Many in Pakistan are celebrating the 21st anniversary of the development and successful first test of the country’s nuclear deterrent. These nuclear weapons have largely helped to prevent a major 1971 style war in south Asia due to the peace keeping phenomenon known as mutually assured destruction. But while a nuclear south Asia has arrested the development of further large scale wars between the two largest states of the region, 1998 also represented the last clear chance for Pakistan to secure its western borders on the Durand Line. Sadly, Pakistan failed to do so.
Compared with both stoic cultures and selfish cultures, there is a warmth, hospitality and kindness within Pakistani culture that is difficult to miss. Yet this same cultural characteristic which serves as a asset when it comes to business and person-to-person connectivity is a grave detriment when it comes to the security situation. To put it bluntly, many Pakistanis are simply too nice to imagine that the country’s enemies are as vicious as they truly are.
Generations of Pakistani leaders have been naieve enough to believe that there is such a thing as a docile Afghan regime. History has proved that from the moment of Pakistan’s birth as an independent country up until the present day, one of the core ideologies of multiple Afghan regimes ranging form the monarchical to the secular and the communist to the Islamist has been an inherent expansionist aggression directed against Pakistan. By scapegoating Pakistan’s existence for the persistently dire conditions in Afghanistan, violence has been actively encouraged while nuclear India continues to use Afghan territory as a means of molesting Pakistan’s soft western flank.
Against such a regime, a nuclear weapon is useless but a simple border rampart is incredibly necessary. The fact remains that no Afghan regime has ever recognised Pakistan’s internationally recognised borders on the Durand Line. As such, peace is impossible in the most literal sense when it comes to dealing with such vicious regimes. That being said, between 1996 and 2001, Afghanistan had a regime that while still refusing to acknowledge the Durand Line, nevertheless occupied itself with an regional strategy and ideology that was far less anti-Pakistan than those of both previous and subsequent Kabul regimes.
It was therefore crucial for Pakistan to think proactively between 1996 and 2001 in order to secure its borders, knowing that Afghan regimes have a tendency to have on average, a 10 to 15 year lifespan at most. If Pakistan had physically sealed The Durand Line at the turn of the 21st century whilst complimenting this comparatively low cost security measure with its nuclear deterrent, all of south Asia would have benefited.
First of all, the thousands who lost their lives after 2001 when terrorists from Afghanistan invaded Pakistan in their droves would likely still be alive and the subsequent political fallout in Pakistan’s frontier regions would have been totally averted. Secondly, if Pakistan operated a nuclear deterrent on its eastern and south-eastern flanks whilst sealing off its borders with Afghanistan, India could not have exploited the failed state situations in 21st century Afghanistan in order to wage hybrid warfare against Pakistan which could not reasonably fought with a nuclear deterrent.
As such, Kashmir would have become the final frontier in the ongoing struggle between the region’s two largest powers. Ultimately, if Pakistan was able to focus more on Kashmir due to a border rampart securing the Durand Line, the country would not only have been safer but energies otherwise wasted on fighting Afghan terror could have been used to force the world to take action on the injustice faced by Kashmiris.
Instead, Pakistan’s naieve leadership allowed nearly twenty years of slaughter at the hands of the Afghan menace because until now, many did not realise that fences and walls can in some instances be more effective than expensive nuclear arsenals.