The most important objective of India’s regional strategy is to establish its hegemony in South Asia. Pakistan is the only country in the region, which is capable of thwarting the realisation of this objective. The development and acquisition of nuclear weapons by Pakistan and India have virtually ruled out an all-out war between the two countries because of its enormous destructive consequences. But border skirmishes below the nuclear threshold, particularly across the LOC, are a possibility as the Indian raid in the Bagh area of Azad Kashmir on January 6 suggests.
In any case, the acquisition of nuclear weapons by both Pakistan and India is unlikely to dissuade the latter from pursuing its goal of establishing its hegemony in South Asia through other means. It is likely, therefore, that India will rely primarily on political, economic and cultural means to realise its goal of hegemony in South Asia, rather than the use of its military. A careful analysis of India’s policies indicates that it is following precisely such a strategy in the management of its relations with Pakistan.
There is no denying the fact that peace between Pakistan and India is a strategic imperative now that both the countries have become de facto nuclear powers. The promotion of good neighbourly relations between them is the need of the hour so that they can concentrate their resources on economic development and the promotion of the economic welfare of their peoples. However, one cannot draw the erroneous conclusion from these compulsions that India would be willing to treat its neighbours in South Asia on equal terms. As the noted Indian analyst C. Raja Mohan has pointed out India has sought primacy and a veto over the actions of outside powers in South Asia. (India and the Balance of Power, the Foreign Affairs, July-August, 2006). Our leaders and policymakers should, therefore, be in no doubt about India’s hegemonic designs in the region.
This should not be surprising considering that India considers itself as an emerging great power and it is in the nature of a great power to seek hegemony in its region. John J. Mearsheimer points out in his widely acclaimed book, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, that in view of the anarchic nature of the international system “even when a great power achieves a distinct military advantage over its rivals, it continues looking for chances to gain more power. The pursuit of power stops only when hegemony is achieved.” This, however, is not an argument to enter into confrontation with India. Rather we should be mindful of India’s hegemonic aims in the region in the conduct of our India policy.
Since Pakistan has acquired a nuclear deterrent, India is not in a position to inflict a military defeat on Pakistan for bringing it down on its knees. Indian strategy, in essence, therefore, would focus on political, economic and cultural means to overcome Pakistan’s opposition to its hegemonic designs in South Asia.
It would also continue its massive armament programme not only for positioning itself as a great power and competing with China, but also for putting pressure on Pakistan to increase its military expenditure correspondingly. If the Indian game plan succeeds, Pakistan would be forced to allocate increasing amount of resources to the military sector, thus, denying the economic sector the resources needed for Pakistan’s economic growth and prosperity. Meanwhile, India in reality would concentrate its resources and energy on the task of economic development.
In the Indian calculations, this trend if continued over a sufficiently long period of time would place Pakistan in an untenable situation of poverty and backwardness in the face of economic prosperity in India and force it to accept the Indian hegemony in the region. Unfortunately, this is precisely what has been happening in the Pakistan-India equation. While India has been growing economically at a high rate during the past decade and a half, Pakistan’s dismal economic performance has left it far behind. Our military expenditure is at an unsustainably high level while the allocation of resources to economic development as a percentage of GDP is at an extremely low level.
As the noted scholar of military strategy, B.H. Liddell Hart, has expounded in his classic book on the strategy of indirect approach, the essence of strategy is “concentration of strength against weakness.” According to him, the concentration of strength against weakness depends on the dispersion of the opponent’s strength. If these principles are applied to the situation in South Asia, India would be happy if Pakistan fritters away its resources on the building up of its military machine leaving the economic sector in a weak and vulnerable condition.
If such an economically weak Pakistan is also pushed into a South Asian Economic Union as India has been advocating, Pakistan’s capitulation before India would be complete even without the firing of a single Indian bullet. Pakistan then would become merely an appendage of the Indian economy and the decisions about our economy would be taken in New Delhi, rather than in Islamabad. Once that happens, it would not be too long before decisions about Pakistan’s politics and security are also taken under the influence of New Delhi because of the close link of economic issues with political and security issues. Pakistan would thus be reduced to the status of India’s satellite fulfilling India’s real strategic aim in South Asia.
The Indian economic offensive against Pakistan is spearheaded by a cultural invasion through the use or misuse of Pakistan’s electronic and print media and NGO’s asserting that Pakistan and India are culturally the same. The propagation of this line of thought strikes at the very roots of Pakistan’s ideology and the rationale for its establishment. The purpose of this propaganda campaign is to break the will of the people of Pakistan to resist India’s hegemonic designs.
The situation has deteriorated to such an extent that it is not uncommon now to come across members of Pakistan’s intelligentsia arguing that the establishment of Pakistan was a mistake. I have heard at least one former Pakistani Foreign Minister, who must remain unnamed, arguing vocally that the Muslims of South Asia would have been better off in a united India than they are in Pakistan. Such people obviously have not seen the conclusions of the survey of the condition of the Indian Muslims commissioned by the Indian government. According to this survey, the plight of the Indian Muslims is now worse than that of the untouchables because of the discrimination to which they are subjected overtly and surreptitiously by the majority community in India.
Pakistan’s leadership and intelligentsia need to analyse carefully the nature of the threat that India poses to Pakistan and then formulate an appropriate strategy to counter it. While Pakistan must maintain a credible deterrent at the lowest level of armaments to discourage any Indian military adventurism, we must realise that the real Indian offensive against Pakistan in pursuit of its hegemonic designs in South Asia has been launched on the economic, cultural and political fronts. It is on these fronts that we must take effective steps to strengthen our position vis-à-vis India.
Our failure to take necessary remedial measures would lead us to the same fate as befell the Soviet Union, which disintegrated because of its economic, cultural and political weaknesses and not because of any shortage of nuclear and conventional weapons.
The writer is a retired ambassador and the president of the Lahore Council for World Affairs. Email: email@example.com