Spineless economy, still bolstering military power

There is a conventional belief that ‘military power determines political role of a state in international politics’. Is it true in this increasingly globalized multi-polar world? Can a state with massive military might but a dwindling economy sustain its existence in the comity of nations? Unfortunately or fortunately, the answer is no. Empirical evidence suggests that without sustained economic growth a state is vulnerable to a variety of crises. So, arguably this old belief could be replaced as ‘economic power determines political role of a state in international politics’. Nevertheless, given the nature of threat perception, a state can build up military muscle to meet security imperatives, but it can’t turn away its eyes from other facets of national power such as economy, education, health, energy etc.

Sadly, in South Asia – India and Pakistan – the trend of defining security in narrow military terms is continuing to the utter dismay of proponents of peace and stability. Moreover, upward trajectory both in conventional and non-conventional arms between India and Pakistan is largely going unchecked – and thus is a source of worry for the international community. New weaponry systems and doctrinal changes to employ them for strategic gains further exacerbate the worrisome security rivalry between both states. More or less, the common people on both sides are unaware of the consequences of this arms race and the destructive capabilities of nuclear weapons. Ignorance on the part of public provides a free ride for the security decision-makers who furnish concocted scenarios to justify their policies.

Let’s dwell upon Pakistan’s economic conditions. Factually speaking it’s at the verge of collapse with all indicators showing woeful tendency. For the last few years, the abysmal state of affairs with regards to GDP growth rate, per capita income and foreign exchange reserves have brought unending problems in Pakistan. Sufficient and sustained funds are not available for education, health, energy and agricultural sectors. Notwithstanding, the country is facing an acute energy crisis; the government functionaries are handicapped to do anything because there is nothing left in the national treasury.

So, in this backdrop, Pakistan needs to revamp its collapsing economy and this is only possible if government takes some difficult decisions. If we look at Pakistan’s trade with regional neighboring states, it’s far less than compared to trade with extra-regional states. According to economic experts, Pakistan can achieve a buoyant economy through trade openings with regional states especially with India, so they argue that an MFN status to India should be extended sooner rather than later. There are likely chances that Iran-US rapprochement would ease economic sanctions on Iran, and Pakistan could exploit such a situation to best of its interests by completing IP gas pipeline.

With the smooth transition of power from one democratic government to another elected set up, Islamabad is showing some positive gestures. Political disposition of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif towards India, for instance, his utmost desire to normalize relations with India, ending of decades-long arms and opening up of trade and commerce between both the states could melt the ice in near future. Recent visits of India by different political leaders including PTI chairman Imran Khan and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif would certainly have a positive bearing on the bilateral relationship. After returning from India, Imran Khan talked about the need of cooperation in civil nuclear technology between both the countries. He proposed that both should jointly construct a civil nuclear plant in an area near the border where scientists and engineers from both sides would work together for mutual benefits. Admittedly, it may be a distant dream given the nature of threat perception at both sides of the border but could be made practical if decision-makers show political sagacity and foresightedness. According to the joint communiqué between the Chief Ministers of Pakistani Punjab and Indian Punjab, for a better future there is a need for openness — students, interns, academics, intellectuals getting into the research institutes and universities of each Punjab. There is so much both can learn from each other’s experiences in the wider areas of agricultural research, from land and water management to dairy farming.

The bottom-line of the argument is: Pakistani policy circles need to open their perspective and must realize that contemporary world is not all about military power; in fact it’s about economy, science and commerce. An economically potent and prosperous Pakistan can certainly prove more important than merely a nuclear armed for its people as well as for the whole world.

Posted in , Cooperation, Economy, India, India-Pakistan Relations, Pakistan, Trade

Muhammad Sadiq

Muhammad Sadiq is a lecturer at the Department of Defense and Strategic Studies (DSS), Quiad-i-Azam University (QAU), Islamabad, Pakistan since 2007 and a former visiting fellow (fall 2012) at the James Martin Centre for Nonproliferation Studies, MIIS California. He also served at Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) as an “International Relations Analyst” for a short period of time in 2007. He has M.Sc and M.Phil degrees from DSS, QAU. Besides teaching, he is pursuing his PhD from the School of Politics and International Relations, QAU. His area of research and teaching include Nuclear Nonproliferation, Arms Control and Disarmament, and Nuclear Strategy.

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7 thoughts on “Spineless economy, still bolstering military power

  1. excellent piece of writing.”Ignorance on the part of public provides a free ride for the security decision-makers who furnish concocted scenarios to justify their policies”. this phrase is more than 100% true in India and Pakistan context. where poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, fear and insecurity are at its apex, particularly in Pakistan. defense spending of India and Pakistan are $42.3b and $around %8, respectively, while education’s share in budget is merely 2% in Pakistan( i don’t know Indian education budget) Neither Shaheen can educate poor masses nor pirthavi can eliminate poverty.

  2. very nicely written…strongly agreed that economic power determines the political power and standing of any state on international level. And if Pakistan really wants to be militarily strong, then our leaders should seriously take measures to boost up our economy because until and unless we have strong economy, we cant go for modern and sophisticated technology. So the Govt. should adopt the policy of reconciliation rather than of aggression in pursuit of its national interests.

  3. its a nice piece sir, the economy-security paradox is quite fulfilling for us – the students. it’s however very clear that economy feeds security and not otherwise but the trick lies in maintaining a near-perfect balance i guess. borrowing hoodbhoy, we cant eat a bomb instead of bread…….than old slogan of “eating grass”

  4. Muhammad:

    Well written and powerfully argued.

    One more reason to root for a proper agreement constraining Iran’s nuclear weapon-related capabilities: this can help prospects for an Iran-Pakistan — and eventually, an Iran-Pakistan-India — pipeline.


  5. Sajid Ali Raza, Amna Razzaq, and Sagheer Ahmad thanks for the kind comments. Just to mention economy-security paradox — a scholar says ‘who have iron, have bread’ but in the changing world it is also ‘who have oil, have bread’. Mao Zedong’s famous dictum “political power grows out of barrel of the gun” may be true prior to post modern world but certainly not now. Sagheer Ahmad, your comment suggesting near perfect balance carries lot of weight especially in the context of Pakistan.

  6. MK:

    Thanks for the valuable comments.

    And if Iran-Pakistan — and eventually, an Iran-Pakistan-India — pipeline then prospects will be very high that Pakistan and India go for mutual cooperation on Afghan issue — and that may make the dream of Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline come true.

    Best wishes!

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