Pakistan needs to be militarily strong in order to keep the country’s integrity intact. At the same time it cannot be disputed that elements aiming to destabilize Pakistan have to be neutralised. This is what the Army is trying its best to do. The Army must preserve itself through this ongoing and seemingly endless fight. The only way to do this is to ensure that the present situation is not allowed to spread out of the disturbed areas such as Swat. The Army must guard against overstretching itself.
Consolidation of the military gains would include a permanent military presence in Swat, restructuring and re-establishing the local government machinery, rehabilitation of the displaced people, revival of the judicial process and the ensuring of peace that would enable normal life. The next military move should be made only once this consolidation is achieved in places where the Army is already heavily engaged. Till then the military presence being maintained in other potentially threatened areas should just contain militant activity to those areas. The Army must never allow itself to be entirely engaged in counterinsurgency operations with no potential left to defend the country’s international borders. Such an eventually would have grave consequences for Pakistan.
We must learn from our own history, that if Pakistan has to continue to exist and move from strength to strength then Pakistan has to ensure its own military shield. Pakistan has to ensure that it maintains, at all times, the ability to counter any military move against it from any quarter. Building an army takes ages and we built the Pakistani Army with so much love, sacrifices, dedication and devotion. We must not allow it to be frittered away to a position of weakness so that when the threat begins to develop the threat becomes too big for the Army to handle – just like in 1971.
History dictates that we must be militarily self-sufficient. In 1971, while we were instrumental in playing the pivotal role in bringing about US President Richard M Nixon’s visit to China the following year, India joined hands with the erstwhile USSR for developing the situation in East Pakistan that ultimately dismembered Pakistan and Bangladesh was created. No one came to the aid of the-then helpless Pakistan.
When the USA was deeply involved in the Cold War against the-then USSR it was Pakistan that stood by it through thick and thin while India always sided with the Soviet Union. The Indian military arsenal, naval ships of Soviet origin and the Soviet aircraft in its Air Force inventory bear testimony to this statement. Pakistan allowed the U2 unmanned spy plane base at Badhaber near Peshawar for reconnaissance over the Soviet Union till one was shot down and the USSR threatened Pakistan that if the Badhaber U2 base was not closed immediately the city of Peshawar would be erased from the face of the earth.
In a nutshell, these examples are meant to highlight the fact that Pakistan and the USA have been allies all through difficult times during the last 62 years and in all of those times Pakistan has been pivotal for US achievements, prominent being opening US-China diplomatic relations in 1972 and the military defeat of the-then USSR in Afghanistan in 1979-1988. NATO and the Warsaw Pact existed in Europe but the Cold War was won in Afghanistan and at the borders of Pakistan when we, the Pakistanis and the Afghans, fought the Hot War and won it too for the free world. Even today, Pakistan is paying the heaviest price in what has come to be called the war against terror.
In 1971, when Pakistan was enabling US-China diplomatic relations the Chinese leadership is said to have advised the American functionaries not to ever let the base of US-China relations be destroyed; that base was identified as Pakistan. In 2009, all that becomes relevant. Pakistan now needs to preserve its military potential to defend itself and the USA needs to understand Pakistan’s military compulsions so that the base (Pakistan) that laid so many stepping stones that led towards where the world and the USA stand today remains intact and strong. It has been a tested relationship and has benefited the USA colossally while Pakistan has suffered immensely. Now this relationship must be made to work to establish peace in this region occupied by Afghanistan and Pakistan. The USA now owes a Marshall Plan to Pakistan and Afghanistan. That is the path to move on and lay the foundations of a lasting and stable relationship between the USA and this Region. Endless military operations will be counter productive for the USA, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Region.