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Opinion

December 6, 2016

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Our security dilemma

The stygian gloom prevailing over Indo-Pakistan peace prospects calls for a deep introspection over the sub continental security dilemma. ‘Security dilemma’, in its classic sense, is a term coined by German scholar John Herz who defines is as, “a structural notion in which the self-help attempts of states to look after their security needs tend, regardless of intention, to lead to rising insecurity for others as each interprets its own measures as defensive and measures of others as potentially threatening.”

Realists like John Mearsheimer and Kenneth Waltz argue that in an anarchic world it is only natural for states to be fearful of each other. Because of that, states act as power maximisers and not security maximisers.

According to Robert Jervis, a state’s aggressive behaviour to maximise power based on its strategic calculations, technological superiority and geographical advantage, constitutes the essence of its security dilemma. The security dilemma or the spiral of violence is the veritable matchstick to the fuel of conflict and, therefore, needs to be dampened through internal and external balancing. It would be interesting to analyse the efficacy of Pakistan’s internal and external balancing options in the face of our current security challenges.

Alexander Wendt, a German political scientist, further muddies the waters by postulating that security dilemma is not merely due to an anarchic world but due to the socio-cultural differences between nations – in which case the viscerality of hatred is not amenable to rationality of peace overtures.

At present, Pakistan is confronted with a security dilemma that is both a consequence of an anarchic world as well as the Hindutva-inspired Indian state’s pathological hatred towards us. It is therefore a complicated security dilemma that has given rise to a debilitating arms race potentially more harmful to the junior protagonist in the Indo-Pakistan conflict equation. An aggressive India is continually attempting to keep Pakistan engaged in a costly arms race both in the conventional as well as nuclear spheres.

Pakistan’s initial attempts at external balancing against Indian hegemony in the 1950a manifested themselves in the shape of Pak-US defence cooperation and participation in US and Western-led security alliances such as Seato and Cento. According to military scholars, the violent spiral of security dilemma needs to be controlled through peace signalling as well as security alliances.

Pakistan’s record in peace signalling and security alliances shows that neither the US security umbrella nor Chinese friendship has prevented Pakistan from being at the receiving end of the Indian spiral of violence that has already resulted in three full-fledged wars and a limited war in Kargil. An undeclared asymmetric war through non-state actors and saboteurs is in addition to conventional conflicts between the two countries.

Pakistan did well to freeload on the US security umbrella during the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan to develop its nuclear capability. That was its best internal balancing achievement, ushering in an era of nuclear deterrence and concomitant arms race in the Subcontinent. While the upside of nuclear capability was effective deterrence capability, its downside was involvement in the costly nuclear arms race. Another downside was a retardation of Pakistan’s economic development due to increased defence spending simultaneously on conventional and nuclear forces.

Human security was the biggest victim of Pakistan’s militarised defence response, evidenced by our abysmally low ranking on the Human Development Index. The internal balancing strategy of Pakistan should retain a balance between the military and development components. Pakistan’s willing acquiescence to the US’s ‘offshore balancing’ strategy propounded by Mearshiemer and Walt blindsided it to the perils of a transactional and evanescent relationship that left Pakistan in the lurch during several crises.

Pakistan’s regional and economic realities have undergone a sea change due to an ascendant China and a resurgent Russia keen to build a regional security partnership in South as well as Central Asia. For the first time in Pakistan’s history, the internal and external balancing aspects of Pakistan’s foreign policy are achieving a very interesting congruence.

While in the past whenever Pakistan attempted an external balancing through security alliances with the US, its internal balancing suffered due to the life support nature of the offshore balancing strategy of the US which always kept Indian interests in view for a potential future role as a countervailing force to China. It is for the first time that Pakistan has been afforded a chance to leverage its geographical advantages for economic development.

The symbiosis of internal and external balancing is already evident in the shape of Iran, Turkey, and Russia’s interest in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Pakistan’s infrastructural development as a consequence of the CPEC is in fact guaranteeing its security alliance with the aforementioned countries due to the trade and commerce advantages being offered to all.

In order to reap the full dividends of the CPEC, Pakistan has to find a solution to its security dilemma. What, therefore, are the dos and don’ts for Pakistan in this emerging skein of security and development alliances? Pakistan needs to send conciliatory signals to India to arrest the escalatory spiral of the mutual security dilemma. India should be continually wooed to become part of the Chinese One Belt One Road (OBOR) project under the rubric of the South Asian Community of Development.

Revival of Saarc and use of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as regional connectors should be seriously attempted, while emphasising the “win win” nature of the initiative. In order to act as an exemplar of the new development paradigm Pakistan must pull all stops to make CPEC dream a reality.

Pakistan’s civil and military leadership must understand the need for institutional harmony and balanced civil-military relations in order to present a solid front against forces out to destabilise the country at the behest of external powers. A modus vivendi also needs to be worked out for global actors like US, the Gulf States, and the EU community to become stakeholders in that trail of development called OBOR and its Pakistan-specific strand – the CPEC.

Through a reorientation of our Afghan policy, facilitating peace and stability in war-torn Afghanistan and offering an overland trade route to India through Pakistan, India can be wooed by creating economic dependency. Enhancing the weight of development, and diplomacy vis-a-vis the military component in our internal balancing matrix, therefore, is the pearl in our elusive quest for a solution of our security dilemma.

The writer is a PhD scholar at Nust.

Email: [email protected]

 

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