If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
– Sun Tzu, Chinese military general (c.544-496 BC) from The Art of War
What is good in military strategy is also good political sense. Sun Tzu’s strategic view of the battlefield is equally politically relevant today as it is a fundamentally reliable military doctrine.
Pakistan needs to know its enemies thoroughly (they are lethal and demanding its blood) as much as it needs to know itself, its potentials, weaknesses, strengths and the explicit possibilities and problematics that the present-day geo-political realities present. Unrealistic, unfounded, unverified and irrational assumptions cannot be the foundation of a strategic political discourse in the conducting of Pakistan’s diplomatic and foreign policy behavior in a contemporary world that has become increasingly complex and complicated. So far, especially in the last decade, Pakistan’s political conduct, domestic as well as external, has been suicidal, to put it mildly, being subservient to the dictates of external actors. Order needs to be restored in this nation’s political-global conceptual views and a foreign policy doctrine must be engineered on the basis of an absolute understanding of geo-political realities. That will require imagination, hard-work, policy debate and a thorough analysis of the prevailing global situation – and a national will to make necessary changes in our political-diplomatic orientation and direction.
This writing is an attempt to appreciate some of the future problematics that this country might have to face in the global re-adjustments of international relations and to prepare itself for counter-moves in the efficient and productive management of its foreign policy conduct.
Biswaranjan Das, a Hindu Indian national, amongst many other Indian political activists and commentators, has declared Pakistan an “irritant” and an “irrelevant” entity in global affairs and in the regional politics of South Asia. Das believes that in the very near future China will have no option but to be compelled by the ground realities of emerging geo-economic-political compulsions to formulate an “Indian-Centric” commercially-based foreign policy.
Biswaranjan Das’s argument goes as follows: “First China, it is India’s largest trading partner and by 2020 the bilateral trade is going to be 200 to 300 billion dollars. With Indian economy going to grow 9-10% for the next 10-15 years, it provides probably the biggest market for Chinese goods. Now China and India share the same concerns on a number of global issues… (Pakistan) will face the same dumping by the Chinese as US has done to (Pakistan) after the Cold War. The economic cooperation between India and China is going to be the major shaping factor of global economy. Chinese knew it better than we Indians. (Hence Pakistan becomes an ‘irritant’ and ‘irrelevant’ in South Asia as well as in global politics.)”
Irrespective of Das’s judgmental error in weighing future adjustments and re-adjustments in South Asian affairs and global politics or the soundness of his argument of an “Indian Centric” Chinese foreign policy, the question is: Should not Pakistan be cognizant of the fact that, at face value, this view seems pretty much sound and accurate?
My point is: How is Pakistan going to stabilize an equilibrium of relations with China (vis-à-vis India) in an emerging future world with new economic and trade realities? It would be foolish to live in a dream-world imagining that China would prefer some kind of historical relations with Pakistan over its economic-trade engagement with an economically vibrant India. How do we know that in a future confrontation situation with India, China will side with Pakistan? Why would it? These are the political-dimensions of a foreign policy for which alternative strategic plans are normally prepared as policy options.
Das is fairly convincing in many ways in his overall analysis: “Russia is by far the biggest seller of defense equipment to India (70%). Pakistan provides nothing to them (meaning, Pakistan does not buy military equipment from Russia). They (Russians) do not have any interest in South Asia. In Central Asia China rules… However, (Pakistan) rant(s) at the US (as) they are your (Pakistan’s) military hardware supplier. Your army and politicians shamelessly call for US intervention in everything associated with India. They (the Americans) have stepped back. The Chinese are also stepping back… India’s influence is growing… US and China have to concede.”
So far I have been playing the “Devil’s advocate.” Indeed, I am aware of the conceptual and analytical errors in Das’s (and many Indian commentators) perspective. But knowing one’s enemy can provide the best strategic assets in the re-making of our future foreign policy. The fact of the matter is that Das’s views present and reflect prevalent thinking in the mainstream Indian political establishment as well as in the majority of masses. Pakistan is facing a colossal public backlash of one of its neighbors who is likely to attain a central role and a leadership position in the political conduct of South Asia and global affairs. The Indian leadership is working relentlessly for the attainment of that goal.
Pakistan needs to prepare itself for that eventuality. The question is: Is the Pakistani leadership aware of the political, economic, trade and diplomatic hazards coming its way in global affairs very soon? I am afraid the answer is a loud and clear “NO”!
Even political and policy analysts like myself, who are highly critical of contemporary Indian foreign policy fundamentals and India’s growing alliance with the US-West’s global objectives (that are extremely dangerous for global peace and political stability), concede to the fact that India even now pursues an independent foreign policy – and that in itself is a highly valuable asset to the assiduous Indian diplomatic and political leadership. Unfortunately, this cannot be said of the Pakistani modus operandi in the conducting of its foreign policy or its internal domestic affairs.
Pakistan has not only been historically aligned with, and its incumbent political leadership is permanently wedded to, a US-West “Centric” foreign policy and domestic agenda. This is not something that has happened to this nation unwillingly. Successive political and military regimes and their leaderships have voluntarily opted for this kind of political engagement to serve their own vested interests, both politically and financially. No wonder Pakistan is about to be “thrown to the dogs” by its very own historical allies and friends! That is, the US-West’s 21st century global objectives are to re-draw Pakistan and Iran’s territorial maps with Indian help as well as by means of direct interventions to promote political instability and organized violence in specific parts of both countries. At the same time, the strategic plan is to subjugate China with a growing US-Indian alliance. It is a double-edged operation now at the execution stage!
And that is precisely where an opportunity for Pakistan exists to re-assert itself vis-à-vis India. But that will require the launching of an independent foreign policy and the promotion of a domestic political-economic-trade agenda completely free of external forces and the dictates of all external actors inclusive of the US and our other friends in the Muslim world.
Now that we know our enemies’ strategic depths and plans, we can win our battle of survival and ensure our existence as an independent, powerful and sovereign nation! Our power must come from the moral-socio-cultural well-being and prosperity of the masses!
But first and foremost: We must get to know ourselves! Are we capable? Can we undergo a radical political change? That is the ultimate challenge to this nation! That is where we are likely to lose our final battle!
As for China’s “India Centric” policy? I would say there is not much to worry about!
China is an alive nation; it has a remarkably wise and visionary leadership!
And above all: it is committed to a doctrine of a “Peaceful Rise” in world affairs!
Contrary to that, India’s self-perception is flawed! Flawed in its direction and flawed in its conception of what constitutes a “great nation” in our times!
However, in Pakistan, we cannot think of Hindu Indians as children of a lesser God!