Is USA indispensable for Pakistan’s Defense?

The following article is published in Pakistan Today’s edition for Wednesday, dated 6th November 2013:

Is USA indispensable for Pakistan’s Defense?

By: Omer Zaheer Meer


In continuation of my last column titled Can Pakistan survive sans aid?” Published on 1st Nov 2013 we can now discuss the second most common myth about the Pakistan-USA relation, the supposed indispensability of USA’s military assistance. This becomes even more relevant and important considering the growing public pressure in Pakistan to redefine Pak-USA ties while getting out of the American led war-on-terror.

Below is the updated perspective put forward by myself during a session at PINA (Pakistan Institute of National Affairs, a leading think tank, to the likes of Mr. Sartaj Aziz (Ex Foreign and Finance Minister Pakistan), Mr. Khursheed M Kasuri (Ex Foreign Minister Pakistan), S M Zafar (Senior lawyer and Senator), Muahid Hassan Shah (Scholar & brother of Musahid H Syed), Mr. Altaf Hassan Qureshi (Senior Journalist and Columnist) and many other eminent dignitaries including experts on National Security issues (Retired Brigadiers and Colonels) and senior editors who were present there. It was highly appreciated and proponents of indispensability of USA aid for Pakistan were left speechless as the myths on the Pakistan-USA relations were shattered.

The generally propagated line is that Pakistan requires the state-of-the-art weapons and relevant spare-parts from USA due to threats from India. This is an argument based on the perceived threats from Indian State to the existence and sovereignty of Pakistan, having reasonable basis due to the history and unresolved conflicts between the two nations.

This notion is based on USA’s state-of-the-art weapons providing Pakistan with credible defense against the Indian threat. While this is indeed true that most of Pakistan’s weaponry is USA manufactured which is believed to be state-of-the-art but there are some interesting considerations. First of all will it actually serve to defend our nation from foreign aggressions especially from India (the new strategic partner of USA) with most of them having features to be remotely jammed by USA (e.g. F-16’s)? Also of equal importance is the question that will we be able to get hold of the supply of spare-parts and ammunition in case of a conflict or left high and dry? Even more relevant is the consideration of, if not this, than what other options do we have?

Well the American weaponry provided under the SEATO and CENTO treaties (in the early days) certainly did not serve the purpose of an effective defense in 1971, in 1965 or for that matter in the battle of Rann of Kuch with American arms embargo pushing Pakistan to the edge of the cliff when it needed those supplies the most. USA claimed the weapons were provided for use against USSR only (implying they were not to be used in the face of an Indian invasion which was effectively the biggest ally of USSR in South Asia at the time). Reliability is what went missing for Pakistan from then onwards.

One could point out to the Pakistani victories in different battles specially the whipping of Indian forces in the Rann of Kuch and the astounding displays during the 1965 war but these Pakistani victories and holding off of enemy attacks were more due to the ultimate acts of bravery and self sacrifices by the men fighting on the fronts than the weaponry which ran out of ammunition due to the American embargoes placed on Pakistan at the most crucial times during the various wars rendering its armed forces effectively disabled in the face of existential threats to Pakistan.

Moreover all our major strategic defense projects in the last few years involved China and not the USA. To list a few, Pakistan and China worked jointly on projects such as:

1) JF-17 Thunder Fighter Aircrafts

2) The Nuclear Submarines Project

3) Civil-Nuclear Co-operation

More importantly, the successful development of the tactical nuclear weapons program by Pakistan has effectively neutralized the Indian “Cold-Start Doctrine” and essentially closed the doors of any open external-only Indian aggression. This has effectively answered the biggest challenge of them all ……. effective defense against an all-out Indian aggression.

What does this mean? It means that Pakistan is now one of the few countries in the world to possess the plutonium based high impact yet small range atomic bombs which can wipe off an entire enemy brigade off the face of the planet or take off an entire enemy naval, army or air-force base without actually annihilating an entire city. We can call these small-range atomic-bombs for simplicity.

This has answered the dilemma against using nuclear weapons for defense in the case of an all-out India aggression with the size of Indian forces at over three (3) times that of Pakistan’s. The devastating impact of nuclear weapons on huge areas in most scenarios was expected to wipe out entire cities which was a serious consideration against their use even in the case being at the receiving end of a foreign aggression.

However, the invent of tactical nuclear weapons program has effectively “killed” the Indian “Cold-Start” Doctrine by allowing Pakistan to bomb an advancing enemy army within its  own territory without causing large-scale devastation and international condemnation resulting in such a scenario. The best thing about the program is that the high damage it can inflict is extremely prohibitive of any military misadventure against Pakistan. The question then is whether we still really require the weapons from USA to protect us from an Indian aggression? The answer is: not anymore.


The above mentioned development has not only closed the doors of foreign aggressions but also provided an opportunity for Pakistan to revamp the security infrastructure and defense programs. Pakistan should start self-reliant defense weapons development programs with technology-transfer arrangements in partnership with interested “friendly” nations ready to deal as equals and not masters, i.e. China, some European States, Turkey, Gulf States, e.t.c.

In addition, we should move towards a leaner but highly effective military. The savings from this and switching to highly cost-effective locally produced weapons can then be diverted towards improving the lives of the masses.

The writer is a leading Economist who is also a qualified Chartered Accountant, Financial Analyst and Anti-Money Laundering Expert. He can be reached on, Twitter @OmerZaheerMeer or

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