The Strategic Construction of Pakistan — Some Thoughts

Powerful countries like the United States, China, and Russia have what military theorists call “grand strategy” and “other” strategies, including military strategy. Strategies sit below policies in the modern state hierarchy. The strategic concept is amorphous and highly variable from one discipline to another. In purely military language, the design, implementation and maintenance of strategies and grand strategies are very complex phenomena. Grand strategy (GS) and strategy are, in essence, an interrelation and interface between means, ways and ends. Simply put, strategy is the employment of ‘means’ in the optimal way to achieve the desired ‘ends’/goals. Juggling ever-limited means (essentially every element of a nation’s energy potential) to achieve a desired end state is essentially an art as much as a science.

Strategy requires logic, and logic is usually based on assumptions; thus, if the assumptions are not sufficiently examined, the resulting strategy rests on weaker foundations. An experienced strategist would always exercise due diligence to ensure that the available resources are sufficient for the desired objectives when used optimally. The “tactics and operations”, going from the lower levels to the higher levels, deal with the employment of these resources (means). In military phraseology, “tactics” and “operations” are subordinate to strategy, hence the idea that strategic blunder cannot be corrected by tactical brilliance…an ancient divergence between American military thought process and British.

Grand strategy not only involves the use of a nation’s power potential (such as military, economic, industrial, political, geographic, computer/media power, etc.), it also involves the commensurate powers of its allies and alliances (diplomacy in particular). The strategy, on the other hand, has a more national perspective and character. The strategies of the United States and NATO in recent conflicts (Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria) were therefore grand strategies, just like their strategies in the past in the world wars. A SG influences and shapes the regional and/or global landscape.

According to Clausewitz’s theorem (1780-1831), “war is the continuation of politics by other means”, therefore its practitioners – civilians and military – must be properly trained in its complexities. Politicians should have a working knowledge of the military, especially the shortcomings of its employment in a complex political environment and its “brutality”, and they should avoid the temptation to overuse the military; and the military hierarchy should be sensitive to political considerations and the limits of politicians, democracy and the political process. Any disconnect leads to fiascos like the Afghan war (2001-2021). It is said that war is too serious a matter to be left to generals alone.

In theory, and as adopted by the NDU Islamabad, the overall construction of Pakistan begins with a “national purpose”… the raison d’être, or the very reason why Pakistan exists. I’ll define it, “A separate homeland for Muslims fearing persecution in a Hindu India.” This objective is validated today, given the situation of Indian Muslims and Kashmiris in the Indian Union, under Modi’s RSS/Hindutva regime.

The government translates the national objective into concrete “national interests” (vital to peripheral, permanent to changing, primary to secondary, etc.). Functions of “national interest” are translated into “national goals and objectives”. The resulting “National Policy” then integrates the national goal and interests into achievable national goals and directions.

The national security policy (NSP) generally enjoys primacy. It is heartening to see the recently released NSP-1/2022-2026 identify the just and peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute as “a vital national security interest”.

Politics dominates strategy and every politics must have a corresponding strategy. While a policy “is a deliberate statement of objectives and directions”, a strategy involves work plans covering the range of policies envisaged. Therefore, the NSP would lead to other policies and strategies such as economy, foreign affairs, trade and internal policies and strategies, etc. a “military strategy”, from which would emanate the respective service strategies.

It is good to see that the process which started essentially by Dr. Moeed Yusuf, NSA, with Islamabad Security Dialogue (ISD) in March 2021 has not died out. I had alluded then to the fact that Pakistan was moving away from traditional notions of “national security” towards “a more inclusive security construction” comprising “economic progress, technological progress, regional connectivity, entrenchment of knowledge and political stability”. General Bajwa had summed up the DSI by emphasizing the need for contemporary construction of national security as citizen-centric “providing an enabling environment in which aspirations for human security, national progress and development could be realized”. It is hoped that the official NSP-1 document contains the national strategic construction as described above in its entirety, after deliberating particularly on our national interests, other than Kashmir.

To summarize the above debate; especially, after identifying NP (separate homeland due to existential fears), Kashmir resolution, peaceful neighborhood, human resource development, economic, organizational and infrastructural development, comprehensive deterrence, debt repayment, domestic peace and stability, regional trade/connectivity, absence of terrorism bridging the many fault lines, could be “some” of our national interests. Rule of law, strong defence, social and religious harmony, effective governance and regional trade could be “some” of the national goals. And with the NSP out, national security strategy could be up for debate.

Although smaller than most traditional powers, Pakistan can have a grand strategy, given its crucial location (bordering Central, South and West Asia), its younger demographics, of nuclear deterrence and the power of the alliance…being a bridge between Islam and non-Islam. Worlds…a status he would eventually acquire, notwithstanding the negativity of armchair intellectuals. Our “suggested” SG could therefore be “while protecting ideological and territorial integrity, remaining ‘positively relevant’ in the international system working diplomatically around issues, where Pakistan and regional/global interests do not converge, due to precepts of a given environmental change.

Pakistan was carved out of the erstwhile and competing Afghan, Indian and Iranian empires, alongside strong Central Asian influences. Thus, a strong Center with a credible defense capability remains our “Center of Gravity (COG)”. However, economic prosperity, under a regional approach (through expanded CPEC, SAARC, etc.) “as the outer layer of our security” is the “only” panacea to dissolve our multiple national fault lines. , ensure peace and prosperity, and guarantee defence. Without building regional stakes in our security/stability, Pakistan would continue to remain a security state with unbalanced economic spending and a military-dominated decision-making process. NSP-1 appears conscious.

Let’s hope that the process of formulating the national strategic construction, inaugurated by the publication of the NSP, is followed, despite its many imperfections.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 20and, 2022.

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