The Battle of Ideas

Written By: Amir Zia

A leading English-language monthly magazine carried Pakistan's founding father Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah's caricature on the cover of its February issue, showing him espousing a beard instead of the familiar clean-shaven face we all know and love. The shocking cover attempted to symbolize efforts made by handful of extremists and violent non-state actors to distort and tarnish our revered leader's vision of a prosperous, moderate and progressive Pakistan.

The alteration of Quaid-i-Azam's image ignited some intense debate on the social media and concerned circles, but perhaps it's a topic for a different forum where values and ethics of journalism are under the microscope. In the larger scheme of things, the cover is just another small manifestation of the ideological chasms in our society that remains caught in the vortex of unabated incidents of terrorism and violence for the past many years. The vital question, however, is whether these ideological differences have seeped into the hearts and minds of majority of Pakistanis or confined to the small and organized minority, holding our entire country hostage to their extremist views? What are the aspirations and dreams of majority of Pakistanis, who are proud of their Muslim identity and want to carry on with their lives holding both modernity and tradition hand-in-hand? Equally important are Pakistani Christians, Parsis, Hindus and other religious groups that have as much stake in the country as Pakistani Muslims. As a whole, this Pakistani majority today is pitted against the organised and violent parochial forces, which stand against the tide of times and want to push the country into strife and discord on narrow sectarian and religious lines and international isolation. This is more or less a similar challenge Sir Syed Ahmed Khan faced when he tried to introduce modern education and rational thinking among Muslims following the demise of Mughal Empire in the subcontinent in the 19th century. This was the challenge which Sir Allama Muhammad Iqbal had to confront when he wrote “The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam” and tried to mobilize and rejuvenate Muslims through his splendid Urdu and Persian poetry. And this was the monumental task Quaid-i-Azam found at hand when he was tirelessly leading the struggle for an Independent homeland to ensure the political and economic rights of the South Asian Muslims.

All these icons of our freedom struggle were rejected, ridiculed, attacked and even branded “infidels” by the small bands of fundamentalists, who remained opposed to the very idea of Pakistan. But the Muslim masses rejected this fundamentalist minority and followed the modern and moderate Muslim leaders of their times. Unfortunately today again in the sacred name of Islam, heirs of the same dark anti-Pakistan forces are trying to shake the foundations of the world's lone nuclear-armed Muslim state. Ideologically, this internal enemy is no different than what the founding fathers of this nation were pitted against. It is the proverbial tussle – tolerance versus intolerance, moderation versus extremism, order versus disorder, progress versus regression and true Islam versus the narrow-minded religious beliefs flaunted by the misguided ones.

Leaders of the Pakistan Movement overcame this challenge with flying colours. The mark of their achievement is Pakistan itself. Now it is up to this generation to keep our crescent and star studded flag fluttering high when it is being attacked by the similar internal, but a more lethal enemy. A small, fringe minority of Al Qaeda-infected extremists have imposed a deadly war on Pakistan, its key state institutions, including the armed forces, and the people. To justify all their barbaric killings and cowardly acts of terrorism, they present a hotchpotch ideology which is an amalgamation of a highly flawed interpretation of Islam, a confrontationist worldview and regional and global political ambitions presented in the garb of religion. The bitter fact is that these forces are incompatible with the modern age and times. Some of the fundamentalist and rightwing parties that historically fared poorly in electoral politics and represent the same forces opposed to the creation of Pakistan have emerged as their main apologist and cheer-leaders. They are trying to confuse the issue of terrorism and extremist violence in Pakistan by linking it to the US/NATO presence in Afghanistan and opposing the legitimate efforts by the state to establish writ on its territory. The heart of the conflict remains that militants and their supporters are trying to undermine the state and its institutions, establish a state within state, impose a controversial ideology that has few takers in the country and use our territory for global terrorism.

Can any modern state allow this? The answer is a firm 'no.' The state institutions have the national duty and international responsibility to ensure that Pakistani territory is not being used by any group of non-state actors to foment terrorism within the country or across the globe. Let there be no ambiguity on this count. One silver-lining in this tussle remains that all the extremist forces and their supporters, even if put together, do not represent the real Pakistan and the aspirations and dreams of majority of Pakistanis, who want peace, education, economic development, order and rule of the law. A close scrutiny of these violent and radical religious forces shows that they are not a cohesive and integrated ideological force as they might appear or want us to believe. They suffer from inherent contradictions in their narrative, unbridgeable theological differences and remain divided because of their narrow vested interests. This means that they may have the near to mid-term ability to continue/carry on their deadly acts in the absence of a decisive action against them, but can never emerge as a force that can bring down the state, let alone ambitions to fulfil their pipe-dream of creating a new system for better or for worse.

After the withdrawal of the former Soviet Union's forces from Afghanistan, the Afghan insurgents brandishing more or less similar ideology resorted to infighting as they miserably failed to create a system for peace and stability in their war-ravaged country. They could not raise themselves above the level of mere proxies against the backdrop of complex great game being played among the regional and global forces to emerge as a unifying force in their country. The few years of the Afghan Taliban rule (1996-2001) was mainly at the back of foreign support, but it too failed to bring unity and peace in Afghanistan. Luckily, Pakistan, despite its set of some grave problem and challenges, is not Afghanistan. As a state, Pakistan's socio-economic structure and strong institutions – in which the armed forces remain the mainstay – are far more advanced and strong than its landlocked neighbour. The drag of the archaic feudal and tribal pockets gets offset by Pakistan's large urban-base, vibrant trade, commerce and industry, mid-level farmers and strong educated middle and lower middle classes.

Whatever the prophets of doom might say, we as a nation have the capacity and ability to overcome the challenge posed by the violent extremist forces. Whenever our armed forces have been called into action against militants – responsible for more than 50,000 deaths of our civilians and security personnel – over the last 12 years or so, they have managed to contain and put them on the ropes. Then what is the reason that this challenge continue to stay as a festering wound? One main reason is the absence of a holistic approach, especially since 2008, in confronting these terrorist organisations and smashing their infrastructure. The first and foremost task remains creating a political and ideological narrative that squeezes space for the extremist mindset on which terrorists thrive, breed and multiply. Unfortunately this is one important front where the country is found lacking the most. The onus of producing such a counter-narrative – which celebrates and advances moderation, modernity, tolerance, writ of the state, pluralism of our society and the constitution – lies collectively on the mainstream political parties and the civilian leadership.

They have to show the vision and take initiative in the battle of ideas and create space in which the armed forces can do their job. They need not to reinvent the wheel. The ethos of Pakistani society, our freedom struggle, the values and dreams of the country's founding fathers provide its basis. Our leadership only has to articulate, restate and reassert this vision in clear-cut terms and align it with the modern-day challenges and realities. This vision of a modern, strong and forward-looking Pakistan has no space for religious bigotry, intolerance and sectarian hatred in line with the golden humanitarian tenets of Islam. It rejects any discrimination on the basis of sex, sect and religious or ethnic identity. It calls for universal education. It guarantees to protect the life, honour, liberty and property to each and every citizen of Pakistan. It envisions pro-people governance and the rule of law. Blowing up of schools, hunting down polio vaccinators, killing civilians, bombing markets and places of worship and targeting the armed forces and sensitive defence installations have no justification in the religious or any other ideological narrative. The policy of appeasing terrorists and violent non-state actors has not worked in the past. It is not going to lead us anywhere now. It is time to be a little self-critical. It is time to explore where we have been lacking so far in countering the twin ghost of terrorism and religious extremism. It is time to come on the front-foot and concentrate on winning the battle of ideas first in which the civilian leadership, the civil society and the media all have to play their role and assist the armed forces so that they combat the extremists effectively and decisively. Tied to this battle of ideas are the tasks of reforming the education system, including seminaries, promoting literacy and working for the social and economic uplift of the poor.

The administrative measures such as drying up the funding resources of terrorist groups and rehabilitation programmes for their militants also need to go hand-in-hand in a more comprehensive manner and of course at a larger scale. Effective prosecution of the accused and lifting of the moratorium on death penalty, which is only benefiting convicts involved in heinous crimes and acts of terror, also remain an important aspect in fighting terrorism and extremist mindset. These are some of the vital measures which the leadership needs to support and initiate. The operational aspect of containing and fighting militants is the job of the security forces in which the Pakistan Army remains the vanguard. The security institutions know their job. It is the civilian leaders who need to create conducive atmosphere in which our soldiers can perform their national duty in an effective manner. And the first step to eliminate this internal threat starts with the presence of political will. The will to transform Pakistan according to the dream envisioned by Pakistan's founding fathers. The gauntlet is there. Someone has to accept this challenge.

The writer is an eminent journalist who regularly contributes for media and is Editor of a national daily. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

A Volatile South Asia Whose Fault?

Written By: Ghaffar Awan

India and Pakistan share a history of uneasy relationship since their independence primarily due to numerous unsettled issues. India being a larger country with better economic credentials and diplomatic clout has always enjoyed an edge over Pakistan in terms of acquisition of modern equipment from international market for its armed forces and access to latest technologies. All this helped India to keep Pakistan’s deterrence, whether conventional or nuclear, under immense pressure, and the perils of war have always been looming in the region. Until late seventies, Pakistan was banking on conventional deterrence to ward off the probability of war, which it could not and resultantly it had to lose its eastern wing as an outcome of proxy war waged by India in 1971.

In 1974, India’s so called PNE (Peaceful Nuclear Explosion) and passive attitude of international community in condemning India‘s nuclear proliferation, coupled with Global Powers’ reluctance to give Pakistan positive security assurance, compelled our political and military leadership to divert Pakistan’s peaceful nuclear programme to weapons’ development programme for reassuring regional stability. Moreover, increasing conventional asymmetry with its traditional rival and dearth of resources to get into an arms race left no option for Pakistan but to fill the vacuum through induction of nuclear weapons so as to re-establish the deterrence to ward off the probability of war.

Since 1987, nuclear capability played its role in diffusing three crisis in this region (Brasstacks 1986/87, a standoff in 2001/02 and Mumbai attacks 2008) and also helped Pakistan to keep the Kargil conflict limited to specific area of operation; however certain recent developments are posing serious challenges to stability in South Asia. Many Indian scholars and defence experts, while taking lead from Kargil conflict, believe that space for limited war exists under nuclear overhang. At times, their belief gets further substantiated by the view that Pakistan’s first tier of response to Indian aggression will be conventional forces and it would not resort to use of nuclear weapons right at the outset of war. Indians, instead of taking these statements as reflection of responsible and rational thinking, misinterpret them as provision of space for limited war. Indians have manifested their thinking in the form of proactive operation strategy, in which India sees to achieve its political objectives short of crossing Pakistan’s nuclear threshold and culminate the war on a favourable note to them. Such provocative overtures undermine the prevailing peace and becomes a source of persistent tension. Moreover, proactive operation strategy compelled Pakistan to induct low yield nuclear weapons to prevent India from any such venture and consequently lowered the nuclear threshold which is detrimental to deterrence stability.

Indian BMD (Ballistic Missile Defence) programme is far away from maturity. India claims that it has developed two tier BMD which can intercept enemy missiles at an altitude of 80–150 kms, and Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) is thinking of intercepting the missiles at higher altitudes as it would give India more response time. Although, BMD is considered defensive in nature but the impact it creates is quite offensive in nature, as possession of such capability by India will give it a false sense of security against Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, thus prompting India to impose war on Pakistan, or coerce it to dictate its terms and conditions to achieve the desired objectives of various unsettled issues. Therefore, BMD has inbuilt potential to disturb the balance in the region.

Indo-US nuclear deal poses yet another serious challenge to deterrence stability, as it provides India access to modern nuclear technologies from NSG (Nuclear Supplier Group) members. Provision of such technologies to non-NPT signatory is otherwise considered as taboo. The deal will help india significantly to achieve quantitative and qualitative edge over Pakistan in terms of nuclear weapons, as it will benefit India in terms of accumulating approximately 500kg of weapons grade plutonium, considered sufficient for assembling of 100 nuclear weapons. Moreover, India while getting assured supply of nuclear fuel from NSG members, will be able to meet its energy needs and spare its indigenous material for weapon programme. Thus, Indo-US nuclear deal will create nuclear asymmetric condition between India-Pakistan and act as catalysts to disturb the deterrence stability in South Asia. TNWs (Tactical Nuclear Weapons), which are also known as low yield, non-strategic or battlefield nuclear weapons have played their significant role in restoring strategic stability/instability paradox into strategic stability/stability paradox during the Cold War era. Both US led NATO and USSR incorporated TNWs in their military doctrine to dissuade their adversaries from imposing war and to address the conventional asymmetry. Both super powers kept thousands of TNWs in their inventory of arsenals. In case of Indo-Pak, Pakistan developed TNWs to prevent India from exploiting its conventional superiority and materializing its proactive operational strategy. Now with the induction of ‘Nasr’ and ‘Abdali’ missiles, Pakistan has opted for flexible response. These weapons systems will help Pakistan in escalation control and prevent the use of counter value nuclear weapons at the early stage of war. TNWs have addressed Pakistan’s concern of conventional asymmetry to a large extent. Pakistan maintains that it will exercise assertive control regarding use of these weapons and decision will be taken at the highest level. On the other hand, India has developed ‘Parahaar’ missile with a range of 150km, capable of carrying nuclear warhead. India terms it as low yield weapon and takes it as a force multiplier in materialization of their proactive operational strategy. India, contrary to Pakistan, maintains that it will have delegate control over authority to use these weapons. Such proposition is quite dangerous to deterrence stability and probability of accidental or un-authorized use increases, which may result into an all-out nuclear war.

There has always been a wide gap between conventional capability of both neighbours. The gap is continuously widening. Indian defence budget has increased from US $ 33.879 billion in 2004 to US $ 47.378 billion in 2013. At present India is the second largest arms importer and has overambitious goals to modernize its armed forces. India’s military buildup and upgradation is primarily Pakistan specific and creates serious imbalance in deterrence stability, increases Pakistan’s reliance on the use of nuclear weapons at an early stage of war to regain the balance or restore its territorial integrity; in short it lowers Pakistan’s nuclear threshold, which is a dangerous phenomenon for deterrence stability in the region. In the past, global powers have played a significant role in escalation control, whenever situation so aroused between India-Pakistan. Primarily it was due to geostrategic importance of Pakistan and its role in containing Russia during the Cold War era and then in War on Terror (WOT) in Afghanistan. Now with the changing global scenario, where US and India have emerged as strategic partners, the US is ready to dole out everything in its kitty to make India a regional power and counterweight to China. The US President’s recent visit to India further substantiates this fact. In future, during any such crisis, the US is likely to put its weight in India’s favour, which may incite India to get into any venture against Pakistan, thus diminishing the expected role of global powers in escalation control and crisis management for strategic stability in the region. So far, to a large extent Pakistan has remained successful in restraining the Indian hegemonic designs, for which, besides other factors, Pakistan’s nuclear capability has played a dominant role. Since deterrence works on the principle of exploiting your adversary’s vulnerabilities – and there are no absolute vulnerabilities – therefore, prerequisite for deterrence to remain effective is to keep your enemy vulnerable to your capability to inflict him an unthinkable damage. In the backdrop of various challenges being posed to deterrence stability by India as already discussed above, Pakistan is compelled not to remain oblivious of the adversary’s growing capability and take appropriate measures to maintain its deterrence relevant and effective through vigorous pursuit of modernizing its conventional and nuclear forces.

In order to strengthen its deterrence, Pakistan as a first step, must base its nuclear capability on triad. It will not allow India to launch successful first strike against Pakistan. Here first strike does not mean dropping nuclear bomb first, but it connotes much more: the complete elimination of adversary’s ability to launch retaliatory second strike. Moreover, pursuing BMD is quite expensive option for Pakistan, and its efficacy in context of India-Pakistan is quite questionable due to their contiguous border, where flight time of ballistic missiles is short enough to leave any time for the country being targeted to correctly evaluate threat and take decision to launch retaliatory strike. Even in case of USA-USSR, the flight time of ballistic missile was around 20-25 minutes and reaction time after identification of threat was not more than 10-12 minutes. Thus viable option for Pakistan is to go for MIRV (Multiple Integrated Re-entry Vehicle).

All these steps can be termed as short or at best mid-term solutions to preserve the peace through effective deterrence, however, for long term strategic stability and enduring peace, India and Pakistan will have to follow the path of arms control as was done between US and USSR. Pakistan at its end, has offered India Nuclear Restraint Regime, qualified to be labelled as arms control, but it was rejected by India as it wants Pakistan to remain engaged in spiral of costly arms race. The path which India has chosen to move on can’t be termed as manifestation of rational thinking and it has all the inbuilt ingredients to be fatal for peace and prosperity of the region.



Written By: Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal

Advancing a strategy of confrontation, New Delhi has spent the past few weeks in lobbying and blocking F-16 sale to Pakistan, pressuring Pakistan to accept its erroneous findings on Pathankot airbase terrorist attacks, and creating confusion on the probability of Foreign Secretary-level dialogue with Islamabad. Conversely, Islamabad has been endeavouring to engage India in a dialogue process for the sake of peace in the region. Despite Islamabad’s sincere efforts to improve the situation, New Delhi seems determined to undermine Pakistan’s national interest.


It is vigorously pursuing bait and blood-letting strategy against Pakistan. Simultaneously, it is making a serious effort to contain Pakistan’s political, military and economic opportunities at both regional and global levels. Perhaps, India’s containment strategy is not ignorable.

The rapid economic growth of India during the last two decades transformed India’s foreign and strategic policy. It encourages New Delhi to dominate its immediate neighbourhood and demonstrate itself as a Great-Power. The Indo-US strategic partnership and western nations’ desire for India’s big economic market have boosted Great-Power advocators in India. Admittedly, today, India is attractive for developed nations because it offers the world’s military-industrial complex the single largest market and its economy has locked in Western business and investment interests.

The bellicose attitude of the Indian ruling elite towards Pakistan is alarming. Although Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had tried to engage his Indian counterpart; yet the developments are not promising. He adopted an out-of-the-box strategy to improve bilateral relationship during his visit to New Delhi to participate in Prime Minister Modi’s oath taking ceremony in May 2014. For instance, Pakistan’s leadership did not mention the Kashmir Dispute in his press statement in New Delhi in May 2014, nor did it meet the Kashmiri leaders (Hurriyat Group) during Delhi visit. Even the Indians have acknowledged that ‘it was courageous, brave and far-sighted of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to attend Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s oath-taking ceremony in New Delhi in May 2014.’ However, the unconditional overtures to Modi Government for the sake of peace and economic engagement have failed.

The Great-Power advocators in India are reluctant to realize that the continuity of dispute with Pakistan is holding back India’s integration into the world power structure. Secondly, they fail to acknowledge the reality that subduing or subjugating a nuclear weapon state is impossible. On August 23, 2015, Mr. Sartaj Aziz, the then Adviser to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on Foreign Affairs and National Security, opined that the current Indian government under Narendra Modi acts as if it is a regional superpower. He stated: “Modi’s India acts as if they are a regional superpower, we are a nuclear-armed country and we know how to defend ourselves.”

The developments during November and December 2015 germinated optimism about the improvement in bilateral relations, especially after the surprise Lahore visit of Prime Minister Modi on December 25, 2015. Nevertheless, the following developments exposed his seriousness in the peace process. Actually, it was a mere tactical movement of Premier Modi to germinate an impression in the international community that he was interested in establishing a durable peace between India and Pakistan. In reality, he has been working on a treacherous agenda to isolate Pakistan in the international society and also institutionalize his containment policy against Pakistan.

Ironically, on February 13, 2015, New Delhi reacted hysterically on the eight Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 52 fighter jets and related equipment deal between Washington and Islamabad. The sale of these military equipments would cost Pakistan $699.04 million. Notwithstanding, this deal would not alter the basic military balance in the region. Indian External Affairs Ministry summoned United States envoy in New Delhi, Richard Verma to convey the government’s displeasure over the sale of F-16 aircraft to Pakistan. In addition, the Indian government was lobbying on Capitol Hill and campaigning through the American media to stop the Obama administration from selling eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan. The Americans, however, were not willing to accommodate the Indians’ concerns on the said deal. It was reported on February 15, 2016 that the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency informed the Congress that: “This proposed sale contributes to US foreign policy objectives and national security goals by helping to improve the security of a strategic partner in South Asia. ”

Prime Minister Modi’s attempt to thwart China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is an open secret. He had not only approached the Chinese leadership in May 2015, but his government increased support to the separatist rebellion in Balochistan – where the port of Gwadar is situated. The increase of the Indian support to the rebels via Afghanistan with a deliberate aim of blocking the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and the Indian intelligence agency’s (RAW) involvement in the terrorist activities in Balochistan, Federal Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Karachi have exposed Modi government’s design to destabilize Pakistan. Precisely, Modi government’s mantra of conditionality, stark messaging and also containment policy is perilous for the national security of the country. Nevertheless, despite the pessimistic and discouraging mind-set of Premier Modi; Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has maintained his reconciliatory stance towards India.

The alarming fact is that India has been immensely investing in improving its ham-fisted armed forces’ striking capability. Moreover, the Indian strategic pundits seem convinced that limited war is not only possible between the nuclear armed forces of India and Pakistan, but the former is also capable to punish the latter in such a conflict. Indian Army Chief General Dalbir Singh on September 1, 2015, while speaking at a tri-service seminar on the 1965 Indo-Pak War, about India’s readiness to fight a short and swift war stated, “a very high level of operational preparedness at all times has become part of India’s strategy as there is recognition that the swift, short nature of future wars is likely to offer limited warning time.” Indeed, such operational preparedness is dangerous and destabilizing.

Islamabad always remains vigilant about New Delhi’s doctrinal transformation and subsequent military buildup. On September 6, 2015, while reacting on the Indian Army Chief’s statement, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif stated that Pakistan Armed Forces are prepared to check India’s hot or cold start doctrine. This military preparedness in the region underscores that even a minor mistake could result into a lethal war between India and Pakistan. Hence, the risk of conflict with the potential to escalate into a full-scale nuclear war between the strategic competitors cannot be completely ruled out in South Asia.

To conclude, current Indian ruling elite’s attitude towards Pakistan reveals that the establishment of a sustainable and durable peace between India and Pakistan is a wishful thinking. Moreover, the transformation in the Indian military doctrine, i.e. Cold Start Doctrine and Proactive Military Operation Strategy as well as New Delhi’s efforts to scuttle Islamabad’s military hardware purchases from the United States manifest the Indians’ desire to destabilize the existing strategic equilibrium between India and Pakistan. So that they could use a limited war as a mean to pursue their objectives vis-à-vis Pakistan. Precisely, Islamabad today, is confronted with a serious challenge of how to deal with the Modi Doctrine, i.e. “Modi-utva” the worst version of “Hindutva” (hate and violence).

The writer is Associate Professor at School of Politics and International Relations. Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Current Indian ruling elite’s attitude towards Pakistan reveals that the establishment of a sustainable and durable peace between India and Pakistan is a wishful thinking. Moreover, the transformation in the Indian military doctrine, i.e. Cold Start Doctrine and Proactive Military Operation Strategy as well as New Delhi’s efforts to scuttle Islamabad’s military hardware purchases from the United States manifest the Indians’ desire to destabilize the existing strategic equilibrium between India and Pakistan.



An Effective Seaward Defence - Pre-Requisite for Success of CPEC

Written By: Taj M. Khattak

Alfred Mahan and Sir Halford Mackinder were both highly respected geopolitical theorists and contemporaries in the 19th century. While Mahan is better known for his emphasis on maritime power interplay between occidental and oriental global framework, Mackinder is famous for his ‘Heartland Theory’ which stipulated that rule over largest landmass would become the basis for world domination. He later conceded that geopolitical dominance required both a continental and a maritime dimension.

Nearly two centuries later, Mackinder’s and Mahan’s thoughts appear closer to realization as China unfolds its wider global plans to tie up regional loops and nodes with emerging transportation networks into what it calls as ‘One Belt-One Road’ paradigm. The plan is aimed not so much to dominate the world in Mackinder’s sense of the word, rather it is directed towards utilization of China’s massive over-capacity, development and industrialization of its less developed western region, and quite significantly, transition of Chinese economy from its current state of being a ‘world factory’ for manufacturing cheap products for others to an economic powerhouse in its own right – complete with innovative and original products for the benefit of humanity at large.



aneffective.jpgWhile the ‘Belt’ reflects continental component of this initiative, and comprises networks of railroads, overland highways, oil and gas pipelines and ancillary development projects, stretching from Kashgar to Gwadar in Pakistan, its broader footprint stretches from Xian in Central China, through Central Asia and Russia, with one artery crossing Kazakhstan and the other through Mongolia both linking up with trans-Siberian railway and reaching out to Moscow, Rotterdam and Venice.

The ‘Road’ on the other hand is a combination of land as well as maritime dimension of this paradigm. Like in the case of ‘Belt’, here too the wider footprint of Chinese ambitions reaches out to a network of ports and other coastal infrastructure emanating from China’s eastern seaboard and traversing an arc across South East Asia, South Asia, the Gulf, East Africa Mediterranean, and terminating at Piraeus (Greece), Venice (Italy) and Rotterdam (Netherlands) in Europe and Mombasa (Kenya) in Africa.

In the larger Chinese ‘One Belt-One Road’ scheme there are regional loops and branches which extend the reach of emerging transportation networks but also connect them at strategic and critical points across the globe. In the context of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Gwadar is that strategic and critical point of the project which lies on intersection of ‘Belt’ and the ‘Road’ and marries up the two components.

CPEC, clearly therefore, is just one segment of that broader Chinese initiative. Apart from the physical dimension of laying down necessary infrastructure in Pakistan’s less developed western region and benefitting local population, the long term and larger objectives of CPEC are enhancing policy co-ordination across the region, trade liberalization, financial integration, and connectivity including that of people-to-people in the region. Iranian and Russian interest in the project has boosted its significance.

Full execution of this blueprint has a huge potential of meeting the interests of all sides in their socio-economic development and can serve as a strong basis to integrate and develop strategies of the countries along the Belt and the Road. The reason it has attracted global attention from competing forces, and especially from our eastern neighbour, is that it is seen as an instrument to create a contagious land and maritime zone where Pakistan, China as well as other regional countries can pursue convergent economic policies moored to robust physical infrastructure and supported by trade and financial flows.

Once completed, CPEC will enhance the socio-economic development of Pakistan in general and of its less developed regions in particular. It has potential of acting as backbone of Pakistan’s economic strength in the global environments of 21st century.

Gwadar Port deep water characteristics offer unique opportunities for multimodal modern global trade which is increasingly putting to use Triple-E class behemoth container ships, manned by just over two dozen highly skilled crew and can carry up to 18,000 containers or more. They are known for their efficiency, economy of scales and environmental friendliness. Pakistan lags far behind in these areas as the present size of vessels calling on Karachi Port Trust and Port Qasim Authority carry about one tenth the numbers of containers transported by Triple-E class ships.

Our onshore facilities too are sluggish considering that it takes nearly nineteen days for a container to arrive through ship from US east coast to Karachi and it takes nearly the same number of days for it to reach from Karachi to Sialkot Dry Port. The Karachi-Sialkot transit should not take more than three days. This goal is not too ambitious as some Gulf countries in the neighbourhood have drastically reduced onshore destination handling time and are plying Triple-E class ships.

Sea trade leading into Gwadar will also require safer navigational environments and that is where Pakistan Navy will have to play a greater role. Admittedly, incidents of piracy have reduced in the recent years but the menace has not been eliminated all together and can resurface because of instability in the Horn of Africa (HOA) region.

Both China and Pakistan will have to keep an eye on rivalry from mega-economic blocs like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) in Asia which has been formed only recently and is led by United Sates. As economic resources in this region shrink in the decades ahead, different economic partnerships could pursue their own interest more fiercely and in much more complex ways at a cost to others.

Pakistan has rightly been investing in Jinnah Naval Base at Ormara located to the east of Gwadar which Pakistan Navy can use as pivot to articulate its assets both east and west depending upon the threat. This however may not suffice considering the full scope of CPEC likely to unfold in the next two decades. It would, therefore, be prudent to dovetail and integrate maritime infrastructure and wherewithal in CPEC plans along other strategic locations on the coast like Gwadar and Jiwani.

For effective and optimal defence of our maritime interest, the overall resource base has to be increased both horizontally and vertically in all three dimensions of naval warfare to meet the emerging security needs at sea by the time CPEC picks up steam and starts to heat up the economy.

Similarly, establishing another naval air base at Turbat for undertaking long range surveillance activities at sea is a prudent step. Pakistan Navy has had its naval aviation arm for nearly forty years which has mainly focused on surveillance with some aircraft armed with air to surface missiles but relied on Pakistan Air Force jet aircraft capability for quick response against rapidly evolving threats at sea.

As the PAF’s own challenge in the skies over Pakistan accentuates manifold, it would make sense to off-load this responsibility and support Pakistan Navy’s quest to have its own fighter jet squadron operating out of Turbat to guard the national maritime interests in the increasingly important western and south western region. With expansion of JF-17 Thunder aircraft manufacturing base at PAF Kamra, this addition in the naval capability in harmony with CPEC’s maritime security should be in the realm of possibility.

It is crucial to understand that CPEC is not only about animated discussions regarding western and eastern routes and putting in place physical infrastructure, albeit this is an indispensable component of the initiative, it also has an important security dimension spanning sea lanes leading up to, and out of, Gwadar seaport in the south.

While there are plans to put on ground sizeable force for overland security during construction phase which would probably be used later also for the same purpose, it is the seaward security dimension in the over-heated national discourse which has largely remained unmentioned. No gainsaying that the two actually complement each other and each should be structured to reinforce the other.

The project, therefore, will succeed and flourish only if the maritime trade activities on the routes leading to Gwadar and from Gwadar to other destinations across the globe ply safely and without hindrance from those who have a competing interest in its failure. Pakistan Navy has an onerous national responsibility to ensure the necessary protection and the government has a fundamental obligation to provide essential infrastructure and the means for this purpose.

The writer is a former Vice Chief of Naval Staff of Pakistan Navy. E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
In the larger Chinese ‘One Belt-One Road’ scheme there are regional loops and branches which extend the reach of emerging transportation networks but also connect them at strategic and critical points across the globe. In the context of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Gwadar is that strategic and critical point of the project which lies on intersection of ‘Belt’ and the ‘Road’ and marries up the two components.


It is crucial to understand that CPEC is not only about animated discussions regarding western and eastern routes and putting in place physical infrastructure, albeit this is an indispensable component of the initiative, it also has an important security dimension spanning sea lanes leading up to, and out of, Gwadar seaport in the south.



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