The evolution of Pakistan’s national security state during the Cold War era
Pakistan’s national security orientation after independence1
Soon after its independence in 1947, Pakistan perceived external threats to its national sovereignty and territorial integrity from neighbouring countries, especially India. The Indian leadership was apparently convinced that the creation of Pakistan was temporary and it would eventually be reintegrated into a United India. This means the Indian leadership’s unwillingness to accept Pakistan as an independent state remained a major constraint in reconciliation between the two countries (Burke 1973). Actually the Indian leadership believed that Pakistan was based on a flawed ideology of the “two nation theory”2 and that Pakistan’s political leadership was ill-equipped to deal with the emerging situation after partition in 1947. For example, Vallabhbhai Patel, India’s first minister of Home Affairs and deputy prime minister, emphasized that “Pakistan was not viable and would soon collapse” (Mansergh 1966, 16). So Indian decision-makers tended to view the creation of Pakistan as a temporary development to facilitate the end of British colonial rule in India. According to this perspective, Pakistan would eventually be reintegrated into a greater India that Hindu nationalists called “Akhand Bharat-(re)unified India” (Jaffrelot 2016).
This continued rhetoric to undo Pakistan created the perception of insecurity which had played a major role in Pakistan’s foreign and security policymaking since its independence in 1947. Consequently, Pakistani leadership perceived it as a real threat to their national sovereignty and territorial integrity immediately after its inception. General Ayub Khan, the first native commander-in-chief (C-in-C)3 appointed in 1951, and the martial law administrator after his military coup in 1958, considered in 1948 that “India’s attitude continued to be one of unmitigated hostility. Her aim was to cripple us at birth” (Jaffrelot 2016, 2). At the same time, there was no denying that Pakistan was not in any real position to counterbalance the relative preponderance of Indian power in South Asia. In the circumstances, the Pakistani leadership tried to normalize its relations with India and proposed a mutual security arrangement for regional security. In an interview, Muhammad Ali Jinnah stated (Ayaz 2010, 250):
Personally I have no doubt in my mind that our own paramount interests demand that the dominion of Pakistan and the dominion of India should coordinate for the purpose of playing their part in international affairs and the developments that may take place and also it is of vital importance to Pakistan and India as independent sovereign states to collaborate in a friendly way jointly to defend their frontiers both on land and sea against any aggression.
However, India apparently declined such proposals based on the mutual security of the two parties in the immediate period after 1947.
Further, a number of disputes strained relations between the two countries, such as conflicting territorial claims, problems regarding the distribution of assets of British India, refugee issues, and serious tension regarding water-sharing of the trans-boundary rivers (Rizvi 1983). As a result, Pakistan feared India would undo the partition after its inception.
In addition, the Kashmir conflict has continued to be a major source of hostility between the two states since independence. Both countries have been obsessed with Kashmir being an integral part of their respective homelands. On one side, Pakistan believed that Kashmir was part of the unfinished agenda of the 1947 partition and it should be part of Pakistan as it is predominantly a Muslim state. Pakistan has propagated the perception that the Kashmir uprising has been an indigenous freedom movement against occupying Indian security forces. On the other side, India emphasized that Kashmir is very much part of secular India and the partition was completed in 1947. More importantly, Pakistan continued to emphasize that Kashmiris should be given the right to self-determination under the supervision of UN administrators, while “India asserts its right to sovereignty and territorial integrity” (Vaish 2011). Since independence, both countries have blamed each other for the unrest in Kashmir. Pakistan accused the Indian military of involvement in human rights violations and of allowing them to continue with impunity, while India has blamed Pakistan for supporting the armed uprising and outlawed militant groups in Kashmir.
In August 1953, Pakistan and India agreed that the Kashmir conflict should be resolved through a plebiscite under UN supervision. However, it did not take place, due to mutual distrust and hostility between the two countries. Pakistan has engaged in various strategies such as diplomacy as well as conventional and proxy war to wrest Kashmir from India. For instance, Pakistan fought two large-scale wars with India in 1948 and 1965, during the Cold War era, and the small-scale Kargil War in 1999, to try to gain control of Kashmir (Paul 2005). However, Pakistan and India failed to find a military solution to the conflict despite huge military deployments in the disputed territory, particularly by India. The civilian leadership in both countries have promoted at various times the idea of peace talks, but such efforts have failed (see Chapter 4). Thus, the Kashmir conflict has remained unresolved and has been a major source of tension in the international arena.
Afghanistan was a second external threat to Pakistan after its inception in 1947. The Afghan government was reluctant to accept Pakistan as an independent state
Pakistan’s national security state 33 due to Kabul’s historical territorial claims over the western part of Pakistan along the Durand Line. Afghanistan strongly protested against the inclusion of ethnic Pashtun-Baloch areas within Pakistan without the provision of an option of the right to self-determination for its inhabitants. In July 1949, the Afghan government organized a Loya Jirga (grand assembly) in Kabul. The Jirga unilaterally passed a resolution that all the treaties, conventions, and agreements between the British government of India and Afghanistan were no longer valid and had no legal standing (Global Security report. Retrieved: 7 September 2016). Afghanistan refused to accept the “Durand Line”4 as an international border due to its historical territorial claims. Subsequently, Afghanistan voted against Pakistan’s admission to the UN in 1947. So Pakistan’s western border has also remained unofficial since 1947 and the situation worsened when the movement of Pashtunistan started in the 1950s with the support of some of the Afghan leaders. The objective of the movement was to seek at least the “right to self-determination” or “autonomy” for the Pashtuns living in the north-western region of Pakistan (Jaffrelot 2016). Thus, the border disputes remain a major strain on the bilateral relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan. However, the threat from Afghanistan remained minimal until 1979. While India’s foreign policy apparently sought to isolate and challenge Pakistan’s territorial integrity, the Pakistani leadership was mainly worried that India would collude with Afghanistan to destabilize the country on its western border. According to this scenario, Pakistan would face the prospect of war on both its eastern and western borders.
Geographically, Pakistan was divided at independence into two constituent parts - West Pakistan, which comprises present Pakistan, and East Pakistan, which became an independent Bangladesh in 1971. West Pakistan was encircled by India in the south-east, by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, and by the Ar abian Sea in the south. Also, Pakistan shared borders with China in the north-east, while the Wakhan Corridor, a long and narrow strip of Afghan territory in the north, separates Pakistan from Tajikistan (a former Soviet republic). Thus, Pakistan was situated in an important geostrategic part of Central South Asia where the territories of the Soviet Union, China, and India converged. Moreover, East Pakistan was surrounded by India on three sides and was physically separated by thousands of miles from West Pakistan (Rizvi 1983; Jalal 1990). Consequently, the presence of hostile India and the superpowers have raised security concerns for Pakistan as the latter have a direct and indirect interest in the Indian subcontinent and its politics (Rizvi 1983). Like other relatively small states, Pakistan found itself in a potentially threatening security environment after its independence.
In this context, the profile of the Pakistani military increased right from the very beginning due to the external threat, especially from India. Subsequently, the Pakistani military devised a strategy of “liberating” Kashmir. Initially, a prominent Muslim League leader Mian Iftikharuddin approached the Pakistani army and asked for unofficial assistance to support the accession of Kashmir to Pakistan. Colonel Akbar Khan, director of weapons and equipment in the Pakistan army, devised a plan of “armed revolt inside Kashmir” in which unofficial assistance would be provided to Kashmiri rebels without any direct participation by
Pakistani forces in the ensuing rebellion. Colonel Khan discussed the strategy with the Pakistani leadership, including Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan, and gained their approval. This strategic initiative was divided into two phases: in the first phase, the state government in Kashmir would be destabilized by fuelling unrest in the Poonch area where Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of Kashmir state, was unpopular. In the second phase, tribal Lashkar (militia) would launch attacks on Kashmir from the Pakistani side of the boundary. The Pakistani army would then provide military aid to the tribal militia. As a consequence, Colonel Khan diverted thousands of rifles and ammunition from the Punjab police to the militia (Kapur 2016). It was hoped the Kashmiris would announce the accession of Kashmir to Pakistan after a successful rebellion by the tribal militia against state authorities in the disputed region.
The first phases of the Pakistani strategy to “liberate’' Kashmir went largely according to plan. In October 1947, the tribal militia attacked Kashmir from the northern side and captured Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir. The militia occupied the northern part of Kashmir and advanced towards Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian-administered Kashmir. The tribal incursion alarmed Maharaja Hari Singh who requested Indian intervention after losing control of the northern parts of the state. India said they would give support on condition that Kashmir acceded to India. Moreover, the Indian leadership insisted that the Kashmiri people should also ratify the accession through a plebiscite. On 26 October 1947, the maharaja accepted India’s conditions and signed the instrument of accession to India. Thereafter, India sent its troops to fight against the tribal militia aligned with Pakistan (Kapur 2016; Krishna 1991). This development led to the first war between India and Pakistan. The Indian military successfully stopped the expansion of the militia in Kashmir. On 1 January 1948, India referred Kashmir to the UN on the advice of Lord Mountbatten, the last British Viceroy of India and briefly its first post-independence governor general. The conflict ended with a UN-mandated ceasefire on 1 January 1949. Under the terms of the agreement, a “Ceasefire Line” (CFL) was drawn, dividing Kashmir into two parts: Pakistan-administered Kashmir and Indian-administered Kashmir. In particular, the CFL was the military control line between Pakistani and Indian security forces in the princely Kashmir state. It was subsequently renamed the “Line of Control” (LoC) under the Shimla agreement in 1972 (Ganguly 2016). In the first Kashmir war, India occupied two-thirds of the disputed territory and Pakistan was clearly defeated during its first war with India (Gates and Roy 2011). Since then, the issue of Kashmir has been the primary factor straining the bilateral relationship between the two neighbouring countries.
After the first India-Pakistan war in 1947, Pakistan found itself in a very vulnerable situation and feared that India would undo Pakistan. The major problem was that Pakistan had a very weak intelligence system and its military was largely unable to respond effectively to immediate security challenges. In this connection, much of the military personnel that had joined the new national Pakistani army came from different units of the former British military. According to General Ayub Khan, the army consisted of a mixture of untrained, half-trained, and highly
Pakistan’s national security state 35 trained military personnel. Consequently, Pakistan had to regroup and restructure the entire army after its independence. Furthermore, India refused to transfer Pakistan’s share of military armaments, equipment, and stores that were allocated to it under the terms of the partition deal by the British before leaving India. Under the agreement, India agreed to transfer 33 percent of British India’s military resources and 17.5 percent of its financial resources to Pakistan. With respect to Pakistan’s allotted share of military equipment, India supplied around 23,000 out of 100,000 tons of ordnance, and that arrived both late and incomplete (Kapur 2016). Thus, the Pakistani military was not properly equipped and organized to deal with early national security challenges after partition.
In 1950-1951, India again threatened Pakistan twice with invasion as it moved its military closer to the Pakistani border areas. More importantly, Pakistan does not have a first line of defence along its eastern border as its densely populated cities Sialkot and Lahore are situated very close to the Wahgah border. Pakistan was almost defenceless at this time and in no position to counter the military threat of India (S. A. Husain 1979). According to Shuja Nawaz (Skype interview by author, 14 February 2018),
India was always a real threat to Pakistan particularly in the early years because not only did India stop the transfer of resources but also assisted the Maharaja of Kashmir in making his mind to accede to India by sending troops. India also at one point cut off Pakistan’s water resources as a mean of coercing them. So India used coercive diplomacy as well as military power to threaten the country. This fear of Indian aggression coloured Pakistani security thinking from the very beginning till today.
In this situation, General Ayub Khan also tried to address all of the outstanding disputes with India, including Kashmir. In 1956, he proposed a strategic plan for the joint defence of the subcontinent in the event of communist aggression in the wake of China’s takeover in Tibet. However, the Indian prime minister, Nehru, did not appear to take the proposal seriously and was reluctant to resolve the issue of Kashmir (Lerski 1974). Since then, the Pakistani military establishment tended to see India as a permanent threat to the nation’s security. According to Brigadier Muhammad Saad (interview by author, Islamabad, 14 November 2017), “country’s threat assessments are made not on enemy’s intent but its capability. Intentions can be changed overnight but not capabilities. India was quite capable of damaging Pakistan right after its independence in 1947.” As a result, Pakistan adopted a confrontationist foreign policy towards India instead of accommodating it. More importantly, military competition with India became the priority of the subsequent governments of Pakistan after its establishment as an independent state. General Ayub Khan (1967) explained the strategic priority in his memoirs:
Our aim must be to make India realize that it is not worth her while to maintain a hostile attitude towards us. India’s military strength would always be greater than ours. Our aim should be to build up a military deterrent force with adequate offensive and defensive power; enough, at least, to neutralize the Indian army. India can concentrate her forces against us without warning. We must, therefore, have a standing army to take the field at moment’s notice. In our circumstances a territorial army has hardly any place; it would take too much time to mobilize and train such army.
From the standpoint of the Pakistani civil and military leadership, the young country required an assertive federal government, a strong defence posture, high military expenditure, and a monolithic nationalism for state survival. This led to the creation of a national security state in which the military became the dominant force in the country’s foreign and security policymaking. The national security state was largely based on antagonism towards India over the Kashmir conflict and the external threat to its national sovereignty and territorial integrity. During General Ayub's regime, it was considered necessary to have a strong centralized government at the federal level, with a pro-Western foreign policy to get military aid and financial assistance (Rizvi 2000; Ahmad 2011).
In this fashion, the military establishment of an independent Pakistan facilitated the emergence of a national security state, a development largely based on hostility towards India. Nonetheless, many thought that the threat from India was exaggerated and that the military elites used it to justify sustaining and maintaining large armed forces in the country. According to Khalid Rahman (interview by author, Islamabad, 21 November 2017), “the military was ambitious and exaggerated the external threats from India to protect its institutional interest. Subsequently, the military used the security threat for its institutional interest.” Professor Muhammad Islam (interview by author, Islamabad, 22 November 2017), confirmed that “the military had growing interests in politics and they needed to justify their dominant role in the policy making that led to the rise of national security state.” Consequently, the Pakistani military, with the support of the ISI and civil bureaucracy, increasingly assumed a leadership role within the Pakistani state that led to militarization during the Cold War.