In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Grande Strategy

Book Review: Friends Near Home - Pakistan's Strategic Secuity Options

By Meinhaj Hussain,

Friends Near Home is a must read for all Pakistani policy planners. The author, Dr. Muhammad Anwar, is a retired Pakistan Navy Commodore and internationally renowned scholar. Dr. Anwar writes from the perspective of a senior Pakistan Navy officer. He is an internationally regarded scholar. 

Dr. Anwar opines that Pakistan’s strategic national interests should be the basis of her foreign policy, as opposed to traditional alignment and special relations, in the same way that US strategic interests dictate her foreign policy. He calls for an equivalent maritime strategy and military buildup, including a call for nuclear submarines for the Pakistan Navy. 

He defines Pakistan’s paradigm very specifically and without pulling any punches as:
"Pakistan’s security remains threatened even after a long period of existence because of the single factor i.e. the Kashmir issue which was left unresolved at the time of partition of the subcontinent. Despite large spending on defence and being part of the US-led alliances, Pakistan was dismembered in December 1971. With the end of the Cold War, the situation has gone from bad to worse."

The first blow is that Pakistan is not safe, despite its nuclear arsenal. The second is that the Kashmir issue remains a central problem and should not be sidetracked because of the WOT. The third blow is that Pakistan’s foreign policy of allying itself with a major world power is not working and that Pakistan needs to have a more independent and less single-stringed foreign policy focused on building partnerships in a wider context.

The author makes the case that Pakistan needs alliances to counter its much larger and more powerful neighbor. He looks at Pakistan’s over-reliance on the United States and negligence in building strategic relationships with what the author calls Friends near Home. He mentions the following countries as friends near home:

China , Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asian States, Saudi Arabia , Oman, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Turkey and Yemen.

Dr. Anwar calls for closer ties between Iran and Pakistan as vital to Pakistan’s interests. He goes so far as to stress the need for a strategic alliance.

The author makes an important point that most Muslim countries are linked to each other by sea lanes and a strategy to build a better relationship with them can only be practicable with an equivalent sea power. With respect to Pakistan, the author underlines the importance of maritime security emphasizing economic security as a priority over a direct land war.

The author emphasizes that 97% of Pakistan’s trade takes place through the sea. The bulk of this trade is related to cotton-based products that cannot be exported viably by air. He notes the critical importance of petroleum Imports. This means that a naval blockade can severely undermine the country, underlining the importance of maritime defense.

New World Order
Dr. Anwar dedicates a whole chapter to the New World Order. The chapter is an eye-opener to those who consider attaching nefarious thoughts to that effort. Here is a sane, educated, senior Pakistani military officer and scholar telling us that this is not a conspiracy theory but everything that we feared it was. He identifies three tools of the NWO – political-diplomatic (UNSC), military (NATO) and economic (World Bank, IMF, etc).

Military Analysis

The author, being a former naval officer has many deep insights in the subject. He discusses the navies around the Indian Ocean. He particularly praises the Iranian Navy for its ability to maintain and operate its equipment under sanctions. Dr. Anwar brings new salients to the debate of a confrontation between Iran and the United States. He considers the Iranian Navy to be a credible threat, particularly their Kilo class submarines.

Dr. Anwar also commends the Iraqi Navy for, despite its small size and capability, they were able to stop the US Navy from an amphibious landing during the first Gulf War. He notes the effectiveness of mines and opens a debate on certain clear weaknesses of the world’s most powerful navy. The author writes:

"The Iraqi Navy laid intelligent and effective mine fields in the surrounding waters, using unsophisticated mines that claimed two US Navy ships, namely USS Princeton (Aegis class Cruiser) and USS Tripoli (Landing Ship). These mines consequently prevented an amphibious landing on the shores of Kuwait and thus paralysed the strongest force on the naval theatre , besides it created a serious scare for the Allies’ Sea Commands for which they had to divert their resources for the mine clearance even after the war was over."

The author uses this example to warn how a far more powerful and resilient Iranian Navy can insh’Allah impair the Straits of Hormuz in case of Western adventurism.

In analyzing the Indian Navy, the author notes that they have a clear strategic goal of building a blue water navy and that their strongest point is a focus on indigenous construction and transfer of technology.

The author considers the present balance between the Indian and Pakistani naval arms as a major danger for Pakistan’s security. Simultaneously, he feels that a second strike capability should be maintained, arguing for an expansion into nuclear submarines.

Dr. Anwar echoes China’s First and Second Island chain strategy when he describes two rings for Friends for Pakistan; the Contagious and the Maritime Rings. The former includes China , Iran , Afghanistan and Central Asian States , while the latter includes Saudi Arabia , Oman, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Turkey and Yemen.

The Contiguous Ring appears somewhat unrelated unless you take the consideration of the Gwadar Port which is of strategic importance for all of them except Iran. The Maritime group appears to include GCC plus Turkey. Perhaps a strategy for a “Third Island Chain” can also be configured to include Malaysia, Indonesia, Algeria and Coastal African countries.

Against Musharraf & Military Rule

Dr. Anwar is brave in calling the involvement of the Pakistan Army in politics as a mistake and a strategic misstep. The author is saluted for making the following statement:
“Like in the past the United States was apparently lucky to have a General in command of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharaf this time; if it was another coincidence, then good for the United States but may not be so for Pakistan. General Musharaf on the other hand has deliberately indeed negatively played the fundamentalist card by propagating his theory of enlightened moderation to strengthen his foot-hold and continuity to his illegitimate rule in Pakistan. In his post 9/11 manoeuvres and interactions with the United States and the West, he literally asked them to support his presidency to maintain sanity in Pakistan.”

And he continues: 
“How far he succeeds in his selfish and ambitious game, only time will tell when the rug will be pulled from under his feet is to be seen.”

We would have offered to nominate him for the Nobel Prize, had it not been brought to such disrepute. The following paragraph from the author’s book should be read by every literate Pakistani, particularly the senior officers of the Pakistani armed forces:

“It is hoped that the corrupt elements within the service will not embarrass the professional lot of the officers and men this time, and not to bring bad name to the service by receiving kickbacks for their personal ends. It is further hoped that what Pakistan Navy has achieved in the last decade or so in submarine construction is further consolidated with the help of the fresh funding rather than starting from scratch to satisfy anyone’s personal motives. Pakistan Navy has, however, played the significant role in the past in deterring aggression despite resource constraints and the size and strength of the adversary. By and large the Pakistan Navy has been led by very competent and honest leaders who did what was possible within their powers. Unluckily, Admiral Mansurul-Haque and Admiral Abdul Aziz Mirza, who came through the back door diplomacy, ruined what had been achieved by their predecessors and destroyed the institution. They both brought in the culture of financial embezzlement; unfortunately, such elements are at work even today to fill their bags with easy money.”

He later continues further:
“Pakistan should be ready to witness such unexpected events taking place because of their choice to stay mute when the Prime Minister of the elected government is removed and Constitution is abrogated by a Chief of Army Staff with the connivance of the few ambitious Generals for their personal vendetta. What to talk of taking over power and key posts within the country, they seriously meddle with the Ambassadorial postings to appease and please their friends and colleagues.”

In summation, Friends Near Home is well written and a recommended read. It is compulsory reading for policy planners in Pakistan, charting out a clear maritime strategy inter-weaved with a vision of foreign policy.

Buy Friends Near Home on Amazon: Friends Near Home: Pakistan's Strategic Security Options

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