Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Pakistan should put its own house in order before jumping into an arms race

I’m a peacenik and I’m happy in my skin. As an active journalist, I have covered enough wars, had my fair share of good and bad fortune, experienced torture and witnessed people maimed, lamed and face the ultimate fate of death. I got emotionally drained and ultimately decided that it was time to say goodbye to the action and adventure.

In my quest to understand life better, I used spirituality as my crutch. I realised that all we need is to counter hatred with love, aggression with passion and hostility with peace. I learnt that the beast of vice is intrinsically ingrained in us humans and it can be tamed with tactful strategising to effectively branch out with kindness, social diplomacy and academic prowess.

Pakistan’s history is somewhat like the story of my life. The country has fought several wars, been involved in countless documented and undocumented number of minor conflicts and continues to face a perpetual battle against religious extremism. Its society is bitterly divided into haves and have not’s, privileged and under-privileged, to a point that it is pointless to even talk about providing the basics of life to those who get crushed everyday under the wheels of a truckload of insensitive boneheads who matter and run the affairs of the state. The teeming millions go about their lives without guarantees of life, liberty and equality and the freedom to excel.

With the thought process and the effort to emancipate the ordinary missing in action, Pakistan has been unable to get into grips of its psychological morass slash decline thereby finding itself in a hole of extraordinary setbacks and shipwrecks. I sometimes wonder that even at the ripe old age of almost 68, have Pakistanis messed up by not getting their priorities right or failing to align them to the changing realities of time?

I say all this in the backdrop of several developments that have caught my eye recently. For instance, why in the world is Pakistan buying eight submarines from China? Why did the powers-that-be decide to jack up 11 per cent of its defence budget? This means that for every rupee paid in taxes, 26 paisas will be spent for homeland security. This is more than one quarter of the country’s economy being mortgaged to just keep the frontiers intact. I find this shockingly disgraceful! So, I ventured to talk to some South Asia watchers to understand the intricacies of these atrocious developments.

I was told that from a perspective of cost effectiveness, while buying submarines in bulk may not make much sense, Pakistan’s reasoning that they need sea-based submarine platforms on which to mount nuclear cruise missiles to provide a ‘triad’ of nuclear systems to match India in some sense is understandable. Pakistan doesn’t have the capability or wherewithal to design, build and mount ballistic missiles in conventional submarines. But it probably does have the capability to fire cruise missiles through torpedo launch tubes. The underlying aspect is that they would have survivability as submarines under Indian attack and, therefore, provide a nuclear second-strike capability.

It is also possible to mount some sort of missile launcher onto the top of a conventional submarine that could fire off cruise missiles after the submarine has surfaced. It avoids detection by staying submerged until it has reached a launch point or has received an order to fire, and then surfaces. This is consistent with survivability of the crude second-strike capability.

Fine, I get it. But here’s what I don’t understand. Pakistan is a country drowned in poverty. Its population is devoid of the basics of life characterised by lack of planning and infrastructure. Cultural, religious and societal ignorance reign supreme instigating nothing but strains of violence and extremism. Lack of education and the absence of opportunities to draw the less fortunate into mainstream social milieu has only marginalised a huge segment of the oppressed class and pushed them into further darkness.

Granted that Islamabad considers itself China’s lapdog, the reality is that Beijing is all about business. To China, Pakistan is just another Guinea pig, a tool in Beijing’s elaborate design to expand geographically and play a more effective role in world politics.

Pakistan buying more weapons and adding to the firepower only angers India, resulting in an awkwardly nasty relational paradigm. But it doesn’t mean that Islamabad’s patching up with its archenemy is beyond the realm of possibility. It also doesn’t mean that such an act would amount to cowardice.

Indians and Pakistanis undeniably share the same roots, heritage and culture. Understood that lately there’s been an increased people-to-people interaction, still an incredible amount of ground remains to be covered in terms of streamlining relations. This is all the more reason not to waste energy gathering defence resources or pursue hostile means, but engage with neighbours to ensure that radical steps to alleviate tensions are persuasively taken to mould and melt people’s hearts in a vociferous manner.

I’m a dreamer and I’ll continue dreaming of an everlasting India-Pakistan détente. If Cuba and the US can fix half a century of problems and if Iran and the US can break decades of diplomatic impasse, why can’t India and Pakistan politically coexist and move on with their lives?

Why can’t Pakistan not understand the efficacy of peace and put its own house in order before jumping into an arms race of sorts? Talking peace does not turn one into a wimp and the same rule applies to states. Such a posture only enhances the prestige of nations, setting them apart from others. Talking peace and reasoning out on a discussion table are only hallmarks of maturity.

My message to the Pakistani leadership is to hold their horses and perform a meritorious stocktaking exercise, one that doesn’t antagonise their neighbours, allies and critics. Invest in human capital; give the people the sense of security they deserve. Provide your masses with the basics of life and pull them out of the miserable and primitive times. What’s the rationale of a country’s existence when terrorists cut, burn and kill at will?

The bottom line is, stop being paranoid about outside forces meddling in your affairs. Go after internal insurgencies and hostilities and weave a network of hope, faith and optimism for your own people. For doing all that, you do not need any submarines, missiles or rocket launchers to capture the hearts and minds of millions inside the country and the billions across your borders.

And, keep in mind, ‘if there is no enemy within, the enemy outside can do us no harm’. Find inner peace and rest will take care of itself.

from The Express Tribune Blog http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/28747/pakistan-should-put-its-own-house-in-order-before-jumping-into-an-arms-race/

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