THERE are some great mysteries in the world. What causes gravity? Is there a scientific theory of everything? Who was Jack the Ripper? How did the Egyptians build the pyramids? And that favourite of amateur psychologists and borderline misogynists, what do women want? Add another great mystery to that list: what is the Pakistani security establishment thinking?
Afghanistan is increasingly a puzzle. We are fighting the Americans because we want them to accept they can’t defeat the Taliban, which they can’t defeat because we wouldn’t let them even if they knew how. And we can’t/won’t let the Americans win because the Taliban are the only Pakhtuns capable of resisting the Northern Alliance which is in thrall to the Indians as far as we are concerned.
Get it? You start with the premise India is Enemy No 1 and somehow you end up fighting the only superpower in the world.
Sure, the ghairat brigade loves it, but what’s the exit strategy? Y’know, if things don’t go according to plan.
The Americans have one. They wrap up combat operations in Afghanistan, hole up inside massive military bases across the country, fly more drones and have dozens of special ops teams ready to take out bad guys, ramp up homeland security back in the US, guarantee a prostrate exam to anyone trying to enter the US who even looks like he’s been to Pakistan and Afghanistan, and smack Pakistan around for being bad.
All this talk of a face-saving exit tends to obscure the fact that in the real world it’s having options that ultimately matters and not necessarily having options that look good.
What’s our fallback plan? Y’know, in case the Americans don’t get how right and wise we are and why they need to shake hands with the Taliban? Oh, right, we don’t need to worry about that because it will never happen. And in any case, hugging the Afghan Taliban while thumping over the head the Pakistan Taliban is an entirely workable strategy. Never mind how. Get with the programme, it can be done.
Oh, and look what’s got the boys with toys clapping their hands in glee now. It’s a 60km rocket. Whatever for?
Well, India has been nattering away about the Cold Start doctrine and integrated battle groups (IBGs) and what not. So we’ve pre-empted all that. By developing a missile capable of carrying a tactical nuclear weapon. Now if India thinks about short, quick thrusts into Pakistani territory, we’ll nuke those darn IBGs. High five!
Umm, wait a minute. 60km. Suppose India does deploy its integrated battle groups after it’s figured out how to assemble them at some indeterminate point in the future. Now what?
Does young Nasr, the short-range missile, get dropped on Pakistani territory or Indian? A nuke being dropped on our own territory, however ‘tactical’ and ‘small’? Surely not. Even we’re not that crazy. Right?
Right, it must be Indian territory. But to fire one of those things in the hope of hitting something of value in India, you’d need to keep the little Nasrs close to the border. And being a short-range weapon, you’d effectively be placing it in the hands of mid-tier commanders.
So let’s recap. To counter an Indian threat, Cold Start, that doesn’t even exist yet, we’ve gone and developed a delivery system for a tactical nuclear weapon that can only be delivered somewhere along the Pak-India border.
The Americans and Russians figured out half a century ago that miniature nuclear weapons are a horrible idea. The whole point about nuclear weapons is to act as a deterrent. If you attack my country, I guarantee I’ll visit so much damage on your country in return that you really shouldn’t even think about attacking me.
And that’s precisely what we’ve claimed our nuclear programme is for. We even refer to it, all chest puffed out and steely-eyed, as credible minimum deterrence. But in the blink of an eye we’ve gone from nuclear weapons as a deterrent to nuclear weapons as an instrument of war.
If you were an Indian strategist, you may think, hang on, maybe the generals in Pak didn’t think their nuclear deterrent was enough to prevent Cold Start being deployed, so they went ahead and developed a specific response to Cold Start. Maybe the deterrence they talk about isn’t as strong as they want us to think, our hypothetical Indian strategist may think.
But if deterrence breaks down … never mind, it’s too awful to contemplate. And all of this, all of this, has happened with the army patting itself on the back for being so clever.Just how extreme can the ‘India as the enemy’ paradigm get? Brace yourself.
As India pulls away from us economically and diplomatically, we won’t be able to strategically compete with them. But because India is the enemy, our boys will need to find a way of competing.
But how? There are essentially two routes, flagged by Rifaat Hussain in his chapter in Maleeha Lodhi’s new book.
The first, soft, option is to try and put our own house in order: look inwards, reform, fix the security situation, get the economy going again. The quickest route to economic revival would be to trade with India. The second option: double down on the jihad option to ‘balance’ India’s growing power. It’s a tried and tested strategy, it’s low-cost, we already have the infrastructure and to ramp it up would take minimal effort.
What about the disastrous blowback here that would be all but certain? Doesn’t matter. Remember, India is the enemy.
Between the soft and hard options, do you want to bet which one our boys will likely pick to compete with India strategically?
And if that’s not scary enough, try thinking about how long before our boys will be ‘forced’ to choose. Five years? Seven? 10 or 15?
Good luck, Pakistan.
The writer is a member of staff. email@example.com