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Pakistan’s Formidable External Challenges

Pakistan's Formidable External Challenges

Undoubtedly, Pakistan once again is passing through a very critical phase of its history, surrounded as it is by formidable external challenges compounded by internal instability. Daily violations of LOC by India are a constant reminder of its military occupation of Kashmir in violation of UN Security Council resolutions and the threat posed by it to Pakistan’s security. On the western front, we are faced with a destabilized Afghanistan in the throes of a civil war, aggravated by foreign military occupation. The armed conflict in Afghanistan has serious implications for Pakistan’s security. Over and above the threat of a two-front scenario looms the issue of terrorism which not only endangers our internal security but also has the potential to isolate us internationally as was demonstrated by the fiasco at the recent meetings of the Financial Action Task Force held in Paris.

Pakistan is faced with an anarchic and extremely competitive global security environment marked by the domination of power politics over international law, diminished authority of the UN on strategic issues of war and peace, civilizational fault lines, primacy of economic power, importance of science and technology in determining the power of states and its growth, the rise of new powers demanding the accommodation of their interests in a multipolar international system, and shifting alliances because of the emergence of new centres of power. It is this “world in disorder” with an unpredictable and inhospitable international environment in which Pakistan has to operate to safeguard its security and attain the goal of economic prosperity so that its people may realize their full potential.

From the point of view of Pakistan’s security and economic well-being, the rapid rise of China and the accelerated economic growth of India, which are radically transforming the security and economic environment not only in Asia but also globally, are perhaps the two most important developments. In 1980, China’s GDP in nominal terms was less than $300 billion. By 2017, it was estimated to be $11.9 trillion, making China the second largest economy in the world in nominal terms after the US whose GDP was estimated to be $19.4 trillion in the same year. By way of comparison, India had GDP of $2.65 trillion and Pakistan’s GDP was estimated to be merely $304 billion in 2017 in nominal terms.

Despite the slowing down of the Chinese economic growth in recent years in relative terms, its GDP in nominal terms is expected to reach the level of $24.4 trillion exceeding the US GDP of $23.4 trillion in 2027. In purchasing power parity terms, China’s GDP of $17.6 trillion overtook the US GDP of $17.4 trillion in the year 2014. It is true, however, that due to China’s much greater population of 1.38 billion as against 329 million for the US, it would take China much longer, perhaps several decades, to catch up with the US in terms of GDP per head. But when it does, China’s GDP would be roughly four times the size of that of the US.

China’s rapid economic growth (currently 6.8% per annum) has allowed it to increase its military expenditure at a fast pace. China’s defence budget for 2017-18 was reported to be $151.43 billion reflecting an increase of 7 percent over the corresponding figure of $146 billion for 2016-17. This, of course, is far below the US defence budget of $700 billion for the year 2017-18. But the situation is likely to change to the disadvantage of the US as China rapidly increases its military budget over the coming decades and the US is forced to apply brakes because of its economic constraints. According to a forecast by the weekly Economist, China’s military spending may overtake America’s around 2035.

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