Dr. Subhash KapilaDecember 1, 2021
Pakistan at the end of 2021 stands out significantly as an ‘Insolvent” nuclear weapons power whose external debt hovering at about $170 billion outstripping its GDP creates national security issues as admitted by Pakistan’s incumbent PM Imran Khan recently. Significantly, Pakistan’s insolvency as a Nuclear Weapons power generates regional and global security implications.
Putting aside economic statistics on Pakistan’s ‘“Insolvency”, what needs to be focussed on is to what are the major causes of the country’s financial bankruptcy besides its low income tax revenues, rampant political corruption and reluctance to impose hard-nosed economic reforms as demanded by international monetary institutions like IMF.
Meriting highlighting initially itself is the overall context that has led Pakistan into such a poor economic state. Pakistan as a ‘Rentier State’ stood used over decades to trade-off its strategic utility earlier to United States ad since last couple of years to China which now has Pakistan in a colonial economic stranglehold of debt-traps via the CPEC inducements.
Besides the United States and China, one also needs to blame Saudi Arabia in a big way for Pakistan’s insolvency. Saudi Arabia not for reasons of Islamic munificence but more as presumed in strategic circles has been generous to Pakistan with providing finances to Pakistan in billions of dollars in exchange for Pakistan assisting Saudi Arabia with Nuclear Weapons technology and blueprints. As late as last week Saudi Arabia has provided billions of dollars to bail out Pakistan from its financial mess with IMF refusing further loans.
Moving on to the major reasons for Pakistan’s insolvency, two major reasons stand out significantly. Pakistan Army’s exorbitant defence expenditures and particularly on Pakistan Army’s Nuclear Weapons and Ballistic Missiles arsenal unrelated to South Asian threat scenarios but more fostered by Pakistan Army’s grandiose designs of strategic equivalence with India, is the first major reason of Pakistan’s insolvency.
China foisting the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) on a financially weak Pakistan thriving on external financing/loans/debts amounted to Chinese “Economic Drugging” of impoverished nuclear weaponised Pakistan. Pakistan as an ‘Economic Druggist’ traded its national and economic security for China’s CPEC economic allurements unmindful that China was laying a “Debt Trap” for Pakistan to wade into which was to be traded by China for strategic stranglehold over Pakistan.
Needless to highlight is that China stands out in both the major reasons of Pakistan’s insolvency pointed out above by me.
In terms of Pakistan’s insolvency emerging as a major National Security issue as asserted by PM Imran Khan last week, the detailed reasons were not spelt out by Pakistan PM. Was he referring to economic unrest that could plague Pakistan with high rates of inflation and falling rates of the Pakistan Rupee? Or was the Pakistan PM referring to enough financial resources being available for expenditures of Pakistan Army’s increasing outlays and its consistently increasing Nuclear Weapons arsenal?
In terms of objective analysis, both the above reasons need to be taken into account as impacting Pakistan’s National Security. Domestic political discontent within Pakistan could intensify impacting good political governance and control. This could result in Pakistan once again headed to a ‘Failed State’ designation which this time the United States would not bail-out financially with Pakistan now fully aligned with China.
China flinched two years back from an economic bailout of Pakistan when PM Imran Khan confident of China’s financial support boldly declared that Pakistan would not go to IMF for financial bailouts. In 2021, China fully conscious of Pakistan’s current insolvency and mounting CPEC debt-repayments failing would not step-in without Pakistan off-setting and conceding strategic gains and foothold to China.
Taking a cue from China’s record in case of Sri Lanka and Africa in similar situations, China would definitely demand outright control of Pakistan’s strategic Port of Gwadur. In other words, Gwadur could emerge as major Chinese Navy Base linked to China by CPEC road and rail links,
Associated with the above would be China pressurising Pakistan and its Taliban Government protégé in Kabul to lease US-abandoned major Bagram Air Base to China—–both Gwadur and Bagram—taken together, seriously generating grave strategic implications both regionally and globally.
Major strategic implications would be generated for India and Iran. India would have already taken this into account and catering for it. Iran would have to now think twice about the security implications of the nebulous 25 Year China-Iran Strategic Partnership Agreement. Iran has not been a rentier state like Pakistan and it would be interesting as to how Iran deals with such an emerging threat to Iranian National Security .
In terms of global implications, both the United States and Russia too would have to seriously take into account the possibilities of Pakistan as an ‘Insolvent Nuclear Weapons State’ emerging as an ‘Economic and Strategic Vassal’ of China as a ‘Revisionist State’ challenging the established World Order.
Pointed out in my writings for decades now is that while the international community had accepted a US-Russia Dyad in the past, the international community is in no mood to accept a US-China Dyad in the future. This was most vividly demonstrated when a former US President some years back had mooted such a precept. Indo Pacific capitals shot down the precept.
In terms of Indo Pacific security the complete take-over of Pakistan as a colonial entity by China including its nuclear weapons arsenal creates serious implications. This would set in motion its own strategic dynamics which could extend to defanging Pakistan’s nuclear weapons arsenal before China obtains complete control of it.
The last question that needs to be addressed is whether Pakistan can get out of its insolvency with China’s financial assistance. The answer is in the negative going by China’s demonstrated record in China-Pakistan relationship ever since 1962. China’s interest in Pakistan is mercenary and colonial. China has no liberal inclinations of building up Pakistan into a stable self-reliant and stable State.
Concluding, it needs to be emphasised that in view of the foregoing analysis, the United States should not once again stumble into propping up a virtual ‘Failed State’ morphed by China into a ‘Rogue Nuclear State’ to serve China’s strategic ends. Any future assistance by United States to retrieve Pakistan from its insolvency should be accompanied by iron-clad Pakistan guarantees to impose hard economic reforms, limit Pakistan Army defence expenditures and in concert with other Major Powers, excepting China, to downsize Pakistan Army’s Nuclear Weapons arsenal .
More than that Pakistani people have to prevail over their rulers, both military and civil, as Pakistan cannot afford to box much above its strategic weight. Nuclear Weapons do not impart economic strength for Pakistan, rather they are impoverishing the country.