“Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”

–Sun Tzu, The Art of War


Since independence, India has been the source of a grave and enduring threat to Pakistan’s security and economic well-being. This threat has manifested itself in outstanding disputes especially the Kashmir dispute, the dismemberment of Pakistan by India in 1971, continuous tensions in Pakistan-India relations, Indian efforts to dominate Pakistan economically and isolate it diplomatically, and, more recently, Indian sponsorship of terrorism and subversion in Pakistan as reflected by Kulbhushan Jadhav’s case.

The rise of Hindu bigotry in India combined with its hegemonic ambitions has brought about a qualitative change in the grave threat posed by it to Pakistan’s security. In my last article, Rise of a bigoted Hindu India (Nation, 20 August, 2019), I drew attention to the implications of this development for Pakistan’s security and the regional peace and stability. Briefly, it would aggravate the enduring threat posed by India to Pakistan’s security by giving the tensions between the two countries the character of a civilizational confrontation in the long run and by making the Kashmir dispute even more intractable. India’s decision to transform its illegal occupation of Kashmir in violation of UN Security Council resolutions into outright annexation of the territory reflects the aggressive approach that New Delhi is likely to pursue in the future.

Recent developments in Pakistan-India relations have also put paid to the unrealistic goal of a South Asian economic union within the framework of SAARC, which in any case was undesirable from Pakistan’s point of view as it would have allowed India to dominate Pakistan economically and even politically. Further, the rise of an India steeped in Hindu bigotry and driven by hegemonic designs is bad news generally speaking for regional and global peace and security. India’s smaller neighbors and countries in the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean regions should, therefore, be prepared for the adverse consequences of India’s hegemonic ambitions.

At this watershed moment, Pakistan’s policy makers need to assess the national, regional and global realities carefully to devise a long-term strategy for overcoming the dangers lurking ahead, ensuring Pakistan’s security, promoting its economic well-being, and attaining the goal of a satisfactory resolution of the outstanding Pakistan-India disputes, especially the Kashmir dispute. Emotional responses, sloganeering, and a short-term approach will not take us far. It is important to remember that in this world of realpolitik, power rather than international law or morality is the ultimate arbiter of strategic issues of war and peace. The need for building up our national power for safeguarding our national interests, therefore, cannot be over-emphasized. Further, we need to adopt a comprehensive approach in building up our national strength covering political stability, economic development and military muscle.

Nation building is not a short-term enterprise. It involves continuous struggle by a nation, spanning over decades, in which the people as a whole have to brave hardships and overcome obstacles which may come their way. Economic power and advancement in science and technology hold a special position in the calculus of national power in the modern times. Ideally, at the initial stages of its development, a country should assign a higher priority to the growth of its economic power than to building up its military might because a sound military superstructure can be built up only on the solid foundation of its economic strength. Reversing the order of priorities can lead to disastrous consequences. The Soviet Union collapsed primarily because its weak economy could not sustain the enormous burden of its strategic commitments and heavy military superstructure. Further, we should keep our national aims within the reach of national resources and power to avoid the dangers of strategic over-stretch and exhaustion.

It is, therefore, deplorable that our GDP growth has declined to about 3% per annum as against 6.7% currently, despite some slowdown, in the case of India whose GDP ($2.8 trillion) is already eight times the size of Pakistan’s GDP. Our slower GDP growth rate means that with the passage of time we are falling further behind India which is gaining greater prominence and influence internationally. Modi’s presence at the recent G7 meeting should drive home that point. This may also explain why the response of the governments of the world as a whole to the recent Indian illegal annexation of Kashmir has been so disappointing.

To enhance our chances of success in the future, we must accelerate our GDP growth rate to about 9% per annum on a sustainable basis by assigning economic development and advancement in science and technology top priorities in our national planning. This in turn would require us to raise our national saving and investment rates to over 30% of GDP as against their current low levels. Our national saving rate currently is about 11% as against 30% in the case of India because of the ostentatious life style of our elite. If we want to do better economically, we would have to adopt austerity, self-reliance, and economic and social justice as our national mottos. Obviously, this would necessitate painful sacrifices by the Pakistani elite.

Political stability and the strength of state institutions are important elements of national power. It is imperative to reform the institutions of the state so that they function cohesively within their constitutional limits in the best interest of the country. None of them has the monopoly of wisdom or loyalty to the country. The principle of civilian supremacy must be firmly established in our polity. This is the only way to strengthen political stability so as to provide a solid framework for ushering in a just social and economic order in the country. It is worth underscoring that political stability comes through the strengthening of the institutions and not through the aggrandizement of the individuals. Further, whereas accountability of individuals is the function of the state institutions concerned through a fair trial and a non-partisan judicial system, accountability of elected governments is the responsibility of the people of Pakistan through fair and transparent elections.

The formidable external threats to Pakistan’s security call for a grand strategy rooted in realism and based on a synthesis of the country’s political, economic, security and foreign policies for the attainment of our national goals. As recommended in my book, “Pakistan and a World in Disorder—A Grand Strategy for the Twenty-First Century”, the linchpin of Pakistan’s grand strategy should be assigning the top priority to the goal of rapid economic growth while maintaining a credible security deterrent. This in turn would require us to pursue a low-risk and non-adventurist foreign policy. Our long-term India and Kashmir policies must be informed by these fundamental considerations while responding appropriately to tactical developments in the short-term.

In view of our credible nuclear deterrent, the Indian threat to Pakistan will materialize most likely in the form of efforts to destabilize us politically through subversion and terrorism, weaken us economically, and undermine our cultural identity, with the objective of bringing us down on our knees without fighting an all-out war as recommended by Sun Tzu in his above quoted maxim. Our pre-occupation with the tactical at the cost of the strategic may lead us to a situation where we may lose the war while winning a tactical battle here and there. My next article would try to show how we can give a practical shape to these considerations while formulating and executing our India and Kashmir policies.