), 12 radars and 40 Bell helicopters ($ 300 million sale), eight P-3C aircraft, six Phalanx guns and 200 TOW missiles (proposed sales worth up to $ 1.2 billion) and sale of 300 Sidewinder air to air missiles and 60 Harpoon anti-ship missiles (worth $ 226 million) besides six Aerostat surveillance radars ($155 million) and other miscellaneous military equipment25. It is obvious that all this equipment is not meant for counter terrorism missions and is ultimately likely to be used against India thus highlighting the misplaced perceptions of the US also in preserving the so called balance in South Asia. This also indicates that Pak military’s notions of security have very low priority for human security and their fixation with military security have not undergone a change.

Jammu and Kashmir Policy and Quest for Parity- Has there been any change?

After the military stand off on Indo-Pak border in 2002, there has been cease fire along the LOC and in Siachen since November 2003. The peace process which was initiated in January 2004 has progressed to third round of dialogue which was held in January 2006. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has stated that peace process is irreversible and short of secession and redrawing of boundaries, India can live with anything. The composite dialogue comprising eight elements has two broad areas; confidence building measures (CBM) and dispute resolution. While there has been noticeable improvement in people to people CBMs there has been no progress on disputed issues. At one point there was possibility of reaching an accord on demilitarisation of Siachen but it was stymied by Pakistan’s intransigence on exchanging marked maps showing each other’s troops’ positions before withdrawal from actual ground position line. This situation continues even after the tenth round of talks held between Defence Secretaries on 26-27 May 2006. For Pakistan’s military government the core issue continues to be Jammu and Kashmir and for India core issue continues to be Pak sponsored cross-border terrorism. Indian priority is to pursue people to people contacts and improve trade and economic relations before Jammu and Kashmir issue can be addressed in a substantive manner. For Pakistan priority remains Jammu and Kashmir and every thing else comes thereafter.

The Pak military has made heavy investment militarily, psychologically, ideologically and doctrinally in Jammu and Kashmir and in spite of repeated failures has not been able to alter its perceptions. For Musharraf and his military there is an inescapable need to show some returns on this investment and to save its propagated image of saviour of Pakistan. In his zeal to force the pace of peace process Musharraf has been suggesting proposals like demilitarisation and self governance which though look very attractive on the face of it but lack the substantive, political, diplomatic and historical perspective that is needed to solve the 56 years old problem. Musharraf needs to show something to the people before he goes in for general elections in 2007, perhaps with an eye on becoming an elected President.

There appears to be no perceptible change in Pakistan’s defence policy and military strategy, which revolves around being on tactical offensive in Jammu and Kashmir and retaining the capability to upscale low intensity conflict in Jammu and Kashmir as well as in other parts of India combined with continuous improvements in its conventional and nuclear deterrence. A review of Pakistan’s strategic behavior on nuclear and missile related issues would reveal that it has not given up substantively its ambitions of seeking parity with India. Pak has remonstrated before the US that it should be given same benefits and concessions which may be conferred on India due to Indo-US nuclear deal. This is in spite of the adverse record of Pakistan on non-proliferation issues and activities of AQ Khan Network. It has also been reported that even though AQ Khan has been sequestered, certain sections of this network are still active26.


Whether Pakistan moves towards stability, democracy, moderation, prosperity and good governance and avoids being a source of insecurity to its neighbours in particular and international community in general would largely be shaped by its internal dynamics and external behaviour. This in turn would depend upon the ability and willingness of its strategic elite to respond positively to the forces of globalisation and aspirations of its people and moving away from its anti-India fixation.

India has to fashion its response options keeping in view the likely scenarios that may emerge in medium and long term. Some have even suggested that it is better to deal with Musharraf now than his replacement later. Even if Musharraf goes, the new dispensation in Pakistan is unlikely to be worse or better than him. It is also a fallacy that Musharraf’s military government is a barrier against fundamentalists taking over the reins of power since it has been propagating this myth to prolong its hold on power. However, on balance, if democratic government comes to power it would definitely be more representative but may still be constrained by strategic culture of its elite to not seek accommodation with India except on its own terms. Islamist parties would continue to influence the strategic discourse. For instance, for 2007 general elections both MMA and Alliance for Restoration of democracy are forming a joint front to contest elections. If Pakistan moves more towards radicalisation and fundamentalism it would become unattractive for the US and the West and its strategic leverages would diminish, therefore, it may continue to follow a policy of calibrated support to extremists in order to remain strategically relevant and at the same time pursue its unaltered strategic interests.

Therefore, irrespective of whether civil or military government comes to power it is unlikely to change substantially Pakistan’s strategic thought process especially in relation to India. The effects of strategic myths made popular by the elite may be attenuated in the long term and beyond when there is a generation change in members of the strategic elite or their perceptions get altered due to some strategic shock. India’s political leadership is unlikely to give any concessions unless fundamental perceptions of Pak elite undergo a change especially in relation to cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. Thus India needs to continue to stress on people to people contacts, nuclear and conventional CBMs, trade and transit and enhancement of commercial and economic relations as a priority before moving towards seeking solution to Jammu and Kashmir issue.

Pakistan continues to be a source of instability not only for the region but also for the international community. Its policies have the potential to threaten interests of its neighbours and the US and China. Pak military’s ambivalent record on issues of terrorism and its attempts to export terror through Bangladesh and Nepal needs to be continually highlighted at international fora. Meanwhile our internal machinery needs to be geared up to meet the ever expanding menace of Pak sponsored terrorism and other destabilising activities in India.


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38th USI National Security Lecture

The 38th USI National Security Lecture was delivered by Lt Gen Raj Shukla, PVSM, YSM, SM, ADC on Wednesday, 13 April 2022 at 1100 h (IST) at the United Service Institution of India. 37th National Se…

'Is The New Cold War a Myth or Reality'?

A talk on 'Is The New Cold War a Myth or Reality'? by Mr Atul Singh, Founder, CEO & Editor-in-Chief Fair Observer, USA scheduled at the USI, New Delhi on Wednesday, 23 Feb 2022 from 1100 to 1300 H (I…

UN Peace Operations: Women, Peace and Security

Along with the decline in inter-state conflicts and a sharp increase in intra-state conflicts in the last two decades, there is a consequent increase in the casualties to innocent civilians. Taking no…

National Security Policy of Pakistan (NSPP) 2022-2026

USI is conducting a panel discussion on the ‘National Security Policy of Pakistan (NSPP) 2022-2026’ on 07 Feb 2022 from 1100 h to 1300 h.

FRONTLINE COMMANDER: The Military Biography of the Late Lt Gen Jaswant Singh, PVSM, AVSM


37th National Security Lecture: The Chinese Challenge - Its Many Dimensions and India's Options

Shri Maroof Raza, a well know commentator on strategic security and military issues will deliver the lecture on 24 Nov 2021 at 1100 hrs at the USI. The focus of the talk will be the geo-strategic as w…

Indian Military Operations Mukti Bahini & the BSF Salient Factors in the Liberation of Bangladesh

Shri VK Gaur and Lt Col BB Singh with Dr Sanjeev Chopra (based on VK Gaur’s book Yoon Janma Bangladesh) Chair: LS Bajpai

Naval Operations Beyond Naval Blockade Valley of Words 2021

Sandeep Unnithan in conversation with Admiral Anup Singh - Valley of Words 2021.

Air Operations Experience of First Heliborne Operation Valley of Words 2021 1080p

Sqn Ldr Rana Chinna in conversation with Sqn Ldr Pushp Vaid, VrC

Air Operations Air War in the West Valley of Words 2021 1080p

AVM Manmohan Bahadur in conversation with Jagan Mohan (Unheralded operations by Vampires, 'Texan' Harvard, Canberras and An-12)

Stories of Valour Narration of stories of valour by Maroof Raza Valley of Words 2021

Narration of stories of valour by Maroof Raza. Maroof Raza talks of forthcoming book The Contested Lands (India-China border dispute) - Valley of Words 2021

Managing Future Conflicts Role of World and Regional Fora Valley of Words 2021

Ambassador Asoke Mukerji and Maj Gen Dhruv Katoch Moderator: Lt Gen JS Lidder original video can be accessed from:…

Perceptions India’s Compulsions and Outlook on East Pakistan Objectives and Strategy

Shri Iqbal Malhotra in conversation with Lt Gen Nirbhay Sharma and Maj Gen Ian Cardozo - Valley of Words 2021

Perceptions Western Pakistan’s Designs on East Pakistan Campaign, Objectives and Strategy

Lt Gen PJS Pannu in conversation with Christine Fair and Ambassador Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty

Contribution of Indian Cinema in Infusing Patriotism Valley of Words 2021

Lt Gen PJS Pannu and Maroof Raza in conversation with Shri JP Dutta (producer, director, filmmaker) and Nomination of Bollywood film Border on 1971 War. Original video can be accessed from: https://w…

Diplomacy and Statecraft Perceptions Information and Media Operations Valley of Words 2021

Lt Gen PJS Pannu in conversation with Sir Mark Tully, Subroto Chattopadhyay and Vishnu Shankar (Editor, TV9 Network) Original video can be accessed from :…

USI- FO Live: Evolving Geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific Region

The United Service Institution of India (USI) and Fair Observer present a panel discussion on the evolving geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific region. Lately, the AUKUS Deal has added another twist to th…

𝐒𝐓𝐑𝐈𝐕𝐄 𝐖𝐞𝐛𝐢𝐧𝐚𝐫 on Buyout Sino Pak Collusivity Implications For India Maj

STRIVE a Lucknow based National and Defence Security Studies Centre organised a Webinar in collaboration with Military Literature Festival, Lucknow on a highly sensitive and contemporary issue the “B…

Can India and Pakistan Take Steps Towards Rapprochement

In this episode Major General BK Sharma (Director - United Service Institution of India) and Lt. General Asad Durrani (Former Director General ISI, Pakistan talks with Analyst Arvind Saharan on Indi…

𝗨𝗡 𝗣𝗲𝗮𝗰𝗲𝗸𝗲𝗲𝗽𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗢𝗽𝗲𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀: 𝗣𝗿𝗼𝘁𝗲𝗰𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗼𝗳 𝗖𝗶𝘃𝗶𝗹𝗶𝗮𝗻𝘀

Over the past few decades, inter-state conflicts waned but there has been an increase in Intra-state conflicts. In any conflict, the innocent civilians are the ones who suffer the most. But the suffer…

Valedictory Address by CDS General Bipin Rawat PVSM UYSM AVSM YSM SM VSM ADC

Valedictory Address by CDS General Bipin Rawat PVSM UYSM AVSM YSM SM VSM ADC The original video of the event can be accessed on the VoW youtube channel:…

Managing Future Conflicts Deterrence and Conflict Prevention: Valley of Words 2021

Major General Dhruv C Katoch, SM, VSM (Retd) in conversation Lieutenant General JS Lidder, UYSM, AVSM (Retd), Ambassador Asoke Mukerji, Shri Arvind Gupta and Lt Gen Prakash Menon PVSM, AVSM, VSM [Retd…


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    All classes of membership except temporary membership and membership of Service Officers applying for Correspondence Courses being conducted by the USI, will be subject to approval by the Executive Committee. The following are ordinarily eligible to become members of the Institution, with full voting rights:-

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