What is Pakistan Army’s strategic direction? Is it to focus on western border, internal front/security, or eastern border? The simple answer to these questions is that existential threat remains from India and thus the primary focus must be on it.
Western Border: By 2014, the US-Nato forces will be leaving Afghanistan, but the Taliban will be staying back! As they withdraw, it will be with the realisation that the use of military force proved inadequate. Also, the Afghan National Army that will be left on its own may collapse just like the South Vietnam Army did once the Americans left Vietnam. Even if Kabul does not fall for some time, the Afghan Taliban will emerge as a dominant force. So Pakistan’s army needs to build friendly relations with the Afghan Taliban.
Indeed, Pakistan has no conflict with the Taliban or other Afghans. A negotiated peace in Afghanistan facilitated by the ISI is in our national interest. After the withdrawal of the US-Nato troops from Afghanistan and reduced stress on the war on terror, the Pak Army’s focus on the Afghan border would reduce considerably. Therefore, logically the western border cannot be the strategic direction of our army in future.
Internal Front/Security: Terrorism has wrecked Pakistan’s internal fibre, economy, terrorised the society, resulted in thousands of deaths and untold tragedies. To deal with it, the state needs to pursue political, social and economic reforms. All elements of national power need to be harmonised to achieve synergetic effect against the terrorist malaise.
For the security component, an internal security force (perhaps under military command, but a separate organisation) must be established, trained and equipped. Globally, several internal security force models are available. The Pakistan Army was not created, nor is configured for policing duties. It should not be reduced to a glorified, elevated police force that is, probably, the intention of the state’s internal and external enemies.
Eastern Border: India continues to occupy Kashmir, the water issue has aggravated, resource clash with India rises. It arms feverishly and has become the world’s biggest arms importer. The Indian military developmental strategy (fleets of helicopters, high-tech airpower build up, etc) is to give teeth to its ‘Cold Start’ strategy. But the ‘Cold Start’ or attack within 72 hours of preparation cannot conquer Pakistan. Even the American view was that it could have mixed results.
In fact, now the ‘Cold Start’ offensive can lead to catastrophic effect. Pakistan’s defensive preparations, besides early mobilisation would be augmented by the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons Nasr against advancing Indian military forces. This, in turn, can lead to strategic nuclear exchange or an all-out nuclear war. A nuclear war will destroy the world in general, not just South Asia.
So a nuclear war must be avoided, which actually means that all wars between Pakistan and India need to be avoided. Peace is required between the two states. Diplomacy, trade and travel can prove helpful. However, absence of conflict can be the real guarantee of peace.
Nevertheless, Kashmir remains a flashpoint between India and Pakistan, and has to be resolved. A recent military clash in Kashmir could always escalate. If our army is oriented towards the western border and embroiled in the internal front, New Delhi will not even talk about Kashmir, let alone the desire to resolve it.
Peace with India: Peace talks with India, besides Kashmir, should focus on defence budget limits and military hardware inductions to ensure strategic balance. Both countries need to improve the quality of life of their citizens, rather than an open-ended arms race.
In future, the Pak Army will have to disengage from the western border, make peace on the internal front (Taliban, Baloch militants) and refocus on the eastern border.
After 2014, Pakistan Army will need to redeploy itself. This would add conventional deterrence to the ‘Cold Start’ and reduce the use of nuclear weapons, even though Pakistan’s credible nuclear deterrence would be in place.
However, peace with India can be achieved. For this, Pakistani statecraft should be backed by a lavishly nuclear armed, professional war fighting military machine called the Pakistan Army!
The writer is a retired brigadier and has authored a book titled Gwadar on the Global Chessboard. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Blog: wwwpakistangeopolitics.blogspot.com