Strategic Compulsions and Economic Predicaments

ByAlam Brohi

A former Ambassador of Pakistan and was associated with Foreign Service of Pakistan


July 8, 2022

Strategic Compulsions

Though strategically situated, Pakistan came into being with certain security compulsions. The bigger dominion in Strategic Compulsions the east acceded to the division of the Sub-continent with a heavy heart and never spared any chance to destabilise Pakistan or undo the division of the Bharat Mata. Ignoring the principles of the division, it sent its troops into Srinagar to annex Jammu and Kashmir, Hyderabad Deccan and Junagadh, withheld Pakistan’s share from the divisible military hardware and finances and tried to divert the waters of the rivers. Inciting the Afghan leaders, it also squeezed Pakistan from the west.

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had a grand ideal of seeing independent India as the true hegemon successor of the British imperialist power in the Sub-continent. He idealised a grand confederation of all the small states emerging out of the former British imperialist possessions with New Delhi as its capital. His earlier writings and statements as leader of India which I have extensively quoted in articles on Pak-US relations bear eloquent evidence of this historic fact.
The international scenario after the Second World War was fast-changing with China passing through a devastating revolutionary upheaval; the Arab Muslim states still under the British and French Protectorate and the Cold War dividing the world into two antagonist camps with the US-led western bloc frantically looking for partners to stem the thrust of communism in Asia and the Middle East terming the neutrality of small states as amoral. The small states had to take sides. These were the circumstances why Pakistan developed a security-centric or India-centric policy and opted for the tight embrace of the US. The policy had its merits and demerits.

The glaring mistake on our part, in my view, was to remain too long in the US embrace though we had started laying the foundation of our friendship with China and had many openings from the Kremlin for durable defence cooperation. We became too dependent on the US economic and military aid and borrowings from the Western international financial institutions with a delusion to stand as countervail to the Indian hegemony in South Asia. The three military confrontations with India including the wars of September 1965 and December 1971 and the Kargil Conflict of July 1999 were devastating exercises in futility which showed the political and strategic bankruptcy of our political and military leaderships taking a heavy toll on our military and economic resources.

The relative economic stability in Ayub Khan’s era was due mainly to the US economic and military aid. The industrial development supervised by the World Bank trained economists with the massive patronage of the government concentrated the national wealth within the well-known 22 families leaving the teeming millions on crumbs struggling hard to meet both ends. The military and bureaucratic elite from the bigger province took a sigh of relief at the secession of East Pakistan thinking that they finally got rid of the burden of Bengalis. The time proved them grossly wrong.

Bengalis had no hangover of countervailing to India or the strategic apprehensions of being squeezed by hostile states in their neighbourhood as is the case with Pakistan or they had no dispute with India as strategically serious as Jammu and Kashmir. They forged ahead to secure economic stability.

Though a close ally of the West in the Cold War, we failed to secure the support of the Western bloc to bring enough pressure on India to honour the UNSC resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir. The indigenous uprising of Kashmiris against the occupation of India in the 1980s and 1990s was marred by our support of dubious Kashmiri militant organisations. Almost all these organisations as put by Riaz Muhammad Khan were based outside the Jammu and Kashmir. The Indian diplomacy successfully created convincing linkages between militant organisations within the valley and Pakistan weakening our otherwise principled stance on the issue.

We remained addicted to foreign economic aid throughout from 1951 to this day always looking to the US, World Bank, IMF, ADB and borrowings from affluent Arab and Western countries and postponing the structural reforms in the economy with the indulgence of the elite masquerading as representatives of an affluent nation. Stepping in Islamabad, a foreign envoy or tourist is amazed to notice the elegant structures of our Federal Secretariat; the Presidency; the Prime Minister’s Secretariat and the Prime Minister House; the Parliament; the Supreme Court edifice; the Federal Bureau of Revenue and the sprawling Ministers’ enclave.

The coalition government of PMLN adopted a new narrative while increasing the prices of petroleum products and utilities that they have to take hard decisions. To withdraw subsidies from petrol, oil, gas and electricity which directly impact the masses is not a hard decision. Hard decisions lie somewhere else. Can you, Prime Minister, slash your and provincial cabinets by half; reduce federal divisions as far as possible; withdraw the privilege of petrol and electricity and gas from Federal and Provincial Ministers, Federal Secretaries, Additional Secretaries, Provincial Secretaries, bring the military businesses within the tax network, impose income tax on agriculture income and freeze non-developmental expenditures for five years including the development funds extended to MNAs and MPAs, ban the import of non-essential foreign goods including the betel leaves and avoidable foreign visits by the Ministers and bureaucrats? In this economic crunch, there is no letup in foreign visits. Finance Minister has the temerity to spend Rs.5 million to renovate his house.

The biggest drag on our budgetary outlets is the defence allocation. The generals are patriotic citizens of this country and understand the economic predicament of the country more than the common populace. We can ask them to apply a voluntary cut of 30 per cent on the defence budget reducing the perks and privileges of the senior military officers and meeting their requirements by judicious management of the resources available to them after such budgetary cut. This will require us to reorient our foreign and security policy notwithstanding the fluid geo-strategic situation within the region. TW


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