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Default Jammu And Kashmir Dispute

Kashmir: a new strategy
By Shahid Javed Burki(Dawn 5 july,2005)

THE Saturday issue of the Financial Times usually carries an interview with a celebrity over lunch paid for by the newspaper. On June 25, Jo Johnson, the newspaper’s new correspondent for South Asia, wrote about his conversation with Imran Khan in Islamabad’s Serena Hotel. The current effort by the leadership of India and Pakistan to find a solution to the problem of Kashmir was one of the several subjects covered by the cricketer-turned-politician.

His views on the way Islamabad under President Pervez Musharraf is approaching the issue of Kashmir are based on a serious misunderstanding of the reasons why Pakistan should look for a way out of the Kashmir conundrum.

“Lamenting a recent Washington Times cartoon that portrayed Pakistan as a dog being patted by an approving US soldier, Imran says there is despair at Pakistan’s enslavement to the US; like other hardliners, he sees Pakistan’s recent flexibility in the search for a solution to the Kashmir problem, which would bring peace with India, as a self-administered thrashing supervised by the US, a humiliating ‘capitulation’”, wrote Johnson. “Imran, in other words, is tapping into anti-US sentiment at its most inflammatory.”

It is not helpful for a well informed politician to see the search for a solution to the problem of Kashmir in terms of self-humiliation being inflicted by Islamabad in response to Washington’s pressure. It is no doubt in the interest of the United States to cool the long-enduring passions between India and Pakistan and to remove one of the many reasons for the growing power of Islamists in a country such as Pakistan. It is even more important to appreciate that a solution to the Kashmir problem secured on terms different from those Pakistan has sought for a long time is in Pakistan’s own interests.

We have already paid a very heavy price for continuing with this struggle the end result of which is the failure to develop the country economically and socially at a pace which could bring economic relief to the suffering masses. It is this trade-off between the struggle for Kashmir and improving Pakistan’s economy and providing an opportunity for the country’s citizens that I am exploring in this series of articles.

In the article last week, I suggested that Pakistan has incurred a heavy price for the continuing conflict over Kashmir. The cost to it of keeping the dispute alive is much greater than that incurred by India. Some of the costs associated with this dispute are not readily apparent; one of these is the resurgence of extremist Islam. That was the subject of last week’s article.

That Pakistan became an important centre for the activities of the groups that advocated a radical and fundamentalist Islam would have happened even without the Kashmir problem. This form of Islam gained ground in Pakistan over several decades and for a variety of reasons that included opportunism on the part of leaders such as Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and opportunism combined with zealotry on the part of General Ziaul-Haq.

Nonetheless, Kashmir provided an opportunity for the Islamists to continue to gain strength in the country. It became the raison d’etre not only for their existence but for their increasing popularity.

The economic cost of the Kashmir conflict to Pakistan, the smaller economy compared to that of India, was also considerably higher. It is useful to develop some appreciation of this cost — no matter how rough such an estimate may be — in order to inform the Pakistani people and its political establishment whether it was prudent to pay such a heavy price for this conflict. I will undertake that exercise next week. However, before estimating the overall economic costs of the Kashmir conflict, it would be useful to briefly review how military doctrine and preparedness has evolved in India and Pakistan.

According to the World Bank’s estimates military expenditure in Pakistan in 2002 was equivalent to 4.5 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product, somewhat higher than the estimates provide by the government in the ‘Economic Survey, 2003-04’ and the budget speech for 2005-06. For India, the proportion was much lower, at 2.6 per cent. Over the last 10 years — from 1992 to 2002 — the proportion of GDP committed to military expenditures by the two countries moved in the opposite direction. In the case of India, the expenditure increased from 2.3 per cent to 2.6 per cent. In Pakistan’s case the expenditure was brought down quite significantly, from 6.1 per cent to 4.5 per cent.

These changes not only reflected economic reality but also different roles the countries wished to play in world affairs. India now had developed global ambitions and wished to project itself not only as regional power but a near superpower. As such it decided to spend on weapon systems that were not strictly relevant for its conflict with Pakistan but met the imperatives of a near-global power. Pakistan, on the other hand, continued to focus on the rivalry with India in the context of the Kashmir problem. At the same time it had to contend with a progressively weakening economy.

In 1992, India spent $6.49 billion on its military. The corresponding amount for Pakistan was $2.8 billion. At that time, the Indian expenditure was 2.3 times that of Pakistan while the size of its economy was 6.6 times as large. This situation changed quite dramatically in the next 10 years. The ratio between economic size and military expenditure for Pakistan was 2.87. While the Indian military expenditure nearly doubled, increasing to $12.87 billion by 2002, expenditure by Pakistan declined to $2.5 billion.

By that time, the gap between the Indian and Pakistani economies widened as a result of the much higher rate of growth in India. Between 1992 and 2002, the Indian GDP increased at the average annual rate of 5.8 per cent while that of Pakistan grew by only 3.6 per cent a year.

Consequently, in 2002, the Indian economy was 8.1 times larger than that of Pakistan’s. At the same time, India’s military expenditure was 5.1 times the size of Pakistan’s. The ratio was now 2.2 times as large in favour of India. Pakistan no longer had the economic means to keep pace with India’s military build-up. Parity in capability was once the cornerstone of Pakistan’s military strategy. This was no longer feasible.

Another set of numbers underscores the different defence strategies that were being pursued by the two countries as they entered the 21st century. By 2002, the Indians had a military force estimated at 1.3 million personnel compared to Pakistan’s 594,000, a ratio of only 2.2 compared to a ratio of 5.1 in total military expenditures. The size of the Indian military force was now increasing at only 0.3 per cent a year. While Pakistan was also increasing the number of people in uniform — by an estimated 0.2 per cent a year — the total amount of military expenditure had declined by a significant amount. The Indians were now relying on the capital-intensive approach to defence by equipping their military with heavy equipment.

This was more in line with the approaches followed by such other major military powers as the United States and China. In 2002, the Indians spent $9.8 million per person in uniform. Pakistan’s approach, on the other hand, was much more “labour intensive”. By 2002, it was spending only $4.3 million per person in uniform, or less than 43 per cent of the Indian outlay.

These numbers tell a clear story. New Delhi had decided to use its greater economic muscle acquired in the decade of economic reforms to develop a larger military capability and to do it by spending more on equipment. There was a qualitative change in the Indian military strategy. It no longer saw itself as a country with one major threat — from Pakistan, its northern neighbour — but in terms of a major global power that needed to project its growing military presence way beyond its borders.

For Pakistan, however, defence strategy remained focused on what it perceived as the Indian threat. That notwithstanding, it was becoming clear to the defence planners of Islamabad that given the serious weakening of the economy it was no longer feasible to engage in a full throttle arms race with its neighbour that was now making impressive economic advances.

Now that the rate of economic growth has picked up in Pakistan — in 2004-2005, it was estimated at 8.4 per cent increase in GDP over the estimate for 2003-04. This was higher rate of growth than that of India. With this palpable improvement in the economic situation there will be some temptation to spend an increasing amount on defence. This has begun to happen. The budget for 2005-06 has increased the outlay on the military by 15 per cent in nominal terms, from Rs.194 billion ($3.25 billion) budgeted for 2004-05 to Rs. 223.5 billion ($3.75 billion).

There will also be a sharp increase on equipment as the country begins to re-equip its air force with the coveted F 16s fighter planes. In March 2005, the administration of President George W. Bush reversed the stance of previous White House administrations and announced that it would no longer embargo the sale of these aircraft to Pakistan. There are also indications that Pakistan is entering into various arrangements with China to build sophisticated weapons, including fighter planes, in the country. The recent easing of economic constraints may result in reversing the strategy the military adopted during periods of economic stress to gain strength by relying on the jihadis.

During that time the Pakistani military evolved a two pronged military strategy. First, it chose to rely on the jihadi groups to counter the growing disparity between its military strength and that of India. As a consequence, a new theory of military preparedness began to evolve in Pakistan, supported in part by the extraordinary success of the Afghan resistance in the 1980s fighting the Soviet occupation of their country. Since Pakistan — in particular its main intelligence service, the Inter-Intelligence Service, the ISI — was deeply engaged in that enterprise, the country’s military strategists drew the conclusion that they could use the same tactics against the Indian threat. The jihadi groups, therefore, became an essential part of Pakistan’s military doctrine.

Second, the military invested heavily in equipping itself with a nuclear arsenal and a delivery system that could carry atomic weapons to some of the population and economic centres of India. While the concept of nuclear deterrence against India was authored by Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1974, right after India tested its first nuclear device, it was readily bought by the Rawalpindi military establishment once it became clear that it was no longer feasible to balance India’s rapidly growing and improving conventional capability.

Pakistan today stands at another cross-road in its turbulent history. Should it jeopardize its economic revival by re-engaging itself once again in Kashmir as it did in the mid-1960s, or spend its resources and the energy of its government on economic growth and poverty alleviation? Before answering this question it would be useful to estimate the economic cost that has already been incurred by pursuing the type of approach that politicians such as Imran Khan would have Islamabad follow. I will cover the subject of the economic cost of the Kashmir problem next week.
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