Ahsan at Five Rupees saw this story about aerial weapons acquisitions from the Chinese that I had seen, but had decided not to blog on. Cause I felt that it would be too much to say. So Ahsan writes on it and I feel like I have to respond. This goes across a rare, two posts. Below is the latest, but likely final response I wrote, covering some aspects of air weapons acquisition, the Pakistan Military's (possibly changing) thought processes, and how that would effect threat perception, defence acquisition, and ultimately defence expenditure. Ahsan's first post is "Pakistan Buys More Stuff It Doesn't Need" and his second post "India is Not a Security Threat, but Thinking India is a Security Threat is a threat", to which this is a reply is below. But First..
And Now My Reply to Ahsan Butt Sahab:
OK Ahsan, this is a long one. First off, aww, it wasn't my arguments that started off this post, instead some false-equivalency-wala-look-Pakistan-may-do-stupid-stuff-but-Indians-are-poorer-hahaha piece of econometrics abuse.
Lastly, thanks for also putting up this piece of explanation, why you tolerate a li'l old war monger like me:
We welcome all fascists on Rs.5, not just the ones we agree with.
Thank you for you forbearance Mistah Butt!
Now - back to the main topic: The acquisition of the JF-17's and Chinese equipment which prompted this post.
First of if you remember those military exercises being held earlier in the year (Azm-e-Nau III, I think) there was very little Indian crowing being done. Which with past Indian experience tallied to show that the Indians were worried. If they thought it was something that an action like "cold start" (a trial balloon if there ever was one) could handle, they're assessments showed otherwise. And no I am not saying here that Pakistan can defeat India. India can defeat Pakistan. BUT what Azm-e-Nau III (those JF's thrown in showed) was that Pakistan's corrupt drunken sailor-spending military caste has assembled serious equipment, that would require calling up the entire Indian military, and fighting like mad for 30 straight days before the conventional Pak military was destroyed, all the while climbing up the escalation ladder. That is not an Operation Iraqi Freedom/Desert Strom-like walk in the park. That is sending India's collective armour and air force into Pakistan's collective artillery and anti-air gun fire.
Then you send the Indian reserves into the wreckage of Pakistan's guns.
Bloodbath. For us.
So nobody who's serious on our side wants a war or even an arms race.
The JF's design plans by the PAF were agreed to back in the mid-nineties to wean the forces of Western equipment. Irregardless of snide comments about Chinese stuff falling apart (it won't if you pay the Chinese good money for it) the press release you even quoted basically talked about buying Chinese avionics (aka flight systems) to run the innards of the Pakistani jets. Irregardless of what you may think of the Chinese alliance that the Pakistani military has gotten into, when it comes to the JF's, things have reached a level beyond caring for India. It is the capacity to maintain Paki Air Force systems under conditions of a western embargo that are important, not a rivalry with India.
If you have noticed, it's not India that is planning on bombing us. And no I am not advocating a war with Uncle Sam. I repeat, India is irrelevant to the entire thinking of buying these jets; the reason behind buying these systems is the same "logic" that went with India deciding 40 years ago to start working on nuclear weapons, that a country of a certain "size" must have a certain level of weaponry available to it. That is just the reality of being a largish country on the Asian continent with a history of war.
In terms of large-scale strategic re-evaluation from GHQ as you said, there are a few ways around it. Force ideas into their heads via the media, just like words are being forced into our politicos mouths on the blasphemy issue. Admittedly defence doctrine in Pakistan is a lot more rigid issue than blasphemy laws, but you have to produce alternative ideas and have them lying around. Milton Friedman said it best:
"Only a crisis—actual or perceived—produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable."
Keep pumping real analysis into the air, and above all, keep the civilian/elected structure going for a few more rounds of democracy. Treat the Pakistan military as a Soviet structure and there may be ways of getting ideas into it.
You also said:
they're content to talk about small issues here and there, but the big questions are not being asked.
Yaar, you start small and work your way up. Can you imagine Zia's military having female fighter pilots? Admittedly a fcaetious-ish example, but again you start small and work your way into their minds. The six or so years of engagement with India created an atmosphere where war didn't break out after Lashkar-e-Jhangvi's attack on India. Plus we're on a schedule of weapons acquisition and technical skills development that was set a decade and a half ago.
This should be the most optimistic sign to you: General Kayani may just be the last veteran of the 1971 war in the Pakistan military. Army, Navy or Air Force. Generational change is about to take hold. It actually does seem like a bit of a tragedy that Kayani got an extension. If we were serious about keeping track of Pakistan's raw power politics, it would help to have an upadted list of all of Pakistan's Lieutenant Generals, followed maybe by a list of all of Pakistan's Major Generals. The current crop of red tabs are all middle class men who joined after the defeat of 1971, but their professional lives have been spent observing (overseeing?) the wars in Afghanistan, and it's fallout all across Pakistan. I don't think there is real space in their minds for India beyond a certain point.
On the second issue, my feeling is that the military will never be satisfied and always want more, more, more.
Not if the civilians are adamant enough. Or if it's made a street level issue the way debt relief (to the extent of showing up in front of the Press Club, even a small step) has become. Just keep banging at that "excessive defence spending" drum, mate.
That is the very point of arms races
I don't think we're in an arms race, we have the nukes, we have enough conventional weaponry to make India (God forbid, God forbid) pay in blood for every inch they take.
but as the GDP graph shows, one side is destined to lose this race (or has already done so).
We are not in an arms race. India doesn't even acknowledge our weapons acquisitions from China; they either don't feel threatened, or they know what I'm saying that this is more about Pakistan switching suppliers than it is about "catching up" with India.
And the last five major points I wanted to grasp with you are these:
1) suitable long-term strategy would be to rely on Pakistan's not-inconsiderable nuclear arsenal as a suitable (minimum) deterrent
This is the only serious reference I will make to nukes. We DO NOT have to copy what the Soviets did during the Cold War and commit ourselves to building an ever climbing number of nukes (cause we sure as hell ain't no continent spanning super-empire). All we need are either 200 to finish off India, or (God, Allah, Ra, Yahweh, Buddha, Ahura Mazda, Zeus, Bhaghwan Help Us) 400 to finish off the United States. What either of them would need is 20, tops 30 to finish us off. So yeah. Pick a number (200 or 400 from some RAND study from the '60's) and we can just stick to that number indefinitely. *gulp*.
2) unilaterally exit an arms race with India
We've practically done that.
3) in its novelty to GHQ types
Yaar, their not that dumb. Somebody told me they "monitor" blogs. So if you can get the folks on Pakistaniat.com to parrot the next line you're golden.
4) "unilateral exiting from the South Asian arms race and contentment with a nuclear deterrent"
Keep banging at it boss.
5) If we don't keep spending on toys, we will have less influence in Afghanistan and fewer cards to play in Kashmir
We don't need "toys" to tangle in Kashmir or Afghanistan. We need an unending supply of men, who are ready to die, and the haraami-pan to cultivate them and send them to their deaths. The supply of both looks inexhaustible right now.
Finally, I put in a plea for acquisition or domestic production of heavy lift helicopters. The floods, the earthquake, and last years IDP crisis/mountain fighting demonstrates, that this is a piece of military kit that would really, really help, cause we certainly need more of them.