Tuesday, 28 June, 2022
HomeOpinionPakistan keeps making bad decisions with India. Its insecurity is hurting peace

Pakistan keeps making bad decisions with India. Its insecurity is hurting peace

France-Germany and US-Canada are proof that India and Pakistan can become allies — if only they can find a common threat.

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Whether the slight movement we are seeing towards a thaw in India-Pakistan relations will result in anything significant is unclear. But this much is clear: there are limits to how far relations can improve with Pakistan. The huge and growing imbalance of power between India and Pakistan will ensure the neighbouring country is always insecure, and this insecurity will drive its efforts to continue to counter India. This should not be surprising.

Pakistan’s choices so far have been bad for itself. It has better options, but it may not necessarily take those.

The Narendra Modi government can hope that the Pakistani elite will realise how running an intense competition with India is only going to ensure the country remains mired in the eddies of poverty and backwardness. Perhaps this realisation will put Pakistan on a different course. This may have been what Pakistan Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa was hinting at in his recent speech, though a lot of scepticism is obviously warranted.


Also read: India and US must know the new Cold War is a different beast – China isn’t USSR


In need of a common threat

Has Pakistan’s strategic calculus changed? Structural conditions such as the relative balance of power exert a strong influence on how nations behave, but the conditions are not inevitable, nor are nations destined to be enemies. Under different conditions, states can even become allies despite such conditions. France and Germany fought for decades before they became allies, mainly because a greater common threat emerged in Europe in the form of the Soviet Union. It is forgotten today that Canada and the US had made war plans against each other in the interwar years. Today, they share the longest unguarded land border in the world and jointly host missile defences because they became allies against Hitler’s Germany and later the Soviet Union. No such common threat has emerged yet that could successfully bring India and Pakistan together, but the point is that it need not be ruled out, even if it appears unlikely today.

But even without the emergence of a common threat, Pakistan’s calculations could possibly change because of another factor: the sheer difficulty of seeking equality of power with a country that now has an economy almost ten times its own. This should lead to a rethink in Islamabad, and even Rawalpindi. The rethinking will not mean that Pakistan will stop trying to balance India within the limits of its capabilities. Indeed, all of India’s neighbours seek, when they can, to balance Indian power. New Delhi should accept that such behaviour is to be expected because of India’s material dominance in South Asia, and tolerate it as long as it does not cross certain thresholds, such as sponsoring terrorism or giving base facilities to adversarial powers. Pakistan is obviously much larger and stronger, and thus different, from India’s other neighbours such as Sri Lanka. This difference matters only in degree, not in kind — even for Pakistan, trying to keep pace with Indian power is much too difficult.

Nevertheless, Pakistan could continue to maintain a capable military force to defend itself. Having nuclear weapons means Pakistan can always ensure its survival, considering that large sections of Pakistanis appear to believe that the very survival of the country is threatened by India. And Pakistan will continue to depend on alliance partners to balance Indian power. It would be foolish to expect that Pakistan would not seek to use China, especially now that the latter has the material means to help Islamabad in its pursuit.


Also read: If China-Pakistan came to peace table, BJP’s failed national security strategy helped too


Pakistan is mostly hurting itself

What Pakistan does not have to do is exhaust itself in trying to keep pace with India. For decades, Pakistan spent on the military far more than India, proportionate to its GDP, in a futile attempt to reach this mirage of equality. And Pakistan continues to do so, despite its worsening economic and social conditions. While not all of Pakistan’s woes stem from this disproportionate military spending – India’s social indices aren’t that much better despite lower military spending, for example – reducing the intensity of competition with India may allow Pakistan to at least address some of its domestic problems better. Hopefully, Pakistan’s leaders and elites will realise that trying to compete with India is a futile exercise.

But this competition has other negative effects on Pakistan. For example, Pakistan uses terrorism as a grand strategy, necessitated by its relative weakness. The problem, though, is that terror is also ultimately of limited utility as a grand strategy because it does little to correct either the military or economic imbalance with India. Seeing attacks like the 2008 Mumbai terror attack on live television may provide temporary psychic satisfaction to some in Pakistan, but they contain little strategic benefit for the neighbouring country itself.

Indeed, the net effect is clearly negative because it identifies Pakistan as a sponsor of terror. This carries at least some negative consequences, like the troubles Pakistan faces with international agencies such as the FATF (Financial Action Task Force), even if these are far less than what Indian security managers may hope.

Equally importantly, this rivalry has had serious domestic consequences, elevating the role of the military and security services, undermining Pakistan’s democracy and civil society, and ultimately ensuring that Pakistan falls even farther behind India. Three decades after Paul Kennedy argued against States over-extending themselves because it could lead to serious decline, Pakistan is showing that this proposition can apply to countries other than the great powers.

Pakistan’s insecurity about India is understandable and something it shares with others in South Asia. How it has responded to that insecurity, unfortunately, has only served to heighten it by further weakening Pakistan itself. But even within the conditions it faces, Pakistan can make better choices than it has so far.

The author is a professor in International Politics at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. Views are personal.

(Edited by Prashant Dixit)

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45 COMMENTS

  1. Andorra Plan for kashmir valley + Azad kashmir will prove extremely beneficial for both india and Pakistan and eliminate the ” reason for jihad” in the continent. Both countries will claim victory. As long as kashmir question remains, it will always act as cancer for both countries and other countries will always dictate the domestic policies of both countries. Solving kashmir “on Andorra Lines” will permanently solve hostilities and prove tremendous opportunities knocking on the door. Being nuclear can act as deterrent only against conventional war states not as guerilla war as we saw in 20 years in Afghanistan

  2. so india is upset because pakistan didnt restart trade while they still call pakistan a terrorist state and trying to blacklist them in FATF!!!!! why does india care so much about pak economy??? what kind of devious evil plot is this??? even jo biden and boris johmson is helping india against pakistan but pakistan has china and turkey
    no need to trade with indians.

    • I agree. Pakistan has China and Turkey to help them . Why should they trade with India. Please go ahead with your existing partners .

  3. France-Germany or America-Canada or China-japan having issues like us but they are not organise terrorism activities.
    But Here Pakistan provided Honeymoon ticket to Osama bin Laden, therefore dont compare with France-germany etc… First stop terrorism then trade.

  4. Makes you wonder, what would happen if ,God forbid, terrorists from Pak killed any of the near and dear ones of writers of such articles, would they still go ahead and write such articles.

    Complete destruction of India is the sole aim of the failed state of Pakistan. Stop publishing such articles.

  5. Problem is perennially serious for Pakistan. The PM has married thrice; Army Chief, ISI Chief and China. And all are jealous. Every time, PM tries to do something reasonable, one of the jealous husband plays spoil sports. Its really difficult to mend fences with Pakistan. The present arrangement of no talks, no business, no sports is just fine for us.

  6. That’s rich. Coming from an Indian under Modi’s rule. China is at our borders, Modi had to talk conciliation with Pak – so relentless has been the pressure since 2020, and Pak feels insecure? Really?

    • China was always at Indian borders from 1950’s and also occupied large parts of India while you were sleeping or probably weren’t even born… This is the first time they were pushed back… Modi had to talk reconciliation? What are you smoking? It was Bajwa who sent reconciliatory message first…. Where do you guys come from? Which rock in the universe?

  7. No military has ever solved problems but living made miserable. All empires and emperors simply vanished. Pakistani military junta, also a manufacturing business enterprise is the real enemy of Pakistani people and NOT India.

  8. Pakistan is a failed state, please stop giving it so much of space in our print space/mindspace – and this is a request to everyone including the readers.

  9. I may add to what I have written earlier from India’s perspective. India has to free itself from psychological baggage of the history of Partition. The concept of Akhand Bharat is stupid, to say the least. So, remove Pakistan from your mindset and march ahead. Friendship with Pakistan is NOT a necessary condition for our existence, development and progress. Think of Pakistan just as any other country and just don’t bother about Pakistan.

  10. The root cause lies in the way in which Pakistan was conceived and the rationale for its existence as articulated by its founder M.A. Jinnah. He thought Pakistan is necessary to enable ‘parity’ to Muslims vis-a-vis the Hindu Majority in undivided India. Thus he insisted on veto rights to Muslims in all respects to maintain the parity, if partition was to be avoided, although the Muslim population was around 25% in 1947. This was a clear case of blackmail as such kind of parity was not feasible in any democratic set up, which would have forced the Hindu majority to forgo all their constitutional rights against the Muslim minority. Since independence was stuck up due to this adamant approach, Congress had no option but to accept partition as a pre-condition for political freedom. Thereafter, even after partition, the newly born Pakistan pursued the concept of parity with India, many times larger than Pakistan. This unwarranted competition borne out of psychological mindset of insecurity, envy and consequent hatred has destroyed Pakistan. In contrast, Bangladesh, has not inculcated this mindset and is now progressing rapidly on the path of development.

  11. Lets not worry over pakistan too much. They have already done to themself what an enemy would do i.e dig their own grave. India should not be pakistan centric, that is what the world wants to do wether friends or foes because so purpose is served for each of them.

    India should only focus on development, GDP, education, infrastructure, Research, sicence, digitalization etc etc.

  12. What Pakistan sheds is crocodile tears. It is for Pakistan to handover their occupied part, and continue to keep their house in order. India is having more islamic population than Pakistan. Everybody lives in harmony and there is no discrimination. Ram temple issue has been peacefully solved. What Pak prime minister talks is quite unstable, which clearly means, that there are conspiring and trouble mongering elements around him. This is not good for the growth of their country.

  13. Pakistan has taken hostage by the Pakistani army. The Pak army believes in keeping relationship with India tense to keep itself relevant and pamper and fatten itself. They control the media forces them to shows what the army wants and the educational institutions too forcing them to teach what they want. And it is all centred around projecting India in general and Hindus in particular the subject of hatred where India is shown as Hindu nation heaping oppression on Muslims. Instead of making Pakistan a good place of investment and bailing out Pakistan from the economic crisis, the Pak army boorishly stokes terrorism and islamic fundamentalism as the cheap weapon making the country unfit for the business and foreign investment. Even the Pakistani Judiciary is not free from the clutches of this big parasite. Even if the puppet government takes a sound economic decision, the army forces it to reverse the decision. As long as the army dominates in Pakistan, neither Pakistan can ever prosper nor will there be peace in the region. Pakistan needs secularisation and deserves demilitarisation just as Japan was subjected to after world war II.

  14. Let Pakistan prove itself worthy of friendship with India, they need us more than we need them.

  15. Sorry but this is one of the most superficial article I have come across on Indo-Pak relationship and the ability of Pakistan to shoot herself in foot.

  16. Professors of JNU and so called security strategists may write what they want, but rightly so India and Pakistan can never become allies until the latter decides to practice a more tolerant form of Islam and removes its deep seated hatred of Hindus. India can afford to ignore Pakistan regardless of who comes to power there because eventually it is the Army and islamists who dictate the country,s policy which is thousand cuts . India should have minimum diplomatic presence in Pakistan and stop making noises about ” jointly fighting poverty ” and such platitudes. Let us focus on our own problems of poverty , economy and national security.

  17. This is really a very good written article. The author has correctly said that Pakistan can never match the capability of India and India is already 100 years ahead of Pakistan in everything so we should leave Pakistan alone and continue to sort out our own problems. Pakistan will continue it’s to further go down and will never be India’s ally until and unless they dismantle their terror infrastructure. India should only focus on China since our actual enemy is China and not Pakistan. Pakistan is merely a pawn in Chinese hands but it’s China which is playing the bigger game so India should only focus on making itself stronger and making the Quad stronger to counter any Chinese misadventure and should not step back against Chinese assertiveness and should give it a bloody nose just like India gave in Galwan valley and Operation Snow Leopard.

  18. I agree to a great extent. People of both countries have common ancestors. We fought together for our independence but alas.. Britishers divided us first and separated us later. Now Pakistan emerged as sole caretaker of Muslims thus suppressing every other religion.
    One thing is sure.. We never fight for ourselves, not for country too but always ready in the name of religion.
    Example of the US Canada, or Germany and France have a common thing.. Christianity which lacks here. So I think it will be difficult in our case.

    • Do you seriously believe religion is the problem between India Pak? Mentality of hate and lack of trust between each other which has embedded over the years needs to be reset which will take years to overcome.

      • Yes. Religion is the problem between pakistan and india. It was 70 years ago, when 1 religion was intolerant and decided to form a seperate state. It is still today. It all boils down to 1 religion.

  19. France – Germany and US – Canada are meaningless comparisons in the context of India – Pakistan. The Raison d’ etre if Pakistan’s existence is anti-India. Add the communal angle to it and the country cant just co.e to terms with India

  20. Well, organisations like you should be more assertive towards advising Pakistan on how to deal with India. You should be loyal to your masters.

  21. Well, organisations like you should be more assertive towards advising Pakistan on how to deal with India. You should be loyal to your masters.

  22. I am not a scholar or read many books. The peace can never happen and comparing with US/Canada or France /Germany is a JOKE. First those countries have stong identical threads both nations are white, christianity is follwed, one drinks wine other drinks beer etc. In our case Pakistan is muslim nation and India is predominantly hindu. Hindu has islamophia deep seated due to 1000 year rule by islam who destroyed santan culture but liberals and scholars brush this under carpet and does not refer . For them India starts from 1947. Similary pakistanis hate india because they feel india oppresses its muslims, we broke their country and ironically they feel they come from superior race descendnants of ertugul etc When both these have such foundational mistrust , fear coupled with Hate it is waste of time to think about this . Also no muslim amjority nation would cede space to other religion. Look at all muslim dominated countries.. Even in India, if pakistan wins cricket match against India. I can definitely say in Hyderabad, India they celebrate and burn crackers. and i assume rest of india too barring some. Print media next time can go there if there is any match and witness it for itself. Let Print not waste time and instead focus on India and other neighbors.

  23. Who the hell is this Pakistan…We should never concentrate on such useless topics…
    We need to take Pakistan and rename it into Sindh ..as they are talking too much…India has been so easily giving away its land to these war mongers in the name of religion..They are blood sucking parasites…
    These people ,mulla change peace into piece..
    Unless these are stopped with very strong message.These are only going to sit on our head…

  24. Pakistan is not a country, it is a land area extracted from India with zero ideological ideas and absolutely no history. Their idea of history is those looters and rapists who came from Central Asia, Pakistanis laughably are taught to call those rapists their ancestors. Pakistan is an artificial construct and will break down eventually.

    Indian policymakers need to be guarded against peace talks – don’t do anything which will help this perennial beggar nation economically.

  25. Bajpaiji persued peace withPakistan , inspiteof kargil war, Aksardham attack and attack on our parliament. He probably was of the opinion that India will gain much more having a peaceful Pakistan.Reading A.S.Daulat,s book” The Bajpai Years” leads one to this view. According to the author peace had nearly been signed, but for the Reason that 2014 election was lost
    Ashok

  26. France-Germany and US-Canada are proof that India and Pakistan can become allies — if only they can find a common threat and that common thread can only be democracy.
    There is no war between two democracies in the history. So to hope that relations with China and Pakistan will become normal is a myth till such time the governance systems do not become democratic.

  27. Very true. So no reason why India should lose sleep over Pakistan. Pakistan is perfectly capable of doing more harm to itself, more then India possibly ever can. So India needs to leave Pakistan alone and focus on sorting out it’s own deficiencies first be they social, economic or political. If Pakistan sees sense it will come around, else it will continue it’s downward spiral. All of China’s material help won’t stop that.

  28. There are so many opinion writers who MENTION BIG THINGS LIKE USA n CANADA or FRANCE or GERMANY without speaking TRUTH.

    PAKISTANI people are educated in a syllabus which promotes hatred of IDOL WORSHIPPERING HINDU infidels who should be killed.

    Unless pakistanis syllabus is changed from religious education for producing jihadist to a modern scienctific education and a education which takes pakistanis far away from being religious BIGOTS.

    Then 20 years down the line we may discuss peace with pakistanis who are as normal people as HINDUS are.

    • Correct. You have written the main point because of which there will never be peace from Pakistan side – their education system

    • Please don’t compare US and Canada and France and Germany with Pakistan and India. First of all we must understand that Pakistan is an Islamic country where a pagan religion is ruling the roost. In their so called holy book quran itself it is written that all people who don’t consider their God forsaken Allah as God must be killed. With this sort of mindset how we as a Hindu majority nation can be friends with these fanatics and pagans. We are not able to get along with our own Muslims in India, because for these Muslims especially the Muslims in India Pakistan and Bangladesh Islam is more than anything. They are blind with hate towards other religions. So let’s not ever think of being friends with these people. It will be a wishful thinking.

    • The common threat or what we say root cause is that shitty piIslam, which is main reason behind all this shit, if it didn’t exist, they was no Pakistan, Bangladesh, we would be united, how ever this will happen soon when people will get tired of that shit and abondon it.

  29. Enemity with India is lucrative for Pakistan army. Then they can justify annual hikes in their defence budget.

  30. you are indulging in wishful thinking when you state that we can be allies. pakistan think tank is obsessed with kashmir and islam.

  31. Pakistan’s and other neighbours’ insecurity vis a vis India is unfounded. India has never been aggresive with these countries, in a manner China showed aggression in the recent months. It is true that excessive strengthening of military and security forces will weaken democracy. Russia is another example where the Military is far too strong and large compared to its economy. Is there democracy in Russia? Terrorism may continue to distract India, but without any tangible benefit to Pakistan.

    Very well written article.

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