A strong military means a weak nation.

What does Pakistan need? Nation building or counter-terrorism. The greedy ones will say both. And they are right. But both can not happen simultaneously. There aren’t enough resources available in Pakistan to undertake nation building immediately. Nation building has to be a long-term goal for the Pakistani society while counter-terrorism is what the Pakistani State must undertake immediately. However this duality gives rise to a dichotomous situation.

Counter-terrorism would obviously mean devolving more powers to the military — making it bigger, stronger and more powerful. But a more powerful military is then not going to give up that power on its own, or undertake anything which will reduce its importance in the system.The short-term task of counter-terrorism is likely to render the long-term goal of nation-building untenable.

Furthermore, a stronger military is a drain on the Pakistani exchequer and shifts resources away from the project of nation building. In fact, Pakistan can’t economically afford its current-day military, leave alone a more powerful one. Besides the economic unviability, the torque applied to the military by its overt allies (US, Saudi Arabia and China) and the overt enemies (al Qaeda and Taliban) has deformed Pakistani society into an ugly shape. The chastising experience of a strong military intervention in 1971 in the erstwhile East Pakistan raises questions about the political sagacity of employing the military for internal security duties.

If Pakistani military undertakes counter-terrorism in full earnest, its social, political and economic costs are unaffordable for Pakistani nation, its state and society.

This is the paradox of Pakistan. Pakistan needs a strong military to survive. The costs incurred in maintaining a strong military weaken the Pakistani state and society. A weaker Pakistan needs an even stronger military to hold up. The damaging cycle is self-perpetuating.

Something has to give at some point. Unless this cycle can be broken. How? There are no easy answers.

Ah, and do not forget to factor in the jehadis and the nukes, and the danger of their mating, in any solution you propose .

hold up

DISCLAIMER: This is an archived post from the Indian National Interest blogroll. Views expressed are those of the blogger's and do not represent The Takshashila Institution’s view.