National and International Issues

Meeting the Hobson’s Choice

In his inaugural keynote address to the 27th Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers at Kuala Lumpur, Dr. Mahathir urged the Muslim world to recognize the dangers and challenges facing it in the modern world. He warned that if the Muslim world failed to compete in the field of science and technology and learn how to fight the West with West's own new-fangled weapons, it would perish. 
From the date at which the West forged ahead of Turkey in the art of casting cannon down to the year in which Pakistan detonated her first atomic bomb, the non-Muslim world, including India, had the monopoly of nuclear weapons unchallenged and unmatched by any Muslim power. The emergence of Pakistan as the first Muslim nuclear power is, therefore, a historic development of great significance which was considered having far-reaching consequences for the Islamic and non-Islamic world alike. 
Unfortunately, history and geography combined to place Pakistan on the horns of a painful dilemma. Surrounded as we are by a hostile neighbor and facing a much stronger enemy knocking at our door, we have the necessity to allocate more resources to military security. The feat demanded of our government is a threefold one: we have to simultaneously provide military security, satisfy the socio-economic needs of the people and also ensure sustained growth. Achieving all three of these feats over a sustained period of time is a difficult task. 
Achieving the first two feats, or either of them – without the third will inevitably lead to relative eclipse over the longer term – which has been the fate of all slower growing societies that failed to adjust to the dynamics of world power. Yet, achieving the last two or either of them without the first when the enemy is knocking at the door would inevitably lead to disaster and annihilation.
Deng Xiaoping was able to concentrate on three of his four modernizations – agriculture, industry, science and technology, only because China had already acquired a nuclear umbrella and felt more secure. Pakistan, situated as it is, has no choice but to follow the Chinese path, knowing full well that if too large a proportion of the state's resources is diverted from wealth creation and allocated instead to military purposes, it is likely to lead to a weakening of national power over the longer term. Pakistan faces the Hobson's choice. How can Pakistan meet the Indian threat?
It is true that in a long-drawn-out war victory has repeatedly gone to the side with the more flourishing productive base – or, as the Spanish captains used to say, to him who has the last escudo. This was true of the struggles waged against the Spanish, Austrian Habsburgs; of the great 18th century contests like the War of Spanish Succession; the Seven Years’ War and the Napoleonic wars, and of two World Wars of the last century. A lengthy grinding war eventually turns into a test of relative capacities of each side. It is incontestable that economic power, more than anything else, determines the outcome of a long-drawn-out war but this is not true for short, lightning wars lasting for a few weeks only, like the three wars fought by India and Pakistan. The outcome of such short wars is determined more by military organization, preparedness, leadership, and national morale. Whether one side has "more…. of it" or "less of it" becomes significant only if the struggle lengthens. 
Pakistan must therefore, out of necessity and for sheer survival, prepare for a short defensive war against its more powerful neighbour. The record of history shows that the outcome of such wars is determined by superior technology more than anything else. After all, it was the advanced technology of steam engines that gave Europe decisive military advantages. The improvements in the muzzle-loading gun (percussion caps, rifling etc.) were ominous enough; the coming of the breechloader vastly increased the rate of fire. The Gatling guns, Maxims and light field artillery put the final touches to a new "fire power revolution". Furthermore, the steam-driven gunboat meant that European sea power, already supreme in open waters, could be extended inland, via major waterways like the Niger, the Indus and the Yangtze. In the Battle of Omdurman (1898) in one half morning the Maxims and Lee-Enfield rifles of Kitchener's army destroyed 11,000 Dervishes at the loss of only 48 of their own troops. 
The Ottoman Empire collapsed because they failed to modernize their armies. Their armed forces had become corrupt and were the bastions of conservatism. The Janissaries were slow to modernize themselves even though they had suffered from the newer weapons of European forces. Their bulky cannons were not replaced by the lighter cast iron guns. After their defeat at Lepanto, they did not build the larger European type of vessels. 
The tide turned against the Turks after 1683 A.D. when the second Ottoman siege of Vienna failed and its failure opened the way for a Western counter-offensive. It was only then that the Western peoples could concentrate their energies on converting their already achieved command of the ocean into a domination of the world. It was also only then that Western natural science consummated its marriage with technology and thereby generated for the West a material power that quickly put the rest of the world at the West's mercy. 
The same remarks about conservatism could be made with equal or greater force about the Mughal Empire which despite the sheer size of the Kingdom at its height and the military genius of some of its emperors like Akbar was deeply conservative, inward looking and rotten at the core. 
In the East, the shock that was given to China by the West's 19th century impact on her has had no parallel up-to-date. China which regarded its civilization as the only one worthy of the name, suddenly found herself at the mercy of barbarians equipped with a newfangled technology. China could not have been bullied by the 19th century West if the Western people had not developed their modern technology and had not turned it to military account.
Now that we have a nuclear umbrella, Pakistan should follow the Chinese example, concentrate on the development of agriculture, industry, science and technology. Simultaneously, our political leadership should prepare the country for a political system marked not only by free and fair elections, but also rule of law, equality before law, Habeas Corpus, separation of powers, a strong and independent judiciary, the protection of basic liberties of speech, assembly, religion and sanctity of contract and property.
In the course of its evolution, capitalist society necessarily becomes polarized into two classes: the rich and the poor. This is what is happening in Pakistan today. These are dangerous times in our country. These are also anti-elitist times. Angry and hungry mobs are howling for retribution. Pakistan is seething in ferment and in disarray. This is dangerous. There is but one step from discontent to bloodshed. A sad situation but true. 
All for the nation, all for Pakistan. Such is my motto. But “In the history of the world, no one has ever washed a rented car”. It is true of countries as well. The nationhood built on strong and deep-rooted shared stakes for all and sundry equally will be a sure guarantee for our enduring survival, peace and prosperity.


The writer is former Secretary General, Government of Pakistan.
E-mail: [email protected]

 

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