According to resources, Pak Army may be one of the largest army in the world but according to threat perception, it is one of the smallest army globally. In terms of defense spending, point is even more pronounced however, its critics continue to raise their eye-brows for a host of self manufactured reasons; peace, trade, poverty alleviation, economic development and social uplift etc. Latest one is national response to new US South Asia policy. Some call it an extension of national security state’s mindset. It baffles one’s mind, how one could simplify a critical issue of national security so easily particularly, in case of a country whose plate is full with variety of forbidding security threats. In exuberance, probably they tend to overlook lessons of history. They need to know that man is a social animal with competitive instincts.
How a state which is an aggregate of people could have dissimilar instincts, needs and wants. Moreover, an individual has some restraints, laid upon him by morals, social values and law. To the contrary, in absence of international law and moral code wielding an effective force, states are devoid of such restraints. UN in present times and League of Nation in not so distant past are apt examples. Big powers manipulate such organizations as instruments to grind own axe because power knows no morality and compassion. Only deterrence of unacceptable cost can induce sanity in their behavior.
The competitive pursuit of man originates from his basic needs of food, shelter and safety and continues to escalate to the limit of insatiable and unbridle desire for power and affluence until challenged seriously. The crude name of competition is war. Man has been fighting since times of his existence thus, making war a constant of history with no sign of its dissipating even with civilization and democracy. Out of 3421 years of recorded human history, only 268 year have not seen war. It makes peace an unstable equilibrium which could only be preserved by an acknowledged supremacy or equal power. Eventually, an effective system of national security is an imperative for freedom and peace. This provides environments where ingenuity, imagination and intellect of people flourish unfettered whereupon, broad vitas for infinite development and growth are opened. Contrarily, fear born of sense of insecurity acts as a drag. It also impedes flow of money; a precondition for innovation and new ventures. Basically money is coward. It avoids change of hands in uncertain times.
A nation bears cost of security ungrudgingly. Germany and Japan have no apparent threat of war yet their military expenditure are much greater. During 2016, military expenditure of Germany was $ 41.1 Billion and in case of Japan, it was $46.1 Billion. Possibly they have understood that cost of actually having war is far greater than averting it. Mainly it was peace which enabled them to make giant strides in technology and economy. Globally security threats are numerous including external aggression, proliferation of weapon of mass destruction and arms buildup, terrorism, regional conflicts, failing states, consequence of climatic change, cybercrimes, organized crime, outbreak of infectious diseases, migration, natural disasters and dependence on flow of energy and raw materials.
The traditional external threat to security of Pakistan emanates from India. Earlier it was only from east. Now it is from west also as India has found foothold in Afghanistan courtesy US. At present, India holds military machine which ranks fourth in world. It spares no counter in world to shop if it could lend a new edge to its military might. In 2016, Indian defense expenditure was $55.9 Billion and Pakistan was of only $9.9 Billion. Difference in defense spending between both countries is of its purpose. In case of Pakistan, it is for self-defense. In case of India, it is for self- aggrandizement. Pakistan wants to normalize relations with India. Its only condition is resolution of outstanding issues including core issue of Kashmir. Indian intent is different. It wants from Pakistan; set aside Kashmir issue, no objection to its nuclear pursuits while limiting its own particularly, tactical nuclear war heads, swallow pill of Indian seat of permanent membership in UN Security Council tamely and eliminate all militant groups, suspected of terrorism in India. On top of all, a trade passage through Pakistan to Afghanistan. Under these conditions, a thought for peace, is nothing more than an illusion if past is the guide.
Nontraditional security threats to Pakistan include terrorism, militancy, extremism/ sectarianism, cybercrimes and organized crimes. CPEC would add new parameters to our national security.
Our Armed Forces have turned table against all odds which were looming large. There is no room for laxity. These could raise their ugly heads again. We need to keep our guards up and keep powder dry but it entails money. Inadequate defense money is no option. We need to put our house in order to support Armed Forces appropriately to keep themselves in fit cut to act early, rapidly and robustly.
— The writer, retired Lt Col, is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.