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Pakistan and its strategy to promote militancy
  • Pakistan strategy
    Pakistan strategy
Pakistan’s strategy to promote proxy militancy is rooted in its very foundations. It fears its existence will be threatened if it abandons this strategy. But this strategy does not  guarantee its survival. S Paul Kapur, in his book “Jihad as Grand Strategy: Islamist Militancy, National security and the Pakistani State”, released this year, analyses Pakistan’s strategy of jihad against India and Afghanistan. The book focuses mainly on the impact that supporting militancy has had on the strategic interests of the Pakistani State.


According to Kapur, both civilians and military are ideologically committed to the militancy proxies’ strategy. “....the Army’s attachment to militancy is rooted in the ..... founding logic of the Pakistan State, which provides the ideological basis for the military’s bureaucratic commitments.” The strategy of militancy proxy has the pivotal position in Pakistan’s grand strategy.  The tools of this grand strategy, according to the author, are nuclear weapons, conventional forces and militant proxies. Pakistan believes its nuclear weapons keep at bay any threat from India and thus guarantee its survival.


He adds, conventional forces have multiple uses. In the 1947 and 1965 wars the Pakistani Army joined the conflicts which had already been launched by militants against India.  However, in 1971 the Army itself began the war and fought in it. In Kashmir and Afghanistan, the Pakistani Army does not fight itself: it uses militants to fight for it.

 The 1971 defeat of Pakistan in its war with India, which led to the creation of Bangladesh, disabused Pakistan of its belief that its forces would defeat India as did the Muslim invaders centuries ago. The 1971 defeat taught Pakistan that a direct conventional military confrontation with India could have catastrophic consequences.  It, therefore, decided to stick to militant forces as its primary offensive tool to launch insurgency in Kashmir. In Afghanistan, it has been using Af-Pak militants to gain strategic depth in that country.


Using proxies is much cheaper than an Army’s direct involvement in a conflict.  Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), which is considered as Pakistan’s most dependable ally in Kashmir, has an estimated annual budget of US$ 50 million of which US$ 5 million is said to be for military operations. This budget includes money spent on preaching and education and does not include expenditure  on acquiring arms. Besides Pakistan’s contribution to this budget, money comes from other sources including some foreign governments.  But LeT is not the only organisation Pakistan funds. There are at least half a dozen more militant organisations it funds. Thus, it can be assumed that Pakistan is spending approximately US$250 million a year on its proxy militancy strategy.


But this strategy costs Pakistan much more in real terms. Kapur quotes scholars and commentators who characterise Pakistan’s strategy as the product of chronic misjudgement and careless decision making – strategic myopia and lack of imagination.  According to those commentators, the use of Islamist militants has not made Pakistan more secure.Kapur writes: “.... Pakistan’s militant policy has failed to achieve its most important goal.  Meanwhile, support for militancy has taken a significant human and financial toll on Pakistan.... the costs of Pakistan’s strategic use of Islamist militancy seem to far outweigh its benefits”.  This strategy, according to him threatens the very survival of the Pakistani State.


But despite all these negative signs, Pakistan is most unlikely to abandon its strategy of militancy proxies. According to Kapur this is because Pakistan’s trust in its nuclear weapons reduces it incentive to abandon its militant strategy and develop less dangerous means of generating national security.  Also,the appositional demands of Pakistan state-building prevents the country from fundamentally changing its course and abandoning militancy, “for if it does so, Pakistan will have to cease its ongoing anti-India struggle and reach some form of basic accommodation with India.  If it makes such a change, however, the Pakistan State, as defined since its founding, will cease to exist”.