Is India secretly rooting for Pakistan’s disintegration? According to analyst with the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, an Indian foreign policy think tank, it is by keeping the conflict with its western rival alive. Pakistan’s India fixation, they predict, will be its undoing.
In a projection of the future of South Asia, the institute’s analysts, participating in a grand strategy competition with the geopolitical analysis community Wikistrat, point out that the region’s primary dynamic—the India-Pakistan conflict—is ruining the latter as it’s forced to spend massive amounts on defense at the detriment of its economy and internal cohesion.
“Pakistan’s basic problem,” the participants at Wikistrat write, “is the army’s control of virtually every economic enterprise in the state and its refusal to allow internal introspection of anything military.” As long as the army remains in power, directly or by proxy, systemic reforms are highly unlikely to be implemented.
Pakistan’s military and intelligence services still consider a war with India the most lethal threat to their nation. This makes it extremely difficult for the Pakistanis to cut their ties with radical Islamists in their frontier area and Afghanistan as this hinterland is supposed to provide their army with “strategic depth” in the event of an invasion. India, according to Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies’ analysts, is consciously exacerbating this tension.
India has stepped up its financial investments in the government of Hamid Karzai, knowing full well that these investments will go waste come 2014 when the Americans withdraw, for no better reason than to force Pakistan to continue its destabilization of Afghanistan and sully its already bad reputation with NATO. This is expected by the Indians to result in the diplomatic, political, military and economic isolation of Pakistan starting 2014.
India developed the unusable and dangerous doctrine of “Cold Start”—staging several exercises a year under its aegis—to keep Pakistani military spending high and drive them to a wild expansion of their nuclear arsenal. Now that Pakistan has modified its strategy and arsenal to counter Cold Start, India has shifted its entire doctrinal orientation again to massed armor attacks, making the last ten years worth of investment by the Pakistanis redundant and forcing yet another expensive reorientation on their part.
India has engaged in a repeated and steady stream of ballistic missile defense tests, ostensibly to offset Pakistani intermediate range ballistic missiles but this resulted in Pakistan proactively going in for a nuclear and missile force expansion.
Fear of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons eventually falling into terrorist hands and America’s unlikely willingness to intervene militarily on a sufficiently large scale in the country are deemed to force Washington’s hand toward implementing a plan of seizing Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.
Indeed, the disintegration of Pakistan is seen as a prerequisite to fully institutionalizing India’s alliance with the United States by its civilian leaders. India’s armed forces are afraid that their freedom of action against Pakistan would be compromised by too close a relationship with the Americans. Hence India’s decision to European fighter jets earlier this year. “India’s prime ministers—cutting across party lines—therefore have followed a two pronged policy to shore up the American alliance.”
First is to present the service chiefs the alliance as a fait accompli by making America indispensable to India politically, economically and infrastructurally. The second prong—to assuage the generals and air marshals—is to pursue to breakup of Pakistan with a vengeance so as to remove that one irritant that makes the armed forces dig in their heels.
Without Pakistan to worry about, the Indian Army could dramatically reduce troop levels from almost a million today to some three hundred thousand in the future, freeing up funds for modernization and specialization efforts.
Pakistan’s armed forces are unlikely to survive a breakup of the Muslim state intact. The majority of services personnel is Punjabi but some 35 percent is Pashto. “Complicating matters though is the radical-secular divide within the army which due to its secretive nature is hard to gauge accurately and determine how that split will complicate the dynamics—or possibly trump ethnicity.” Certainly it seems radicalization among the army’s middle ranks is becoming a problem.
The balkanization of Pakistan could result in years of guerrilla warfare in the tribal areas, with significant internal displacement as happened in former Yugoslavia during the 1990s. India has prepared against that eventuality with an electrified border fence (PDF) so refugees would likely seek safe haven in western and northern parts of Afghanistan and Central Asia as fighting concentrates on the border between the North West Frontier Province and the Punjab. Balochistan and Sindh, which contain vast natural riches and have access to the sea respectively, would not be able to escape violence spilling over into their territories.
Nick Ottens is an historian from the Netherlands who researched Muslim revivalist movements and terrorism in nineteenth century Arabia, British India and the Sudan. He has been published in Asia Times Online and The Seoul Times and is a contributing analyst for the geostrategic consultancy Wikistrat.