Point, Counter Point: the Wisest Choice, Part II

I thank Mark for his comments on my response to his book, though I am deeply skeptical as to if my views can in any way be considered as representative of most Indians, especially the Indian government. Government policy is less about common sense and logic than it is about continuity or at least the illusion of continuity. From that point of view I expect India to remain recalcitrant on this score.

Mark however is absolutely correct in being skeptical about a deal forcing a separation of civil and military authority.

To clarify, my reasoning was more long term political – and based on two factors – Pakistan’s own narrative of being discriminated against – seeing a deal as a validation of its principles and being put on equal footing with India, and its acute energy crisis on the other hand.

The most relevant example here in the way Erdogan used Turkey’s bid for EU membership. To defang the military he had to make a concerted push for EU membership, and because this was a perfectly “secular” thing that was in the national interest the military could not stage a coup, or get the judiciary to stage a proxy coup. This meant EU membership was a shield that Erdogan used to defang the Army and a pliant judiciary – since any coup would have destroyed Turkey’s membership prospects – something the army was extremely keen about – almost as a “secular stamp of approval” from a secular post-Christian Europe.  This trapped the army in a position where carrying out a coup would destroy its 85 year old narrative and its very raison d’être.

Army and pliant judiciary also describe Pakistan to a tee. I believe giving Pakistan a nuclear deal, which enforces rigorous checks on nuclear personnel insulating them from contact or command by any military authority is the approach we need.  Basically this would mean that any military coup would nullify the nuclear agreement since it would mean the civil nuclear authority comes under the control of a military government. This however still leaves room open for meddling by a pliant judiciary, but nevertheless weakens army control significantly.

Would the army be sufficiently scared of a nullification of a nuclear deal and right of return; sufficiently enough at least, to prevent another coup? Yes it would.

My belief here is based on what I have seen of water negotiations between India and Pakistan. In India water is an urban, plebian, delivery issue, with people complaining bitterly about not being able to have a shower because the local water supply failed. The Rich on the other hand simply truck in water.

In Pakistan it is much more of a life and death issue for the masses, Pakistan being uniquely dependent on the Indus. This is a big schism in Pakistan where the big landlords and the military control most of the land and siphon water off for their own uses, leaving very little for independent small farmers. This is why in spite of the ICJ not finding any breach on part of India, Pakistani politicians continue to use India as a scapegoat for water shortages. Similarly during the floods a few years back – an evil Indian design (releasing more waters) was perceived. Water in Pakistan therefore is critical for the Elite and the Military, as well as for political parties since rural water shortages translate into lost votes.

In terms of energy Pakistan is very similar not having developed a bourgeoisie after independence. Consequently much of Pakistan’s industry is concentrated either with the military or in the hands of the elite. Pakistan also happens to be in an acute power crisis, with a massive fallout on both industry and agriculture that is exacerbating a tense social situation. Rectifying this situation is critical for the army and the governing elite, not just in terms of their personal wellbeing but also in terms of their control over society.

Getting Pakistan a conditional deal and then making nuclear energy the primary element in their energy mix, would, in my opinion, create a vast and powerful section of the population uniquely dependent on a substance (uranium) while at the same time erode the military’s control and reduce the levers available to it.

How can this be done? Here I would suggest much the same wording as in the India deal re: the power grid. If a single military reactor is linked up to the civilian power grid, it is reclassified as a civilian reactor, open to inspections and controls and all military uses have to stop. If this does not happen India stands in breach of its obligations. What I suggest is similar wording in terms of transferability of personnel and governmental control. Ergo a coup – would automatically hold Pakistan in breach as the authority chain is violated.

Why then do I believe Mark’s skepticism to be justified? Because Pakistan has an enormous propensity for self-inflicted wounds. Case in point being the India-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement. It would have brought jobs to Pakistan, it would have brought Pakistan’s military and elite equities in India and have made Pakistan a stakeholder in India’s success. If anything India’s negatives list (where it would accept significant disadvantages in order to make Pakistani products competitive) was aimed specifically at military controlled industries, in order to incentivize them. And yet the army scuttled the deal.

I am however curious to hear from Mark as to why he thinks such a deal could not force Pakistan to come clear on its black market trade routes. Agreed that this would implicate the military in a lot of wrongdoing, but wording could be found to simply explain its sources and name them without shaming the military, in order to prove its seriousness in adhering to global non-proliferation norms.

Since Pakistan has “more to atone for” in Mark’s words. I believe it is only logical that while receiving the exact same privileges as India, it accepts a) civilian controls on the patterns described above and b) exposes its black market suppliers in return for having its slate wiped clean. Why would Pakistan accept such a deal? Because it puts it on equal footing with India. If finally Pakistan is offered such equivalence, the military will be pushed very hard to explain why it is now refusing something that is at the core of its very existence – parity with India. After all what has Pakistan sacrificed so much for if not parity with India?

Posted in , Cooperation, Energy, India, India-Pakistan Relations, NPT, Nuclear, Nuclear Security, Pakistan, Point Counter-Point, Policy

Abhijit Iyer Mitra

Abhijit Iyer Mitra

After his B.Com from the University of Madras he pursued a career in the corporate world before turning to academia. He holds a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Political & Social Inquiry at Monash University, and is pursuing his PhD. He served as research assistant on several projects all under the aegis of the Centre For Muslim Minorities & Islam Policy Studies at Monash (2007-2010). He is a Programme Coordinator at the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi, and currently a Visiting Research Scholar at Sandia National Laboratories. The views expressed here are the author's own and do not represent any institutional or national position. His primary research is on limited wars and nuclear thresholds, but his interests include, military transformation, defence planning, procurement and offsets, infrastructure, governance and Historical Patterns of Conflict in Democracies. His spare time is spent traveling, cooking, flying microlight aircraft and scuba diving.

Read more

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *