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Pakistan Army’s Strategic Calculus 2022: China Versus United States – Analysis

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China stands firmly embedded in 2022 in Pakistan’ Army’s strategic calculus despite unfolding geopolitical environment heavily stacked against China and thereby devaluing Pakistan Army’s strategic- asset worth to United States. In 2022, the United States should not be misled into the belief that Pakistan Army’s strategic- asset value can be retrieved to serve United States security interests again.

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Pakistan in 2022 is in colonial stranglehold of China—geopolitically and economically, courtesy Pakistan Army hierarchy having mortgaged Pakistan’s future to China in exchange for Chinese nuclear weapons technology and IRBM Missiles. Pakistan Army’s military inventories today are wholly of Chinese origin, and that goes for Pakistan Navy and Pakistan Air Force.

Contextually therefore, it can be asserted that United States does not figure in Pakistan Army’s strategic calculus as a countervailing power against India. With United States in a proximate and intensifying global strategic partnership with India, Pakistan Army hierarchy can be ill-expected to be retrieved by United States to its old partnership of “Strategic Trust”. 

The latter above will not be possible till the United States unravels its intensifying strategic partnership with India. Geopolitical factors unfolding in relation to China Threat to Indo Pacific security would dictate that there are no half-way houses for United States, Pakistan or even India. 

Geopolitical imperatives reigning presently presently dictate that both Pakistan and India do not have the luxury of being neutral in the US-China power tussle.

Strategic reality- checks reflected in my writings of past decade had concluded that even if the United States opted to retrieve Pakistan Army from China’s clutches and assuming that Pakistan Army also was so inclined to get out of China’s stranglehold, there are strong possibilities of China militarily resisting such a strategic eventuality.

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 China cannot just let go of billions of dollars invested in Pakistan and Pakistan Army and China cannot certainly let go its control of China Pakistan Economic Corridor which provides immeasurable strategic weightage to China. China can be expected to employ all the strategic means at its disposal to retain Pakistan under China’s colonial bondage.

To further substantiate the thrust of this Paper that Pakistan Army has no future strategic-asset utility for United Sates, with Afghanistan embedment over, a brief historical sketch of the torturous journey of United States security and military linkages with Pakistan Army needs to be highlighted.

 Pakistan Army had entered into a strategic tango with China in the 1960s itself soon after United States & Western countries rushed in military supplies to India in wake of India’s military debacle in Sino-India War 1962. Pakistan Army’s denouement strategic denouement with United States stiffened when United States took even-handed stance in Indo-Pak War 1965. 

Notably, to allure China into a strategic embrace of Pakistan, the Pakistan Army ceded the Shaksagam Valley in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir to China in 1963. Pakistan Army’s strategic reference for China therefore goes back to more than 50 years ago.

 The Pakistan Army was therefore being promiscuous in its then close security relationship with the United States. Pakistan Army’s strategic promiscuity with United States while in strategic dalliance with China has been the defining signature of Pakistan Army since the 1960s.

Regrettably, the United States policy establishment in different Presidential Administrations did not join the dots on Pakistan Army strategic preference for China or US wilfully ignored the same out of political expediencies of US-Pak- China strategic convergences at that time which led even President Clinton to wink at Chinese M-11 missiles supplies to Pakistan, in addition to nuclear weapons expertise. 

The fragmentation of Pakistan in 1971 with East Pakistan breaking away to form the independent nation of Bangladesh reinforced Pakistan Army’s conviction that it was China and not the United States that could be Pakistan Army’s strategic ally of “Long Endurance’.

This was despite the fact that the United Sates under President Nixon tilted heavily in favour of Pakistan against India in the Indo-Pak War 1971 and that China both in 1965 and 1971 Wars had not substantially aided Pakistan and limiting itself to perfunctory ultimatums to India.

Pakistan Army’s international and national machoistic image lay in the dust in 1971asthe Indian Army by its humiliating defeat of the Pakistan Army resulting from the liberation of Bangladesh and capture of 93,000 Pakistan Army Prisoners of War by Indian Army.  

In the history of United States-Pakistan Army relationship, the year 1971 marks the final end of “Strategic Trust” between the United States and Pakistan.

The decades since 1971 to2021 in the history of Pakistan Army were marked by two decisive turning points. Significantly, the first and most marked, was the irretrievable move of Pakistan Army into China’s strategic orbit. The second, equally prominent was that Pakistan Army did not completely strategically jettison United States but continued a deceptive, spasmodic transactional military relationship with Washington.

The United States from the mid-2020s, under both President Trump and President Biden now have come down hard on Pakistan Army convinced by events leading to US military exit from Afghanistan that Pakistan Army was all along undermining US security interests in Afghanistan and was complicit in intensification of Taliban control of Afghanistan in tandem with ISI affiliates like LeT and Haqqani cabal indulging in wanton suicide bombings in Kabul and provincial capitals.

Concluding, it needs over-emphasis that the United States hardly figures in the strategic calculus of the Pakistan Army hierarchy in 2022 and even if United States is wooed in future by Pakistan Army it would be entirely to milk the United States for financial largesse which China cannot provide to bail out Pakistan’s insolvent economy.

Hopefully, the United States would not succumb to Pakistan Army overtures by re-inventing its strategic utility to Washington by painting a North Korea-type nuclear threat nuisance. Should Washington succumb to Pakistan Army’s bait, the United States can write-off India as the pivot of US-crafted Indo Pacific security architecture to combat the enveloping China Threat.

Dr. Subhash Kapila

Dr Subhash Kapila combines a rich and varied professional experience of Indian Army Brigadier ( Veteran), diplomatic assignments in the United States, Japan, South Korea, and Bhutan. Served in India's Cabinet Secretariat also. He is a Graduate of Royal British Army Staff College, Camberley, UK, Msc Defence Studies from Madras University and a Doctorate in Strategic Studies from Allahabad University. Papers have been presented by him in International Seminars in Japan,Turkey, Russia and Vietnam. Credited to him are over 1,500 Papers on geopolitical & strategic topical issues and foreign policies of USA, Japan, India, China and Indo Pacific Asia. He has authored two Books : "India's Defence Policies & Strategic Thought: A Comparative Analysis" and "China-India Military Confrontation: 21st Century Perspectives"

One thought on “Pakistan Army’s Strategic Calculus 2022: China Versus United States – Analysis

  • February 6, 2022 at 6:15 pm
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    A confused Indian mind fails to read the correct tea leaves. US agrément on Pakistan’s newly appointed Ambassador to Washington despite much Indian fuss coupled with State Department unequivocally stating, “Pakistan is a strategic partner of the United States. We have an important relationship with the government in Islamabad, and it’s a relationship that we value across a number of fronts.” – should have informed Indians that Pakistan is now being valued by US & China simultaneously.

    Buying S 400 was perhaps not a smart thing to do, Sir Brigadier General!

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