Ambassador Alam Brohi concludes his strategic argument
Geographically, Pakistan’s Strategic compulsion and economic meltdown occupies a significant place sitting on the mouth of the three most important and volatile regions including the South, South West and Central Asia with land and maritime links with equally important countries including India, China, Iran, Afghanistan and the world at large. It has access to Central Asia through China and Afghanistan. The territorial location portends both economic opportunities and strategic challenges. This is what Pakistan has been confronted with.
India has never reconciled with the episode of the division of the sub-continent. All its efforts have been directed to reduce Pakistan to a vassal state at par with Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. Our relations with Afghanistan were impacted by the greater Pukhtunistan movement and later the military intervention of superpowers in that luckless country. As allies of the Western world, Pakistan and Iran maintained close ties during the Pahlavi monarchy. The clergy-led revolution brought a sea change in the region.
Pakistan made every possible effort to show neutrality in the Iran-Iraq war, and the growing US antagonism towards Iran. But Pakistan’s close relations with the Arab monarchies and its close strategic alliance with the US in Afghanistan kept fuelling the suspicions of Iran’s ruling clergy. The sectarian proxy war on our territory and the emergence of the Taliban in Afghanistan further negatively impacted relations between the two countries.
The disgraceful flight of the US from Afghanistan and the ascendancy of the Taliban to power have added to the security woes of Pakistan. The Taliban are as usual non-cooperative in countering the terrorist activities of TTP and IS-Khorasan in Pakistan using the Afghan territory. The TTP demands threaten the territorial integrity of the country. We are caught in a challenging situation.
Iran reportedly has a soft spot for the Baloch insurgents who have relocated their camps close to the Iranian border. Now the Baloch insurgency has echoed in the corridors of the US Congress where the US Congressmen have called upon the Biden administration to support the Baloch right to self-determination. Narendra Modi is already hell-bent on helping Baloch to secede from Pakistan. The Indian support for the insurgency has been fuelling the alienation of the Baloch population from Pakistan. This is a real security threat, indeed.
India has altered the situation in Jammu and Kashmir by doing away with its special status and annexing it as a Federal Union. Its next purported move is to claim this part of the valley. Its atrocious treatment of the hapless Kashmiris in terms of blatant human rights violations including killing, maiming, abducting, arson and rape continue unabated with systematic propaganda to paint Pakistan as a state sponsoring and using terrorism to achieve its policy objectives. India under Narendra Modi has become unpredictable. We can expect anything worse from Modi.
The antagonism between US and China has further intensified adding to the predicament of Pakistan. The economic challenges force the country to accept the humiliating conditions of IMF, the World Bank and the other international institutions. The hostility of the US, India and the International financial institutions towards CPEC and Pakistan’s close strategic relations with China needs no elaboration. The budding regional alliance spearheaded by China and Russia to change the unipolar international system into a bi-polar or multi-polar one has received a momentous setback by the military confrontation between Russia and Ukraine and the abrupt regime change in Pakistan.
The Russian-Ukrainian war is already having its devastating impact on the world economy giving rise to apprehensions of serious food deficiency slowing economic and commercial exchanges between countries. Pakistan is no more self-sufficient in food. It imports huge quantities of wheat. Though Pakistan produces sufficient wheat but has failed to stop its smuggling to Iran, Afghanistan and India. Hoarding of wheat and sugar is another menace that has evaded all punitive measures of the governmental machinery.
These are the strategic circumstances surrounding the country which we have to take into consideration before demanding a drastic cut in our defence budget. Will our leadership be able to prepare the nation particularly the Punjab to put the Kashmir dispute on the backburner at this moment when the Kashmiris are confronting a serious move by the Modi Sarkar to change the Muslim majority into a minority by the massive settlement of non-Muslims in the valley? How shall we deal with the Taliban and TTP? We have seen in the past that the TTP has never adhered to any agreement. Their demands for reversing the merger of the tribal territories into KP and the enforcement of Sharia of their version in those territories and the Malakand division will open a new Pandora’s Box in the country.
The unpredictable US policy in Afghanistan is yet another challenge. The US and its Western allies do not seem willing to give the Taliban any chance to settle and rule the country. Their policy is to keep the Taliban starved of cash and economic and financial resources dealing with an impoverished nation. There will be further punitive military action against the Taliban once the US and its NATO allies get out of the Ukraine situation. Should Pakistan be part of the US military measures in Afghanistan angering the Taliban and their apologists including TTP sleeper cells in the country?
The economic and strategic challenges are daunting. It is also not easy to recalibrate our strategic policy without a realistic appraisal of the security threats staring right at us. Without economic stability, the army cannot fight a war or guarantee the security of the country. Economic affluence alone is also no guarantee to the security of a country. Both military and economic strength go hand in hand. We are living in a Hobbesian world where one is always vulnerable to predators if all the elements of state power don’t work in unison. The choice lies with us. Either the ruling elite should come forward for the needed economic sacrifices or sacrifice the masses at the altar of their extravagance being the chronic bane of this country. TW