Friday, January 1, 2010

India-Pakistan: military angle


The Himalayan ranges have shaped the culture, politics, religion, mythology, climate and military doctrines of all six countries -- Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal and Pakistan -- that the ranges stretch across. The Great Mountain covers an area of about 650,000 square-kilometres and the width varies from 180 kilometres to 350 kilometres with a total glaciation area of over 33,000 square-kilometres. The Great Mountain Arc, from the Indus River all the way to the Brahmaputra River, encircles five countries -- India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan -- and a landmass of a little more than four million square-kilometres. This landmass has 1.5 billion inhabitants; around 22 per cent of the world population in an area about half the size of the US.

Environmental determinism is the view that Indian and Pakistani military strategists "build up knowledge by encountering the world through their senses, and are unable to transcend their responses to the environment; they are at the mercy of environmental stimuli." The Great Himalayan Arc, the inescapable environmental stimuli in the Indo-Pak region, has been -- and continues to be -- the densest and the most impenetrable natural barrier between the Subcontinent and whatever lies north, east or west of the Arc.

Genghis Khan founded the 'largest contiguous empire in history' but failed to circumvent the Himalayas into India. The Himalayas have always -- and continue to -- shield India from invaders in the north (read: China). To be certain, other than Sino-Indian border skirmishes of 1962 history has never witnessed any major invasion across the Himalayas.

As a consequence, based on environmental determinism, Indian military strategists in the post-Independence period laid out an Order of Battle whereby at least half of all Indian army corps were stationed within a striking distance from the Pakistan-India border. These corps include XV Corps with two infantry divisions in Srinagar, XIV Corps in Leh, XVI Corps with three infantry divisions, an artillery brigade and an armoured brigade in Nagrota, X Corps in Bhatinda, XI Corps in Jalandhar and IX Corps in Yol (then there's II Corps in Ambala).

According to The Geographical Dictionary, "Human activities are governed by the environment, primarily the physical environment." Pakistani military strategists, with little or no threat from the west, also laid out an Order of Battle whereby six of the nine Pakistan army corps -- both holding and strike corps -- were stationed within a striking distance from the Pakistan-India border. These corps include I Corps in Mangla, X Corp with infantry divisions in Murree, Mangla and Jhelum, IV Corps in Lahore, II Corps in Multan, XXX Corps with two infantry divisions in Sialkot and XXXI Corps in Bahawalpur.

India and Pakistan are in a state of active hostility. For FY 2009, India's defence spending, according to Jane's Information Group, will rise by close to 50 per cent to a colossal $32.7 billion. India is planning its biggest-ever arms purchases; $11 billion fighter jets, T-90S tanks, Scorpion submarines, Phalcon airborne warning and control system, multi-barrel rocket-launchers and an aircraft-carrier. At $32.7 billion India's defence spending translates into 2.7 per cent of GDP.

For FY 2009, Pakistan's official defence spending is set at $4.3 billion (some unofficial estimates go as high as $7.8 billion). If Pakistan were to match India's rise we would have to spend more than five per cent of our GDP on defence. For the record, Iraq, Somalia and Sudan spend an overwhelmingly large percentage of their GDP on defence. Iraq, Somalia and Sudan are all -- or have been -- in a state of civil war. For the record, the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia used to spend an overwhelmingly large percentage of their GDP on defence. Soviet Union is no more. Czechoslovakia is no more.

The Pakistan army looks at the Indian army and sees its inventory of 6,384 tanks as a threat (none of those Indian tanks can cross the Himalayas into China so Arjun MBTs must all be for Pakistan). The Pakistan army looks at the Indian air force and sees its inventory of 672 combat aircraft as a threat. The Pakistan army looks at the Indian army and finds that 15, 9, 16, 14, 11, 10 and 2 corps are all pointing their guns at Pakistan. The Pakistan army looks at the Indian army and discovers that the 4th Armoured Division, 12th Infantry Division, 340th Mechanised Brigade and 4th Armoured Brigade have been deployed to cut Pakistan into two halves.

Roti or killing machines? As per World Bank data, 74 per cent of Pakistanis earn $2 a day or less and 75 per cent of Indians earn $2 a day or less. Imagine; one out of every two Pakistanis is short on food. One out of every two Pakistanis is food-insecure. One out of every two Pakistanis is managing to subsist on less than 2,350 calories per day. Last year, there were 60 million Pakistanis short on food. That number now stands at 77 million; a 28 per cent increase.

Over the past century, economic development has been all about trans- and cross-border trading. Pakistan has two population centres; central Punjab and Karachi. Central Punjab is a thousand kilometres from the nearest port. Between Karachi and central Punjab is a desert in the east and on the west is an area that does not -- and cannot -- support population concentrations. To develop economically, we must trade. Trade we must. And, the only population concentration to trade with is on our east.

To be certain, time -- and money -- is on India's side. Composite dialogue among civilians means little -- if anything at all. What is needed is a strategic dialogue. How can India be persuaded to pull back its offensive formations? What would Pakistan give in return? Pakistan cannot continue to race a race that it cannot win.

The writer is the executive director of the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS). Email:

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