Friday, May 30, 2014

What Americans need to understand about Pakistan

There are a recent trio of books about Pakistan that should be required reading for Americans who want to understand that country and the Indian subcontinent.   These are:

1. "Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding" by Husain Haqqani, former Pakistani Ambassador to the US.

2. "The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014" by Carlotta Gall of the New York Times.

3. "Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army's Way of War" by C. Christine Fair, Assistant Professor at Georgetown University.

The last book, by C. Christine Fair, was discussed at the Hudson Institute, the hour-and-a-half session should be watched.  Some C.C. Fair-isms:

1. "...I argue in the book that Pakistan's issues with India are ideological, they are philosophical, they are basically - its a civilizational conflict that Pakistan has set up, and therefore how can you resolve a civilizational conflict by resolving a contentious border?"

2. "I see the Pakistan Army more as international insurgents".

3. "To the Pakistan Army absolute acquiescence is real defeat".

4. "When the Indians think about taking on Pakistan, they think about defeating Pakistan. What Pakistan's military needs to survive an engagement is just the ability to mount another confrontation."

I think C.C. Fair has changed her views considerably in the last four years.  A welcome change.  As JE Menon on BRF commented:
C.Fair's interview is so refreshingly honest that given her background I suspect she is on some kind of medication. It is that blunt. Rare from an American.

SSridhar on BRF has summarized the talk:

This is a summary [with some annotation] of Ms. C. Fair's talk at the Hudson Institute while introducing her new book, "Fighting to the End: Pakistan Army's Way to War". The video has been posted earlier here. Ms. Fair claims to have written the book by analyzing the Green Books (published since the 1970s), studying the military journals and extensive field study.

  • Pakistani military journals are not like normal military journals that one sees in the US or India. They do not discuss battles, military issues etc.

  • A reading of these journals indicates that Pakistan claims to be the only source of resistance to the rise of India and its hegemony. It has launched an asymmetric warfare against India since 1947 and though this has only brought it increasingly diminishing returns, it is persisting with its revisionism. It has been decisively defeated in 1971 and even in 1965 India could have decisively defeated it. Yet, it is not revising its policy.

  • Most people see Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP) as a Pashtun problem, but its backbone lies in Punjab with the Punjabi jihadi terrorist groups of HuJI (Harkat-ul-Jihadi-Islami), JeM (Jaish-e-Muhammad), HuA (Harkat-ul-Ansar) and HuM (Harkat-ul-Mujahideen).

  • The conventional wisdom about Pakistan has been that it is a 'security-seeking state'. It would discard its Islamist proxies and the concept of 'strategic depth' if Kashmir is solved to its 'satisfaction'. Since c. 2008, another thesis was also floated that if Kashmir issue is resolved, the Afghanistan problem would also disappear. These are false.
  • There is no legitimacy to Pakistan's claims on Kashmir because the Maharajah acceded to India through an Instrument [of Accession]. Pakistan's claim on Kashmir is ideological and this does not square with a 'security-seeking' Pakistan because within Pakistani defense literature, Kashmir was never claimed as a buffer-state between itself and India, except for a recent Kayani article.

    The US has mistakenly treated Pakistan for six decades as a 'security-seeking' state and tried to buttress their military so that they felt more secure against India etc. This has failed because fundamentally Pakistan is *NOT* a security-seeking state; it is an ideological and 'greedy' state. Pakistan's goals vis-a-vis India are primarily, not exclusively, ideological. So, appeasement strategies, such as those by the US, are dangerous. 'Greedy states' are revisionist in nature and appeasement only encourages more greediness and 'further appeasement'. Glasser, U of Chicago, defines a 'greedy state' as one which is fundamentally dis-satisfied with status quo and desirous of additional territory even when it is not required for its security. This definition describes Pakistan accurately for its designs on India (Kashmir) and Afghanistan. Its 'strategic depth' concept is not a later-day invention attributed to Gen. Zia or Gen. Aslam Beg. Pakistan inherited this from the British.
  • Pakistan's revisionism dictates that even a rising and dominating India is in itself a defeat for Pakistan, even if here were to be no military defeat. The primary tool to defeat India is through an ever-increasing jihadi terrorism on it under a nuclear umbrella and a set of alliances with nations. Pakistan has a unique way to define 'victory' and 'defeat'. An example is its take on the humiliating 1971 defeat. Pakistani military journals do not describe that as a defeat because they had survived to fight another day. A Pakistani COAS told me, in the light of the Kargil defeat, "For us, doing nothing against India is in itself a defeat because that would tantamount to accepting Indian hegemony". The idea within the Pakistani military is that even if there was a very low probability of winning, Pakistan *must be seen trying* against India. While India would want to defeat the Pakistani military in an engagement, Pakistan simply wants to survive a fight.

    Anybody who opposes the military has to pay a heavy price. Within Pakistan itself, the Pakistani Army has not only threatened violence against political dispensations through coercion, but also has actually committed violence against anyone impeding them.
  • Partition really looms large in Pakistani defence literature. There is a heart-burn that the division of India was unfair in 1947 not only because of the 'moth-eaten' Pakistan that resulted ultimately but also because India got most of the infrastructure and institutions. Those parts which became part of India had experienced more democratic traditions and experience in running institutions etc. However, even here, East Pakistan had many of these but the elites of West Pakistan chose to treat the East Pakistanis as second-class citizens. The Pakistani military also claims that, apart from these, it also got the 'restive portions' of India, namely the NWFP. It was thus not only an 'unfair' Partition but also an 'unfinished' Partition, because of Kashmir, Hyderabad and Junagadh. The Pakistani military also claims that India is implacably opposed to Pakistan, to its very existence as exemplified by the 1971 war. Its problems with Afghanistan, its perceived fear of India, its alliances with the US, and increasing proximity between India and the USSR on the one hand and that between Afghanistan and USSR on the other, all wrapped into a dogged pursuit of 'strategic depth'. Though some authors, these days, are talking in terms of Pakistan going up its 'strategic depth', it is nonsense because there are different forms of pursuing the same. This was the same approach of the British too. It only changes forms.
  • Is the past a prologue? Jihad is an instrument that was started by Pakistan in c. 1947, not as usually believed by many in c. 1990. The evolution of this 'jihad doctrine' is very evident in Pakistani military literature. While the Americans were training the Pakistani Army in the 1950s in counter insurgency [against a Communist invasion], the PA was secretively reverse engineering this into 'how to start an insurgency'. This slowly transformed into 'jihad' [as local situation within Pakistan also became conducive with Mawdudi et al].

    By the turn of the 1970s, Pakistani military writers were already talking about what happens when, not if, Pakistan gets nuclear weapons. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (ZAB), as early as 1964, understood the need for nuclear weapons. Though ZAB went to Ayub with this request, he shrugged it off but said Pakistan could buy one off-the-shelf if needed. It was in the 1970s, when ZAB came to power, that the writers began saying that Kashmir should be re-opened after Pakistan acquired nuclear capability. So, Pakistan developed the concept of asymmetrical warfare as early as the 1970s, not 1990s.
  • What are the 'endogenous game changers' for a better Pakistan? Democratic transition could be one as many think. But, recent democratic changes offer only a limited optimism as the Army keeps important portfolios. The Pakistani Army knows how to get its bidding done without directly intervening. Unless the civilians have a complete control over the Army and unless the civilians show a different strategic culture and appreciation and handling of threat perceptions, which are significantly different from what the Army has been doing hitherto, democratic transition is not going to change matters.

    The 'Ideology of Pakistan' started with Gen. Ayub Khan when he re-aligned the school curriculum in line with this ideology. He has devoted an entire chapter to the Ideology in his book, "Friends, not Masters". The Pakistani Army diffused this idea by inculcating young minds.

    Some people talk of the Pakistani civil society as a game changer. The Pakistani civil society has a lot of uncivil elements. The small decent civil society members are no match to the uncivil elements at large in the society, as the followers of Jama'at-ud-Dawah on the Twitter prove. The present civil society is more conservative than their parents. So, the civil society cannot be an impetus for change. Others talk of the 'youth bulge'. This is a non-starter. Economics can be a game-changer too, but IMF is going to pay-off Pakistan each time.
  • The PA has been recruiting officers from more and more areas of Pakistan as part of their 'nation-building' goal, and these recruits do not share the views of the Punjabis. Punjabis in the Punjab are much more supportive of 'militarized jihad' than Punjabis elsewhere outside the Punjab. Non-Punjabis living in the Punjab think in the same way as the Punjabis. Ethnicity matters less than where you are born in Pakistan [or, more correctly, where you live]. If the PA continues to recruit from other parts of Pakistan because of its national goals, they are not going to share the 'core values' of the PA.