This is a research paper by Syed M AMIR HUSAIN detailing the military threat Pakistan is faced with and how Pakistan can combat it given economic and political constraints. It is also argued that the small but assertive group of people who are trying to rally support to 'tie down' the Pakistani military establishment are doing so at great risk to the country.


In the last decade, not many positive changes have occurred for the Pakistan military vis-a-vis equipment acquisitions. For the first time we are faced with a situation in which not one, but all possible parties from which we can acquire weapon systems of choice, have decided not to do business with us. In most instances, such as those of the French company Dassault and the Russian bureau Sukhoi, this is because the same arms dealers have negotiated contracts with our neighbour and military rival in the east. These contracts will undoubtedly suffer should Pakistan be supplied weaponry by the same parties. The question is how can Pakistan combat the threat in the east, and possibly other threats that could plausibly arise in the next two decades? The answer to this question can be given in many ways; defence acquisitions, diplomacy, changing political alignment etc. are all possible solutions. For instance, one 'solution' could be for Pakistan to unilaterally sign the NPT and open its sensitive nuclear sites for IAEA inspectors. In essence this implies a complete surrender before the powers that be in an effort to obtain guarantees and assurances of protection from them. As morally bankrupt and disloyal to the country as such a suggestion may sound it has unfortunately been made by some 'Pakistanis' in the past. My concern in this paper is to demonstrate that such advice is not only ridiculous, but will destroy the morale of the Pakistani nation by leading to another 1971- like situation. Additionally, this paper will analyze the major threats Pakistan is faced with and will hopefully demonstrate how, given Pakistan's financial and other constraints, we can maintain a credible defence and perhaps a comfortable edge over potential aggressors.

History exposes
flawed logic

In the 50's Pakistan chose to ally itself with the Western Bloc by signing the Baghdad pact. At the time, Liaquat Ali Khan's visit to the United States was still fresh in the memories of most Pakistanis. The cruelty that accompanied Stalin's rule in the USSR was also not far in the past, making an alliance with the Soviet Union a hard sell to the Pakistani people. Also, perhaps, the inherent conflict between an Islamic and Atheist society caused Pakistan to be more naturally inclined toward the Christian west. Though these are far from a complete list of reasons for Pakistan's eventual decision, which unfortunately includes more than a few instances of our leaders selling out to capitalist lures, yet the complex background of this alignment is not our primary concern. It would serve the reader well to refer to a text such as Agha Shahi's 'Pakistan's Foreign Policy' [1] for further investigation into Pakistan's alignment with the United States-led Western coalition.

Pakistan, though enthusiastic about its new alliance with the US, saw itself as a potential target for Soviet assisted aggression. Given a Soviet ally and sworn enemy many times its size in the east, Pakistan requested its new American friends for military equipment that would guarantee peace in the region and ensure Pakistan's security. A list of the most important component of that requirement was submitted by the Pakistan Air Force on March 1, 1954. The requirement[2] was as follows:

10 Fighter sq. x 16 ac = 160
5 Night fighter sq. x 16 ac = 80
5 Light bomber sq. x 20 ac = 100
1 PR Light bomber sq. x 20 ac = 20
12 Fighter /recce. sq. x 20 ac = 240
2 twin engine
transport sq. x 20 ac = 40
1 4 engine transport sq. x 16 ac = 16
2 Maritime recce. sq. x 20 ac = 40

                      Total of 696 aircraft.

Viewing this requirement in the context of a likely war scenario with India, which had unlimited access to the latest Soviet weaponry, it does not appear very unreasonable. Pakistan had the unenviable task of defending two wings of the country separated by thousands of miles, and also an extensive coastline. As against this request, Pakistan was given a mere 112 combat aircraft along with 50 non-combat planes, giving a total of only 162. This was a gross under-arming of the PAF. Though Pakistan did not create a diplomatic rumpus over this insult, a decade later in 1965, the US proved that not only was it unwilling to release quantities of arms to ensure peace, it was also an incredibly unreliable supplier in times of war. An embargo was imposed on Pakistan during the war. Russia on the other hand was so quick in re-arming India that the squadron of Mig-21s destroyed at Pathankot[3] was replaced either during, or immediately after the 1965 war. Though the war was over in a matter of a few weeks, the embargo lasted over a decade and even Indian defence analysts unanimously agree that the PAF's starved squadrons were unable to change the course of the 1971 war due to lack of equipment[2].

More recent examples of American indifference to our strategic situation are the Pressler Amendment, which singles out and victimizes Pakistan. This amendment has also resulted in what can only be called the theft of $658 million of Pakistan's foreign currency that was paid for the release of 28 F-16 aircraft from the US.

We are confronted with an enemy five times larger than ourselves, and are faced with multi-dimensional threats from the east, south and in a limited fashion, even from Afghanistan in the west. In light of this, the pointed US policy of not only holding back on deliveries of military equipment Pakistan has paid for, but also pressurizing other nations such as France, Sweden and China to desist from dealing with Pakistan should only underline the US negative role vis-a-vis Pakistan more clearly.

Many readers would perhaps question my assertions that the US has not helped Pakistan in building a credible defence by claiming that the US is not responsible for the achievement of our strategic objectives. Yes, this is true and exactly my point. The US, nor any other nation is responsible for the defence of Pakistan. Not only this, but other nations, including the US, India and Israel will even go out of their way to harm our interests because we have conflicting policies and mutually irreconcilable goals. Thus by asking our military to stand down and declare a unilateral unconditional 'peace', certain elements are not only refusing to learn from history but are also creating confusion within Pakistan and are unknowingly or otherwise, serving the interests of those by whom we are threatened. Peace will not be won if Pakistan disarms, we will only be bullied further and lose what semblance of respectability we can lay claim to. This is too high a price to pay and certainly a hodge-podge of self styled 'peace' lovers do not have any right to ask the Pakistani people to pay such a cost. Neither do they have any right to undermine our defence by lobbying with questionable elements within the Pakistani establishment.

The Military Threat

Pakistan is situated at the intersection of three geo-political regions, and consequently, in extremely unstable surroundings. There is no questioning the historical truism that a credible defence ensures stability. There is no alternative to being able to defend yourself - not a strong industrial economy, or very high literacy rates. These are extremely important areas that should not take a back seat to other equally important areas such as defence, but the opposite should also hold. Of those who say that in the next century economic power will be the most potent weapon it could be asked, why is it that the US continues to maintain an army of 2 million and a nuclear arsenal large enough to blow up the earth several times over[4] if all it requires is a strong economy? Why is it that despite Japan having a trade balance in its favour of billions of US dollars[5], it still has to give in to the arm twisting of its 'junior economic partner'? The answer is that the power of nations is based on one key resource, their militaries, and all other manifestations of national power are derived from this most fundamental one.

To our east lies India, a country with 7 times our population, nearly 4 times our land mass and a military almost 3 times the size of ours. In addition, it has fought 4 wars with us, one of which still rages on in the highest battlefield of the world - Siachen. It is a demonstrated nuclear power with publicly declared designs of globally projecting its power - be it through a blue water fleet based around aircraft carriers or through ICBMs such as Surya, with a range of 14,000km. Perhaps the reader does not need to be reminded that it was this same India which was responsible for fuelling Bengali dissent and arming Mukti Bahini terrorists. Through these acts of subversion, it contributed to the break up of Pakistan. Despite India's more than significant links with international terrorism (Kashmir,

Sikkim, Sri Lanka, Sindh and Punjab), the west views India as a market second only to China and is thus willing to pay almost any price to remain on friendly terms with it[6].

Since it is beyond the scope of this paper to concentrate on every aspect of the Indian threat, which includes intelligence activities, subversion, terrorism, propaganda and a conventional tactical threat from the Indian army, I will instead focus on Indian strategic weaponry to highlight the multi-dimensional nature of the Indian threat.

Indian Air Force

The recent Gulf War has shown that the outcome of any future conflict will rest heavily on control of the skies and the ability to deny the enemy of the same. The Indian Air Force (IAF) is the 4th largest in the world and growing rapidly. It justifies its size by pointing to the Chinese PLAAF (Peoples Liberation Army Air Force). This is an old ploy to avoid being chastised by other nations on what is really a build-up to ensure regional hegemony. Indeed, in the 1962 Indo-China conflict, India had assured her Canadian and US allies that 'donated' military equipment would only be used against Communist China. It took her only 3 years to do an about-turn on this undertaking by using the same equipment against Pakistan during the 1965 war over Kashmir.

The Indian Air Force consists of nearly 1000 aircraft. Of these, nearly 770 are front line fighters whereas 140 are second line fighters and combat capable trainers[2]. Among its ranks the IAF contains 40 Mirage 2000-5 aircraft, 40 SU-30MKI aircraft[7], 93 Mig-29 interceptors and 88 Anglo-French Jaguar deep-strike attack aircraft. Especially with the recent acquisition of the SU-30MKIs, the IAF has at least on paper, tremendously improved its qualitative standing. With the force listed above, the IAF is capable of using the latest 'smart' weaponry, stand-off weapons, extremely long range air-to-air missiles such as the AA-10 Alamo[8] and countless other lethal stores. It is also capable of delivering NBC (Nuclear Biological or Chemical) weapons deep inside Pakistani territory, though this is a role for which it will most likely not be used given its long-range missile holdings.

Qualitative enhancements in IAF aircraft include 'BVR' or Beyond Visual Range capability. This allows a fighter pilot to track, lock and destroy a target while it is far away. The IAF has recently acquired AA-10 Alamo missiles which will allow such attacks to be made against Pakistani aircraft at a range of more than 100km. This greatly reduces the chances of aerial combat coming down to dogfights, where pilot's skill is the deciding factor and an area in which the Pakistan Air Force undeniably has the qualitative edge. All SU-30MKIs and Mig-29s have BVR capability whereas currently no aircraft in the PAF inventory does. In addition, the longest-range air-to-air missiles in the Pakistan Air Force is the AIM-7 Sparrow which has barely 1/3rd the range of an Alamo[9].

Clearly, with only 32 F-16 aircraft and a combat strength of a little over 400 fighter aircraft, the PAF is again facing a 1971 like situation of being grossly under-armed. The PAF does have an edge in that it is able to fly most aircraft in the Indian inventory due to its alliances with many Muslim Air Forces which possess Russian and French aircraft. However, defence planners should not count on superior PAF pilot skill to overwhelm an air force two and a half times PAF's size. The war of September 1965 can be cited as an example when this actually happened, but it is hardly prudent to plan for the future based on 34-year-old laurels.

Indian Missile Forces

In the development and deployment of missiles, with Russian and French assistance, India has made tremendous headway. It has the demonstrated capability to launch satellites into orbit[10] and is thus de-facto, in possession of a potential ICBM with a range of greater than 15,000km. Though these designs are, and should be, alarming for all countries in the region, for Pakistan the Prithvi and Agni missile programs present a greater danger. Prithvi has been labeled to be Pakistan specific by several Pakistani leaders[11]. It is an MRBM with a range of 300km and a CEP (circular error probability) of 250m. It is capable of delivering an NBC or conventional warhead of up to 500kg. This missile allows India to target Pakistan's capital city and most of the defence establishments in close proximity thereof. Last year, a minor crisis was sparked when news of Prithvi's deployment on the Pakistani border was leaked in the US press. Recently, the Indian Army has deployed up to 38 Prithvi missiles and is yet to receive an additional batch of 62 missiles against its order of 100 missiles[12]. Once this order is met, the Indian Air Force will deploy additional missiles and a navalised version of the Prithvi is rumoured to be in development. It is disturbing to imagine what India intends to accomplish with such a large force of nuclear capable SSMs.

Given Pakistan's lack of strategic depth, it is reported[13] that in the event of an Indian missile strike, Pakistan would have but 3 minutes worth of warning time. Clearly this is much less time than the 15 minutes PADS (Pakistan Air Defence System) provides in case of an attack by enemy aircraft[14]. The short time of missiles to target implies that fixed assets such as air bases, nuclear installations and weapon factories whose defence has been modeled on the assumption of a conventional air attack, will have to be protected with the missile threat in mind. Given the fact that there are a total of 10 PAF forward air bases and 9 additional combat capable air bases versus 100 such bases in India, it follows that to keep the enemy on the defensive, the Pakistan armed forces require similar or better strike capability against such targets. Also, early warning for Pakistan is becoming more and more crucial. Of course, the ideal solution of obtaining a number of AWACS (E3-A Sentry) aircraft from the US has been ruled out due to immediate hindrances such as the Pressler amendment as well as the US's long term untrustworthiness as a supplier of military equipment. There are still however, a few options available to the Pakistani military which are highlighted in the following sections of this paper.

previouspage.gif (2858 bytes)backhome.gif (4160 bytes)nextpage.gif (2639 bytes)