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Christine Fair discusses the Pakistan Army’s strategic culture at IWP

On Monday July 28, Dr. C. Christine Fair gave a lecture at The Institute of World Politics about her newly released book, Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War.

The focus of the book and the accompanying lecture were to examine the strategic culture of the Pakistan Army. One critical influence on Pakistan’s army that Dr. Fair examined is its rivalry with its neighbor India. Despite numerous unsuccessful attempts at wresting Kashmir from India, Pakistan continues to persist in a seemingly losing struggle. Dr. Fair argued that this puzzling behavior is rooted in the strategic calculus of the Pakistan Army. Instead of interpreting these tactical losses as defeats, Pakistan sees itself as the only state in the region that can resist Indian hegemony and perceives its own survival as a peculiar form of victory.

Dr. Fair questioned the efficacy of Pakistan’s expanding “notion of revisionism towards India,” even though its policies have both “decisively failed by any objective measure” and imperil “the very viability of the state itself.” In order to answer this question, she primarily relied upon publications and defense journals from Pakistan.

Drawing from the work of Charles L. Glaser, Dr. Fair indicated that Pakistan should be classified as a “greedy” state, whose actions are ideologically driven rather than based upon security concerns. As a result, appeasement strategies are counterproductive, since they only inculcate a desire to acquire more. In order to accomplish its aims, the Pakistan Army relies upon asymmetric and non-conventional assets, such as nuclear weapons and supporting Islamist insurgents. More so, Pakistan considers doing nothing to oppose India as defeat. As Dr. Fair explicated, Pakistan acts as an “international insurgent” that does not perceive itself as losing as long as it can continue to prevent India from obtaining regional hegemony and becoming a global player.

In addition, Dr. Fair presented some of her key findings in the book. Notably, she identified that the Pakistan Army’s philosophy is closely tied to Islam, and that the Army strives to safeguard both the geographical and “ideological frontiers” of the state. Furthermore, India is seen by the Pakistan Army as an intrinsically Hindu state that exists in diametrical opposition to Pakistan. Based on the “Two Nation Theory,” which posits that Hindus and Muslims make up separate nations, this concept of inherent antagonism is a critical facet of the Pakistan Army’s strategic culture, particularly because it functions to justify Pakistan’s claim to Kashmir.

As a concluding statement, Dr. Fair argued that the United States must seriously consider the threat that the Pakistan Army’s tactics and strategy pose and determine whether policies that seek to contain Pakistan are warranted.

Dr. C. Christine Fair is an assistant professor at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service in its Peace and Security Studies Program. She specializes in political and military affairs in South Asia, on which she has written and edited numerous scholarly works.

Mark Febrizio
Intern and Research Assistant