Revisiting the art of all-around war

May 12, 2017 11:46 AM

By Imtiaz Alam

“Ultimate excellence lies not in winning every battle but in defeating the enemy without ever fighting. The highest form of warfare is to attack (the enemy’s) strategy itself” – Sun Tzu: The Art of War

“Politics is the continuation of war by other means” – Carl von Clausewitz)

These two quotes from top military scientists reflect upon our self-defeating art of war that has caused tremendous harm to our poor country. Despite not winning any war or having ‘won’ at our own cost, we continue to adhere to the security paradigms that failed to achieve our principal objectives.

Like it or not, we are at war with all neighbours, despite China’s advice against it and the civilian leaderships’ aversion to an exclusively militaristic approach. The weakness of successive governments allowed over-developed and over-powering security structures to scuttle all possible diplomatic, psychological and political initiatives to avert isolation. 

The first Kashmir war was half-won half-lost, according to General Akbar Khan. With the boomeranging of Operation Gibraltar, the 1965 war was lost, according to Gen Aslam Beg and Air Martial Asghar Khan. The 1970 war was lost on both fronts, resulting in the surrender of our armed forces in the then East Pakistan and dismemberment of the country, according to the Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report. The CIA-led Afghan War of hired Mujahideen did force the Soviets to exit but failed to evict Najeebullah’s government till the Geneva Accord was signed by PM Junejo and resulted in an internecine conflict in Afghanistan and the jihadisation of the Pakistani state and society. The extension of jihad to Indian-held Kashmir fuelled a perpetual Indo-Pak tension that adversely affected the Kashmiris’ indigenous and peaceful struggle for self-determination. Lastly, the price for the Kargil misadventure by General Musharraf had to be paid by the elected government in ensuring the safe passage for our soldiers’ return. All these failed wars were solely decided by military leaders either without the consent of, or without consultation with, the political leadership.

Matters of warfare have now been extended to all fronts, with varying degrees and various forms, and against all our neighbours – with the noble exception of China – due to either our own stupidity or the short-sightedness of others. A self-serving militaristic narrative is again being pumped up, this time against Iran, which provided us exceptional strategic depth during the 1965 and 1970 wars. It was first a tweet that embarrassed visiting President Rouhani, implicating Iran in RAW agent Kulbhushan Yadav’s terrorist operations against Pakistan and now gangster Uzair Baloch is being tried for his connections with the Iranian intelligence. The killing of the Iranian Pasdaran – an act which was owned by the Jaish ul-Adal, an offshoot of Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, Jandal and Jandal ul Alami based in Balochistan – caused so much anger in Iran that Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s visit to Pakistan failed to alleviate Iran’s suspicions.

The fact is that Pakistan’s entry into the Wahabi-Saudi-led anti-Shia anti-Ajam military alliance and General Raheel Sharif’s arbitrary decision to become its commander has drawn a line of animosity with Iran, regardless of our flimsy pretext of mediation between the two rivals in the Middle East. Like in the past, the national consensus reached in parliament against becoming a party to the conflict in the Middle East was ignored. And not only did we jump on the Saudi bandwagon, but General Raheel Sharif also became its chief. A very hard-hitting attack by Prince Mohammed bin Salman against Iran infuriated the Iranian leadership which responded in the same coin. And for the first time in our history, the Iranian army chief Gen Mohammed Baqeri issued a rare warning that Iran would pursue terrorists and their hideouts on Pakistani soil. Similar tough statements were issued by the Iranian leadership even in the presence of Pakistan’s parliamentary delegation in Tehran.

Due to deep suspicions about Afghanistan’s collaboration with RAW for subversion in Pakistan and about Iran due to its facilitation of Chabahar Port for trade with India, our strategists are inclined to put both our western neighbours in the Indian camp. If India’s strategy is to build a regional alliance against Pakistan, should we be becoming a pawn in that strategy or, as Sun Tzu said, “Attack the enemy strategy and the next to attack (his) alliances”.

We ignore the fact that the Chabahar Port is to be linked with the Gwadar Port and that the Chinese are the biggest importers of Iranian oil and gas via Chabahar. We should also keep in mind that Afghanistan’s security is linked to Pakistan and vice versa. Our strategy should have been to take all possible measures that could neutralise whatever Indian influence is being used against us and should have used our advantages to secure mutually reinforcing security across our borders with both Afghanistan and Iran.

Like it or not, we are at war with all neighbours, despite China’s advice against it and the civilian leaderships’ aversion to an exclusively militaristic approach. The weakness of successive governments allowed over-developed and over-powering security structures to scuttle all possible diplomatic, psychological and political initiatives to avert isolation. Rather, successive elected governments were dubbed as ‘security risks’. Even now the incumbent elected government, however compromised it may have become, is in trouble for advising a course out of diplomatic isolation. Civil-military relations are extremely tilted against the constitutional writ of the government.

Over the decades, Pakistan has evolved into a national security state. Years of jihad have turned it into a kind of ‘warrior state’ that is reinforced by the perpetuation of conflicts within and with our neighbours, even though we did not have an entirely friendly neighbourhood. Yet we could have turned around an adversarial environment to our relative advantage. We see the whole world through the prism of our enmity with India, which is flawed. We must take a leaf from Sino-Indian model of maintaining good relations while sticking to respective positions driven by national interests. With the rise and continuity of the Kashmiri intifada, the Kashmiris don’t need any solidarity from jihadi outfits which bring a bad name to their indigenous democratic struggle. We need to revisit our Afghan policy that has alienated all Afghans from us. The situation can be turned around swiftly, if we strictly follow our stated policy of not distinguishing between good and bad Taliban, and not allow the misuse of our soil against Iran, Afghanistan and India.

The statement given by the Chinese ambassador to India must be taken seriously, in the best interest of our region. The fundamental issue is: who decides our security and foreign policies – and that needs to be drastically changed. Politicians must rise above petty differences to set a new national security paradigm and foreign policy that paves the way for mutually beneficial relations with neighbours, the peaceful resolution of conflicts and the economic sustainability and social security of our people.

All organs of the executive must seek guidance from the collective wisdom of our parliament and all decisions on security and related foreign policy issues must be decided by the Cabinet committee on security, which should be answerable to parliament.

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