Sunday, May 24, 2009

National self-determination and economic viability: Pakistan

When Woodrow Wilson promoted the idea of the national self-determination for the colonised people at the beginning of the twentieth century, the same was subject to an important proviso, namely, that the resulting nation should be economically viable.

This meant that the state resulting from the exercise of the right of self-determination must be of adequate economic size to survive on its own.

The Wilson doctrine formed the basis of the US foreign policy at least until the European colonies were freed.

Over the years, the Wilson doctrine lost its proviso at least in the rhetoric of US foreign policy. This has coincided with a plethora of small nation states and an unstable world order.

The Wilson doctrine was only common sense. A nation state has the right to exist but it can only exist if it is economically viable. Therefore, only meaningful and realistic exercise of the right to self-determination can be for the groups large enough that are strong enough to compete and prosper in the world.

The so called exercise of this right has resulted in many nation states that are only nominally sovereign.

In reality these nation state are not strong enough to compete and survive on their own and most of them have acquired a de-facto colonised status.

In the era of cold war, these small nation states depended on either the USSR or the USA for patronage: political, economical and militarily.

With the USSR gone, and the USA emerging as sole super power, these small nation states have felt the burden of their small sizes.

The fate that Afghanistan and Iraq have faced is the fate that awaits other weak and small nation states.

This is stating the obvious. If you look around the world who do you see as secure and prosperous states: China, Russia, Europe, India, and the USA. In fact, I will go as far to state that these are the only sovereign entities in the world.

The implication for this for Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan is that they will never be truly sovereign with their present size or strength. These countries need to be part of something bigger in order to achieve sovereignty.

The idea of nation is not a romantic or a feel good idea. It has developed for a reason and at that a very practical reason that is, 'survival'. Smaller tribes merged themselves and 'invented' nations to survive and compete against other bigger entities.

A entity in order to be a nation must be viable. That is the only definition that puts sense in the ideal or romantic notions of a nation.

Pakistan, seriously, needs to consider whether it is a viable entity in its present status. For the most parts of its history, Pakistan relied on the USA and China for its security and economic survival. It is still doing so. Pakistan, in this world, of far bigger economic units, can never be truly sovereign.

For Pakistanis who want to be part of a great civilisation there are many options for their country stands at the crossroads of many civilisations. Theoretically, Pakistan can be part of the either the Muslim civilisations or the Indian civilisation. In Muslim civilisation choices are between Wahabism of Saudi Arabia, Shiaism of Iran and the Central Asians. In these three cases Pakistan may have to lead the pack. In other words it will have to play a role in the creation of a great civilisation which has never existed in history.

Or Pakistan can revert to sub-Continental civilisation and join in the swan song. That is perhaps a more pragmatic choice.

Historically, Punjab has inevitably been trying to create this great civilisation which was epitomized by Ranjit Singh's rise which was cut short by the British. Then, under President Zia, Punjab again flexed its muscle, this time to be pushed back by the Americans. Punjab's power house for some reason seem to be Strong enough to dominate its neighbours and but for the foreign intervention, might have by now lead to a greater civilisation with Punjab being its driving horse.

The power house of Pakistan, Punjab, should seek to lead its other provincial partners to greater and bigger things to ensure mutual survival of all.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Imbalance of power between India and Pakistan

(The following was published in July 2006. However, it may be more relevant now and hence I am putting it here)

A regional imbalance between countries with a history of conflict and mistrust is a lose-lose situation for all.
The recent conflict between Israel and Lebanon is instructive for India, Pakistan and the USA. The dynamics of conflict generation seem to be that an imbalance of power was created between Israel and Lebanon which had a history of mistrust, namely, the Syrian forces were made to withdraw from Lebanon. This made the task of the dominant power to subdue the subservient power easier, attractive and rational! As the dominant power could see that it can attack the subservient power with little fear of retaliation.
The environment was rich for conflict. An event occurred to the disliking of the dominant power and it decided instantly to teach the subservient power a lesson, namely, two of its soldiers were kidnapped.
The result has been war with adverse social, humanitarian, political and economic consequences for both the countries. Most importantly for Lebanon the foreign investment and the resultant economic activity have stalled and retrogressed. This will surely result in social problems in Lebanon and it will be easier for the extremist elements to popularize their appeal. This will in turn mean more problems and attacks for Israel which will mean disruption to the normal life, commerce and trade.
Thus, it may obvious to state that creating an imbalance of power between countries with histories of conflict and mistrust is a no-win situation for either of those countries!
There are lessons in this for India, Pakistan and the USA. The USA has, it appears, taken a decision to give India the leadership role in the region, in terms of military, economic and political clout. This will create an imbalance of power between India and Pakistan which are, like Israel and Lebanon, two countries with histories of conflict and mistrust. This will, like the example quoted above, can make it rational and attractive for the dominant power to be more aggressive with the smaller power and more akin to enter into a military expedition considering itself more powerful. In this environment if any event occurs that provokes the dominant power then it is to be expected that the response of the dominant power will be more aggressive than had there been a balance of power. Indian reaction towards Pakistan after the Mumbai bomb blasts can be explained thus.
Although, both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers, however, if India is led to believe that its nuclear power is superior to Pakistan’s, thanks to the US technology transfer or that it will be able to thwart any Pakistani attack through technology such as Patriot Anti Missile System, then the temptation for it to engage Pakistan militarily may far too great to resist.
This will have adverse effects for the both countries, even more so for India. The biggest effect will be on India’s economic activity and the result could be political and social chaos given the size of that country, and resultantly it will be bad news for the international community and the USA itself whose prime aim of making India a strategic power in the region will be thwarted.
All the three countries must be careful in maintaining the balance of power and if it is indeed disturbed then in the case of provocative events they would have to show great restraint in the interest of humanity and our political and economic global village. 

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Rethinking India: The Pakistani Security Paradigm

The anti-Indian policies of Pakistani state from its inception were not due to any innate hatred of India but exercises in self-preservation by an insecure and vulnerable Pakistani state in its infancy. However, it was done so thoroughly and convincingly that even after securing our existence, we are still following the old policies. In effect, we have become slaves of our old policies which do not reflect our nuclear status.

Here is an explanation of the above.

The Chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence of Pakistan has quoted to have said that India is not the enemy at the present. 

In my opinion, this is correct. With Pakistan becoming a nuclear power, it is not vulnerable to state actors especially not from the ones which have large stakes and a lot to lose in the case of a conflict with Pakistan. Pakistan, however, is vulnerable to internal instability and from elements against which our nuclear power is not relevant.

In other words, our nuclear power is a deterrent against countries and states or concrete regional entities and secures us against them, including against India. But this big power of ours is not effective against internal discontents and elements. And, our challenge is thus not securing ourselves against India that we already have, but unconventional actors and internal discontents.

In this sense the statement of the Chief of the ISI is right on the money.

Pakistan and India were created amidst a bitter and bloody partition. That calamity and tragedy planted the seeds of distrust and insecurity in the minds of the Pakistani policy makers in the early years.

Pakistani establishment felt an existential threat from India which was not unjustified given the circumstances leading to the creation of Pakistan. Indeed, if there had been no distrust between the Congress (which embodied the Indian leadership) and the Muslim leadership headed by Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, there would have been no need for Pakistan.

The distrust between the two sets of leadership continued into their heading two different countries and shaped the state policy thereafter. 

Pakistan's fundamental security concern was a threat from India. With a weak state structure and smaller size Pakistan was vulnerable or so its leadership felt. Pakistanis in order to secure their existence sought strong allies such as the USA and later China for help against India. Internally, Pakistanis perpetuated their fear and distrust of India into all spheres of policy including, the school and college curricula, defence policy, foreign policy priorities, trade policies, organisational ethos in security organs and the political expression.

This must be borne in mind by all those making policy for Pakistan now.

Today, Pakistan is no longer a weak and vulnerable state in the sense that it is an atomic power and no country including India should make it insecure or raise its concerns regarding its existence.

With its existence secure, Pakistani state can move away from policies centered on a threat from India. Since our existence is not threatened anymore, we no longer need to make policies centered around our security and the Indian threat.

India has accepted Pakistan as a reality. Indeed, India would or should prefer a buffer between itself and the dangerous Afghanistan. Historically, India has always been destabilised from elements coming from or through Afghanistan. Pakistan since its creation has given India a breathing space so to speak and India shall do well to preserve that.