Pakistan: A Strategic Depth in Reverse

Greater Kashmir

Pakistan’s strategic culture can undergo a shift only if India and Pakistan behave as rational states

In an insightful article in Express Tribune, Pakistani strategic expert Talat Masood lays bare the contours of an emerging security challenge for Pakistan. He argues that military leadership in Pakistan now realizes the inherent danger in Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. It will, according to him, inspire Tahreek-e-Taliban Pakistan to intensify their insurgency, and it is probable that the Afghan Taliban may turn their fights on Pakistan. Surely it can be then what he calls a strategic depth in reverse. Realising its implications General Kayani, on April 19 in a conversation with correspondents, asked for comprehensive national security with development as its essential ingredient. He stressed that ultimately the security of the country is not that you secure borders and boundaries but it is when people that live in the country feel happy that their needs are met. All this is good in intent and even in the national interest of that country    but very difficult in operational terms unless there is major paradigm shift in strategic culture of Pakistan. However, Pakistan’s strategic culture can undergo a shift only if India and Pakistan behave as rational states.  I will hasten to add that Pakistan singlehandedly can not achieve the goal unless India’s’ strategic culture also undergoes a major shift in relation to Pakistan in order to practice into policy the opt-repeated  theory of strong Pakistan being in the interest of India. It is entirely possible then that Pakistan’s stability can be ensured and durable architecture of peaceful India and Pakistan relationship can be erected. There is optimism in the air as Pakistan Ambassador to Washington Sherry Rehman recently said that Pakistan’s policy of seeking strategic depth in Afghanistan has changed and so has its attitude towards India. The objectives of this article are to examine the intricacies in the strategic culture of two countries and also to suggest the way forward towards a common destination zone.
Partition in 1947 was responsible in a big way in shaping the security and strategic cultures of two countries. It is the site and origin of so many myths and suspicions that are deeply ingrained in the definition of one state against the other. In a radio-broadcast on August 31, M. A. Jinnah castigated what he called the unjust, incomprehensible and even perverse award of the boundary commission. Again both Jawaharlal  Nehru and Sardar Patel linked the security of India with the security of Kashmir for reasons of presence of pivotal powers like china and Russia on its borders.
The attainment of strategic and security objectives in a definite environment makes strategic culture essential as a subject of study. The first prime Minister of India wavered continually between idealism and realism and argued that idealism was for India a pragmatic policy. Nehru brought to the office a strong distaste for armed forces and did focus on building state power but not state military power. Nehru was shocked by power takeover by Generals in Pakistan. The shock can be understood by the fact that K S Thimaya – military chief in India had to resign when there were rumors about military takeover in India. The emergence of Kashmir as a dispute between India and Pakistan in a large cold war environment and dislocation of people displaced by partition had a great impact on shaping the security culture of India. India’s defeat in 1962 China War had much to do in pushing India in a confrontationist strategic culture. The 1965 India–Pakistan war proved decisive in transforming Indian security apparatus. Indira Gandhi as Prime Minister, unlike her father, had a feeling of insecurity in not only dealing with the region but the world at large and linked military force with political power. After the emergence of Bangladesh in 1971, Indira Gandhi, in a way turned hawkish in an altogether altered strategic setting. The re-emergence of nuclear Pakistan, Soviet invasion on Kabul and essential distrust against USA, and more importantly uncertainty with regard to China were now key components in shaping India’s strategic behaviour. General Ashok Mehta views Pakistan as an immediate enemy but China as a long term enemy. The collapse of Soviet Union made India a fearful state. The North-West again figured in an intrusive manner in strategic calculations. The fact that India has seen many invasions from the North made past more relevant to its post-independence leaders. Prof Stephen Cohen argues that Indian strategic thinkers have paid little attention to Indian Ocean regions and naval power as they remained focused on North. Even the Kautilya’s Arithshastra was written in the service of Northern Empire. The above discussion thus leaves one impression that configuration of power as reflected in post-1947 emergence of sovereign nation-state system in India and Pakistan is largely responsible for evolution of Indian strategic culture. India as a major regional power must now feel confident to reinvigorate its culture so that Pakistan’s strategic culture undergoes change.

Dr Gull Wani is a political scientist teaching at the department of political science, university of Kashmir.