Pakistan’s revamped Military Industrial Complex

A country’s Military-Industrial complex (MIC) is a structural network between its armed forces and the politico-economic complex in which there is a regulated yet relatively intense flow of technology, finance, services and products. A commercial enterprise run by the military differs from the civilian commercial enterprises by the “Modes of Production”. A civilian commercial enterprise can function even if the “Modes of Production” are state owned or privatized, whereas the Military-Industrial complex has two aspects in terms of the Armed Forces interests in the commercial activities.

Firstly, the armed forces are interested in partnering with the private defense corporations, the instances of which can be found in the USA, France, India etc. Secondly, the armed forces either enter into partnership with the civilian commercial enterprise or carve out their own commercial niche, the instances of which are in Pakistan, Egypt, Iran, China etc. Former dealings relate to the strategic and national interests of a country, while the latter is a crude example of military’s business interests. So, it becomes apparent that the countries where the democracy has a loose footing, the armed forces have a greater stake in the financial, commercial and business sphere. Pakistan’s Military-Industrial Complex is a peculiar example of a dense “Military-Industrial” network that operates along and in tandem with the civilian industrial network. In Pakistan, the Military-Industrial complex also has an overwhelming vested economic interest, owing to disproportionally powerful positioning of the Pakistan’s military in the “Pakistani State”. Ayesha Siddiqa, the author of “Military Inc: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy”, has stated that the Pakistan’s military controls an eye-dazzling 15-billion-dollar empire driven by a plethora of companies owned and governed by the Pakistani military. Pakistan’s MIC is the second type that is profit oriented, in which the Armed Forces dealings significantly comprise of the commercial and business interests of the military. Such a Military-Industrial complex is detrimental to the strengthening of democracy in Pakistan, which has a long history of coups and military dictatorships since its establishment seventy years ago. It also severs the economy of the country by dulling the competition among the companies, as the companies owned by the military have better access to technology, finances, services, tenders, contracts etc.

CPEC and Pakistan’s Military Industrial Complex

The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the Pakistan’s Military-Industrial complex have an unexpected correlation. Chinese “One Belt One Road” and “Maritime Silk Route” initiatives are designed to impregnate the Chinese politico-economic footprint in the Eurasia, as the geopolitical systemic pressure is exceeding on China from its east especially in the South China Sea. CPEC is the link between “One Belt and One Road” & “Maritime Silk Route”. Hence, Pakistan becomes a natural partner for China to secure its maritime and strategic interests in the region due to its geographical location providing an alternate access to the Arabian sea as well as checking India’s rise as a regional power. With the Chinese commitment to invest more than 60 billion dollars in the Pakistani inland, seaside and energy infrastructure by 2030, it is meant to invigorate its industrial complex. Although, the pros and cons of the economic benefits of CPEC for Pakistan are debatable in lieu of the debt conditionalities attached with the huge quantum of investments.

However, the potential strengthening of Pakistan’s industrial base has ramifications for its Military-Industrial Complex. The quantum of stakes of the Pakistani military in CPEC emerges from multiple factors. Firstly, the Military has taken an active role in providing security to the CPEC projects especially in the Gwadar port in Balochistan, such measures make the military grasp more power and stakes in the administrative affairs. Secondly, the Military engineers were active in building road & rail connectivity in the Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan, both of which additionally improve the armed forces mobilization but at the same time it will entail monetary benefits for the Pakistan military’s engineering and construction company, Frontier Works Organization via toll tax collections from the civilian traffic. This sheds light on the commercial interests of the Pakistan’s military associated with the CPEC projects. The involvement of Pakistan’s Military in the CPEC construction works in Gilgit-Baltistan and even Balochistan, adds the MIC dimension to the CPEC projects in both the regions.

The commercial niche of Pakistan’s military has blurred boundaries with the civil-industrial infrastructure. Apparently, the advancement in the Pakistan’s industry and infrastructure will potentially strengthen Pakistan’s Military-Industrial Complex with the flow of technology, finance, and investments. Although one aspect of the CPEC is the “Enhancement of Security and Stability in the region”. But it is highly doubtful whether the densifying Military-Industrial complex is complimentary to the security and stability in Pakistan and its neighborhood.

Stronger Military Industrial Complex of Pakistan and its geopolitical ramifications.

A stronger MIC and an increased commercial & industrial clout of the military will sustain the military’s overt influence in policy decisions of Pakistan. Also, in a country where democracy is already in a fragile state, it is going to have an adverse impact on the nourishment of democratic ideals in Pakistan. In such a scenario, the civil institutions which constitute political, economic, social and administrative institutions get subordinated to the interests of the military. Specifically, in Pakistan, the military interests surpass the strategic and security interests into the commercial interests. Such an equation is detrimental for the prospects of a strong democratic framework in Pakistan, moreover, it can cause friction between the military and the civilian establishment. As the predominance of the civil establishment over the military affairs is critical for democratic transition, the invigorated Pakistan’s MIC dynamics have muddled the civil and military bureaucratic affairs by increasing the military’s stakes in the public policy.

Overall, there are four hotspots of geopolitical discords with respect to a stronger Pakistan’s Military Industrial Complex. Firstly, it’s within Pakistan’s territory that is the civil unrest in the Balochistan province. As the Military Industrial Complex is bound to get stronger in Balochistan due to the CPEC’s western route is envisaged to be laid down in Balochistan, it will entail massive infrastructural and industrial investments, the military’s stakes in the bureaucratic and public policy spheres in the Balochistan province will increase exponentially on commercial and domestic security fronts. It may severely hamper the already fragile peace and stability in the Balochistan province which is counter-productive to an effective democratic transition. Secondly, the Military’s role in the Pakistan’s foreign policy is bound to increase in lieu of the strengthening MIC that has adverse implications for peace between India and Pakistan. In the Gilgit-Baltistan region, which is a disputed territory between India and Pakistan on the account of contestations over its sovereignty, Pakistan’s military engineers along with Chinese engineers are engaged in building the infrastructural capabilities in the region which has caused concerns on the Indian side. Thirdly, the Gwadar port which is primarily meant to secure an alternative supply line for Chinese energy requirements may lead to Chinese navy maintaining a permanent presence in the Arabian sea. Such a scenario will certainly antagonize India and the UAE, as India is already suspicious of the hypothetical Chinese “String of Pearls” strategy, which aims to militarily surround India. Meanwhile, the UAE sees a militarized Gwadar port as a “geopolitical and geo-economical” challenge to its Dubai port. Fourthly, Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan are of critical importance for the CPEC as China has also sought to involve Afghanistan. After the 2014 Pakistan’s heavy military crackdown on the Islamist militants in FATA, Waziristan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces bordering the Afghanistan, the militants relocated themselves in Afghanistan. They pose a great threat to Pakistan’s internal as well as external security.

The political and economic success of CPEC depends on Pakistan’s armed forces ability to ward off the terrorist attacks especially on the CPEC project sites. For that matter, the cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan becomes indispensable for mutual security. However, the Pakistan’s army is anxious about the strong Indian diplomatic footprint in Afghanistan. Also, both the sides have accused each other of using the Islamist extremists against each other. In such a scenario, an emboldened Pakistan’s military can take a hawkish stand against Afghanistan, which may jeopardize the peace process between the two countries, and also dragging India and Pakistan.

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