Rawalpindi may lie, but the Pakistani public must realise that troubled ties with India are not feasible Firstpost 07 May 2023 Maj Gen Harsha Kakar
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Rawalpindi may lie, but the Pakistani public must realise that troubled ties with India are not feasible Firstpost 07 May 2023
Pakistan journalists, Hamid Mir and Naseem Zehra, stated during a recent TV show that General Bajwa, the former Pak army chief, had, in an informal meeting with journalists, stated Pakistan ‘cannot go to war with India. It is no match for the Indian army.’ The journalists also mentioned that the ceasefire with India was on account of lack of the military’s operational preparedness. Mir added that devoid of options Bajwa proposed to mend ties with India to have a normal relationship.
To push through his proposed peace deal, General Bajwa even lectured the foreign office on the subject. The peace deal failed because both, Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi, refused to back it. Any international agreement has to be inked between governments and hence the Pakistan army can only be a facilitator.
Comments by Mir and Naseem impacted the Pak army’s reputation, especially at a time when it faces a backlash from Imran Khan. In desperation, the army was compelled to respond.
In a statement the Pakistan army media cell, DGISPR, stated ‘views of the former army chief on the future threats to Pakistan, which he shared with media persons in an off-the-record interactive session, have been quoted out of context. The army assures the people of Pakistan that we always took and will continue to take pride in our operational preparedness and utmost combat worthiness.’ It only added to the ongoing national debate on the state of the army’s ability to defend the nation.
In his maiden press conference, DGISPR, Major General Ahmed Sharif Chaudhry, while admitting that there was no comparison between India and Pakistan’s defence budget, ruled out any deficiency in operational preparedness and mentioned that Pakistan can even take the battle onto Indian soil. Its army chief, General Asim Munir, while addressing a passing out parade quoted from the scriptures mentioning, ‘How many times it happened that a smaller force vanquished a bigger force by the will of Allah.’ He added that Pakistan will always stand with the people of Kashmir.
While no nation will admit that its military lacks the potential to defend itself, the realities are vastly different, especially in the case of Pakistan. With a dwindling economy Pakistan lacks funds to even maintain basic war reserves. Its oil reserves for the nation have existed for a mere six days for some time now, insufficient for military operations, without bringing the nation to a standstill. Its war reserves of other essentials including spares and ammunition are equally low. Pakistan used to bank on unstinted economic and oil support from the gulf, in case of a conflict with India, which is no longer the case.
Its equipment, mostly of Chinese origin, are failing and spares are not forthcoming as Pakistan lacks funds to pay for them. In February last year, there were reports that Pakistan was facing quality and reliability issues with the VT 4 main tanks and 203 mm towed heavy artillery cannons imported from China. An input of July last year mentioned that China is unable to supply spares for Pakistan’s HQ-16 (LY-80) medium-range surface-to-air missile systems, procured in 2017. An Italian media portal mentioned that there were 477 defects in the HQ-16, for which Chinese engineers had no solution.
An article in the Italian magazine Geopolitica of June last year states, ‘At least four Chinese frigates, F-22P ordered in July 2009, are giving nightmares to Pakistani naval officers and men tasked with keeping them afloat.’ Zarak Khan, in an article in Pakistan Forward in August last year wrote, ‘Pakistan’s fleet of China-made JF-17 fighter jets is grounded for mechanical problems in what has become another indicator of the poor quality of Chinese military equipment.’
With the US restricting spares of F 16 and stopping military to military aid, Pakistan faces maintenance issues even in US provided equipment. On 22 April, this year, Masood Khan, Pakistan’s envoy to the US, stated, ‘It is important that the US restores — for Pakistan — Foreign Military Financing and Foreign Military Sales, suspended by the previous administration.’
Pakistan is not the only sufferer of poor-quality Chinese equipment. All nations which have purchased military equipment from the Chinese face similar maintenance and spares problems. Both submarines given by China to Bangladesh are idle due to technical issues. Nepal’s six China-made Y12e and MA60 aircrafts for its airlines are unusable. Myanmar has complained to China about the poor quality of its products. Kenya’s armoured personnel carriers imported from China have resulted in firing accidents. Algeria has had crashes of Chinese manufactured drones. The Jordanian air force put up Chinese drones for sale two years after purchasing them on account of their poor reliability.
Pakistan’s high defence budget and military power is mainly to support its obsession with Kashmir. In the 1960’s, Pakistan’s per capita GDP was higher than India, however it stagnated due to mismanagement and overspending on defence. Today India has an unassailable lead. India has outgrown its need to restore peace with Pakistan, while Pak continues to harp on Kashmir. Pakistani columnist Shahzad Chaudhary writes in Pakistan’s Tribune, ‘For seventy years the military has been maligned for a unifocal obsession with India, and that the army keeps the bogey of India alive to justify its eminence and resource that goes into maintaining it.’ However, that resource is hamstrung for spares and funds.
The influence of the Pakistan army over the nation through the years has ensured that Pakistanis have been fed a false narrative on Kashmir, preventing politicians from resolving disagreements with India. The obsession has come to levels that Pakistan is unwilling to restore diplomatic relations till reversal of article 370, which will not happen. For Pakistan, Kashmir is at the core of its dispute with India, while India considers Kashmir as no longer relevant and Pakistan a pinprick, which it can ignore.
Simultaneously, the Pakistani army is aware that it lacks capabilities to match Indian forces and hence are compelled to continue ranting over supporting the Kashmiri cause as also backing low grade terrorism in India. It keeps the issue alive by harping on Kashmir in every global forum, even if the subject is not even remotely linked.
While the Pakistani army may lie, India is aware of the drop in Pakistan’s capabilities and growing strength of Indian armed forces. Proof of Indian confidence is that it has relocated a corps from the Pakistan border to the LAC. Unless the Pakistani public realises reality, Pakistan’s limited GDP will continue being wasted to support a ballooning armed force, which in reality it does not need, while its population will pay for the consequences.