Pakistan Military 
Why Pakistan's Military Doctrine Needs To Change In A 'Nuclear East' And Kashmir Has To Be Bought, Not Won


The Friday Times

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Pakistan’s military does not lend itself to easy analysis, professionally or politically. Since 1947, it has not won any major battle in either capacity, but it still always manages to be a formidable player both domestically and internationally. Therefore, devising a sound and stable military doctrine for Pakistan requires a broader view that looks at its military not as an isolated and independent institution, but rather as the manifestation of the aggregate military potential of the people of Pakistan.

This broader view forces an average Pakistani to acknowledge, with pride and faith, that Pakistan’s military doctrine since Independence has always been: “Get Kashmir.” However, this doctrine was only workable in the pre-nuclear age. The intervention of nuclear weapons since 1998 has turned Pakistan into a key member of the only nuclear neighbourhood in the world: four interlocked countries extending from Pakistan and India in South Asia, northwards to China and Russia. There is no other similar or comparable geographical region on the planet, which is why it makes sense to call it “the Nuclear East.”

The Nuclear East, in this year 2024, comprises 20% of the total land area of the world and 40% of its population. They have their differences, but also their similarities. The majority populations in the four countries profess distinct religious identities - Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or Confucians and Christian, respectively – but while India and Pakistan share their political and anthropological history, modern China and Russia share the underpinnings of their political systems, which can be traced back to Karl Marx’s writing. Further, China’s position as the leading industrial exporter of the world makes it the economic heart of the Nuclear East. Moreover, Pakistan and China have always enjoyed friendly relations with each other in all matters of mutual interest.

The only trouble spot in this region is then India, who not only sees Pakistan as its mortal enemy and has been holding onto Jammu and Kashmir for 77 years now without any moral or practical justification, but has also engaged in violent border disputes with China. While India did enjoy cordial relations with Communist Russia, Modi has publicly spoken against Putin’s unjustified invasion of Ukraine, a position that both China and Pakistan have stubbornly avoided so far.

However, it’s Modi’s statement against the Russian invasion of Ukraine that lays the foundation stone of the only rational and practical military doctrine now possible in the Nuclear East: this is “not an era of war.” That is to say, while countries on other continents may be subjected to modern warfare on a non-nuclear scale, these four Asian countries can under no circumstances declare war on each other, or cause or allow civil war there, nor can any other country in the world directly attack any of these four countries or any country close to these four countries if such attack could cause civil war in any of these four countries.

The Nuclear East has no choice but to acknowledge and work under the assumption that it has, by accident of history and evolution, become the first “war free zone” in the world practically for all times to come, say, for the next 500 years at least. For better or worse, even in case of a natural disaster or industrial accident, we in the Nuclear East have no choice now but to live forever in peace. This means that both India’s “Cold Start Doctrine” and Pakistan’s “tactical nuclear weapons” are a fool’s desire and empty posturing, if not outright hoax or bluff, to continue making war while it is no longer possible to do so.

Notably, only the UK and France come close to this novel military dilemma of a nuclear neighbourhood and that has already contributed to the creation of the European Union, comprising 27 member countries now, after UK’s exit from the EU. Therefore, the Nuclear East – together comprising a much larger area and population than the EU, though only in four countries - would be well-advised to form a similar economic union or confederation as well.

The doctrine of the Nuclear East not only prohibits India and Pakistan from engaging militarily for any reasons whatsoever, including over Kashmir, it incidentally renders their land armies redundant.

Although the above military doctrine leaves the door open for any of these four countries to attack and occupy some foreign non-nuclear country outside Asia, or even inside Asia if it does not affect the other three countries, it has more than economic consequences for Pakistan and India. While Russia and China would very well have ambitions of imperial territorial expansion because of their political and economic ideology and history, Indians and Pakistanis are not the sort of people who leave their homelands to attack and occupy some foreign country. Throughout recorded history, the people of the subcontinent have been invaded and conquered by foreigners from the West, but there is not even a single recorded incident of any indigenous army from the subcontinent marching out to conquer and occupy any of its neighbouring countries.

Thus, the doctrine of the Nuclear East not only prohibits India and Pakistan from engaging militarily for any reasons whatsoever, including over Kashmir, it incidentally renders their land armies redundant. While the two countries would still need their navies to protect their sea trade from pirates, their air forces to police their air spaces, their border security forces to prevent smuggling and encroachments, as well as their missiles programs to maintain nuclear deterrence, they no longer need their armoured and artillery corps and only need a small but well-trained infantry of sharp shooters to quell domestic insurgencies and undertake special operations abroad.

However, while India may still need half of its adult population to keep Srinagar under control for the foreseeable future, Pakistan never has had any viable separatist movements. The grievances of the Taliban and Baloch rebels are all political in nature, rather than valid claims to self-determination. These grievances can easily be addressed through local politics and the devolution of power. Therefore, all of Pakistan’s military needs for a land army would be well-served by having three infantry corps with a strength of 25,000 soldiers each positioned in the north, center and south of Pakistan, along its central spine formed by the river Indus, say, at Gilgit, Dera Ismail Khan and Khuzdar.

The viability of the above doctrine for India and Pakistan is well-demonstrated by recent incidents of exchange of surgical strikes: between Pakistan and India in the wake of Pulwama attacks in 2019 and between Iran and Pakistan just now in 2024. Both episodes involved measure for measure limited strikes through aerial weapons, such as missiles, drones and fighter jets. Similarly, it is precisely for the same reason that India dared to annex Kashmir in 2019, knowing very well that India was providing just cause for an all-out war to Pakistan, but Pakistan would be unable to react militarily due to the doctrine of the Nuclear East. Pretty much the same thing happened from the Indian point of view after the Mumbai attacks in 2008. Ever since India’s failed attempt to mobilize its army against Pakistan in the wake of the attack on its Parliament in 2001 (three years after the nuclear tests by India and Pakistan), despite several provocations from both sides, neither the Cold Start has even came into play, nor the small tactical weapons, nor even a small-scale mobilization.
No matter how brave and entitled you feel in the Nuclear East, war is no longer an option and peace is here to stay for good.

Thus, the time has come for Pakistan to surrender most of its large and powerful land army to the Nuclear East, but that does not mean that we would give up on Kashmir. In fact, it is a blessing in disguise. The main reason why our military could not forcibly take Kashmir from India was our economic weakness. We have never been rich enough to win a war against India, but since Kashmir is indispensable, we kept fighting over Kashmir and becoming poorer and poorer as result. It was an honorable, but ultimately self-destructive strategy.

However, now that the option of war is off the table, we can use the same financial resources that we were spending on our land army to invest in the socioeconomic development of our underprivileged people – that is, their health, education and employment. This investment, in turn, would not only eliminate the separatists and insurgents complaining of unequal and unjust treatment at the hands of an oversized Pakistan army, but also lay the foundation for sustainable development of our neophyte political and entrepreneurial classes.

In other words, we all must get very rich very fast to purchase Kashmir from India for a monetary value. “Get Kashmir” is now “Buy Kashmir” and GHQ is no longer a power player in Pakistan, militarily or politically. Pakistan’s politics and economy must therefore adapt and reform accordingly in order to achieve this new national military doctrine.

Lastly, the typical Pakistan naysayer - who would proclaim helplessness to improve anything in Pakistan in general and impose anything on GHQ in particular – may rest assured that this new military doctrine of the Nuclear East has been in the works ever since the nuclear tests in 1998, stands fully matured now after 26 years of real-time testing, has been fully accepted by the GHQ through Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s public statement that the Army has decided to permanently withdraw from politics since February 2021 (presumably after the electoral debacle in Daska), and that a free and fair general elections in Pakistan on 8 February 2024 would cement this doctrine into all the military, political, economic and social landscapes of Pakistan.

Long live Pakistan! Long live the Nuclear East!

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