Pakistan understandably has been on high after PAF gave a bloody nose to IAF in a dogfight downing two of its aircraft and the government acquired moral ascendancy by voluntarily returning to New Delhi the Indian pilot captured on Pakistani soil. On the diplomatic front we sounded the right notes by sending to India and the rest of the international community messages for restraint and peace while expressing our resolve to defend our homeland at any cost if India decides to escalate tensions and opts for further military adventurism. These messages had the desired effect. As a result of diplomatic intervention by several major powers, Modi’s India has had second thoughts. Pakistan-India tensions are de-escalating and the situation is gradually returning to normal. Significantly, the High Commissioners of Pakistan and India have returned to each other’s capital and resumed their duties. However, we should not be lulled into complacency because of the momentary advantage that we have gained over India in the latest episode in the long history of confrontations between the two countries. It is imperative that we should not lower our guard and should prepare ourselves adequately on all fronts—political, economic, diplomatic and military—to defend ourselves against the long-term threat to Pakistan’s security posed by India.

The threat posed by India is serious, long-term and comprehensive. Several factors define the serious nature of this threat. To begin with, the pronouncements and writings of opinion makers in India reflect India’s continued unhappiness at the creation of Pakistan. Secondly, India’s hegemonic designs in South Asia aim at reducing Pakistan to a satellite status. Thirdly, outstanding disputes such as Kashmir and Siachin have engendered enduring animosity between the two countries. Fourthly, the growing appeal of Hindutva or Hindu nationalism, championed by BJP and RSS, is bad news not only for the Muslims and other minorities in India but also for Pakistan with a heavy Muslim majority population. It is worth remembering that RSS, which is closely linked with the ruling BJP party in India, is deeply committed to an anti-Muslim agenda.

Hindutva’s appeal in India is widespread, deeply rooted in the Hindu society, as reflected by the wide sway of RSS, BJP and their affiliates, and growing. As a recent issue of the weekly Economist (2-8 March, 2019) notes, “Yet there seems limited conviction among Indian liberals that the Hindutva tide can be stemmed. Outside big cities, the roots of secular, inclusive India remain shallow.” The same paper also points out that Modi’s strident brand of Hindu nationalism “pictures Pakistan less as a strategic opponent than a threat to (Hindu) civilization.” The growing appeal of an exclusive rather than an inclusive political philosophy with an anti-Muslim bias combined with India’s enduring hegemonic designs in South Asia poses a long-term threat to Pakistan’s security which Islamabad can ignore only at its peril. India’s challenge and consequent threat will materialize on political, economic, military and diplomatic fronts and not just in the military field. We must be prepared to defeat this threat in the short-term as well as in the longer time duration.

For the short-term, Pakistan must maintain a credible security deterrent to discourage India from undertaking military aggression against it and, if the deterrent fails, to defeat it. Recent events have proved once again the need for such a deterrent which must be maintained at all costs. In accordance with the demands of a comprehensive approach to national security, maintenance of internal political stability and a proactive diplomacy should be essential elements of Pakistan’s security policy. However, from a long-term perspective there are other dimensions of state policy which demand equal attention. Foremost among them is economic development, which is a vital element for ensuring a country’s long-term security, promoting its economic well-being and even strengthening its political stability. History of the modern world conclusively proves that the final decision of major confrontations between states went in favour of those nations that enjoyed a clear advantage over their opponents in economic and technological strength.

Unfortunately, it is precisely in the economic field that Pakistan is losing the war to India. Compared with India’s current GDP growth rate of 7% approximately, Pakistan’s GDP growth rate is likely to be less than 4% during 2018-19 (as against 5.8% in 2017-18), that is, India’s economy, which is roughly six times the size of Pakistan’ economy, is growing at about double the rate of growth of Pakistan’s economy. The present state of virtual economic stagnation constitutes Pakistan’s Achilles heel posing a serious threat to Pakistan’s security. Low rates of national savings and investment are the most important factors responsible for Pakistan’s slow GDP growth rate. Our economic problems have been aggravated by a low tax-to-GDP ratio leading to huge fiscal deficits, and a high level of difference between national investment and savings resulting in high current account deficits.

Advancement in education, especially science and technology, which propels economic progress, has also been neglected by successive governments in Pakistan in terms of allocation of resources. Our literacy rate is woefully low. There is hardly a university or a research institute in Pakistan with high international ranking. Lack of emphasis on modern education, sciences and technology has stunted Pakistan’s economic growth and kept us in the clutches of backwardness economically, technologically and even culturally.

Unless we take necessary corrective actions to accelerate economic progress and promote advancement in the education sector, especially in sciences and technology, we would be in the danger of losing the war with India even after having won a battle. Among other steps, we must adopt policies of austerity and self-reliance to raise substantially our national savings and investment rates with the objective of accelerating our economic growth rate, raise tax-to-GDP ratio to lower our fiscal deficits, and promote our exports to bring our external account into balance. In addition if we want to emerge as a developed nation, we will have to bring about a marked increase in the allocation of resources to education to meet international standards. Above all, we must declare rapid economic growth as our supreme long-term national goal. This goal must be pursued through the highest possible allocation of the nation’s resources to economic development while maintaining a credible security deterrent at the lowest level of forces and armaments.

It is a pity that against these demands of Pakistan’s long-term security, the performance of the present PTI government leaves a lot to be desired. As mentioned earlier, the GDP growth rate instead of increasing is likely to decline substantially during 2018-19. The PTI government’s priorities are upside down. Instead of increasing the development expenditure to accelerate economic growth, it has sharply reduced it. On the other hand, the current government expenditure, which should have been reduced in accordance with PTI government’s claimed austerity campaign and goal of elimination of the alleged corruption, has increased. The inflation rate has risen to 8.2% as against 3.92% in the year 2017-18. As a result of huge shortfalls in revenue collection, the budget deficit is likely to expand instead of shrinking. There has been a massive increase in Pakistan’s public debt from Rs.30 trillion in June, 2018 to Rs.33.2 trillion in December, 2018, that is, an increase of Rs.3.2 trillion in just six months or three times the rate of increase of Rs.2 trillion per annum under the previous PML(N) government. The disappointing performance of the PTI government calls for radical reforms and policy changes to guide the economy in the right direction.