February 14, 2014

Is Pakistan unable to progress because it suffers from a geostrategic curse? That’s the thesis of The Warrior State: Pakistan in the Contemporary World, a new book by T.V. Paul.

Paul, who is a professor of international relations at McGill University, visited SIPA for a February 5 book talk moderated by Professor Robert Jervis and hosted by the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies.

Paul argued that, just as oil-rich autocracies are plagued by the so-called “resource curse,” Pakistan has been simultaneously “blessed and cursed” by its geostrategic circumstances, which makes it very attractive to great powers.

“A vital geostrategic position can create rents for a state’s elite,” Paul said. “External donors often rescue these states when they face economic crisis, and knowing that it is extremely valuable for powerful allies, that elite does not need to make long-term investments in institution building, land reforms or economic development.”

For Paul, the geostrategic curse has also adverse effects on democratic development because it encourages authoritarianism and patron-client relationships, and hinders the development of a strong middle class.

As a result, he said, Pakistan remains one of the weakest states worldwide according to the Fund for Peace's Failed States Index. In his talk, Paul warned that Talibans still control 30 percent of the country.

Pakistan “ is perpetually in danger of becoming a failed state with over a hundred nuclear weapons that could easily fall into the hands of terrorists,” he said.

According to the author, the book discusses “Pakistan’s insecurity predicament using ideas developed in historical sociology, international relations, and comparative politics with an emphasis on long-term issues.” Paul said Pakistan should learn from the experience of countries — including Turkey, South Korea, and Indonesia — that were once “warrior states” but managed to develop.

“Pakistan is a pivotal state in South Asia and it’s key to bringing peace to the region,” Paul said. “Peace within Pakistan and with India and Afghanistan is also crucial to global security.”

— Valle Aviles Pinedo MIA ’14