India-Pakistan rivalry

Sunday, July 19, 2009
Dr Farrukh Saleem

India and Pakistan are in a state of active hostility — if not war or at least two proxy wars. At least six of the Pakistan army’s nine corps are on the border with India. Of the six, I Corps and II Corps are heavy armour strike corps. At least seven of the Indian army’s 13 corps are on the border with Pakistan. Of the seven, X Corps and II Corps are powerful strike corps (strike corps is an offensive formation). Additionally, all of India’s holding crops that are directly facing Pakistan also have significant offensive capabilities. In effect, 66 per cent of the Pakistan army’s holding and strike formations are directly facing India. In effect, more than 53 per cent of the Indian army’s holding and strike formations are directly facing Pakistan.

Pakistan maintains — and sustains — critical assets in the northeast that have managed to pin down India’s XV Corps, IX Corps, XVI Corps, XIV Corps, XI Corps, X Corps and II Corps. India’s 4 Armoured Brigade, 340 Mechanised Brigade, 11 and 12 Infantry Divisions, Jaisalmer Air Force Base, Utarlai Air Force Base and Bhuj Air Force Base maintain a threatening-offensive posture. India is actively supporting anti-Pakistan Baloch elements as well as anti-Pakistan Taliban factions. India is bent upon projecting power into Afghanistan thus encircling Pakistan. And, India – post-Operation Parakram — has been investing into a “Cold Start War Doctrine” involving joint operations by the Indian army, air force and navy; eight integrated battle groups with armour, artillery, infantry and combat air support.

For FY 2009, India’s defence spending will rise by close to 50 per cent to a colossal $32.7 billion (according to Jane’s Information Group). 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 while 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 use to spend an overwhelmingly large percentage of their GDP on defence. Soviet Union is no more. Czechoslovakia is no more.

The US and the Soviet Union fought a 50-year Cold War during which the Soviet Union stockpiled some 13,000 active nuclear warheads. In 1991, the US won without even firing a shot. The Soviet Union raced a race that it couldn’t win. The Soviet Union split into 15.

Over the past century, economic development has been all about intense 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 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.

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? In return for what? How can we use our America leverage in our longer-term interest? We cannot win an arms’ race with India. We ought to race a race that we can win. We can continue to race a race that we are bound to lose. Or, begin a new race that we may be able to win — or at least not lose. (The News)

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



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