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Q) What is the difference between capacities and capabilities?

can Pakistan use its capabilities to form an edge over other nations?


Power: According to realists there are two sources of motivation in International Relations,
which are power and national interest. They are also known as the currency of IR. Realists have
regarded IR as a struggle for power and ‘war of all against all’. Moreover realists also
encourage states to promote national interest by achieving relative degree of edge on power.
Realists believe in this fact that states were created for power and it is the foundation for which
every state is acting, reacting and interacting.

Power can be defined in many different ways and has been articulated by many realists.
According to Morganthau power can be defined in the following words “Power is something
for which states were created and it is something which all the states around the world try to

Power has also been defined in the following words by Charles “Power is the ability to control
and exercise others in circumstances where the compline power would not have done so.”

There are two types of power i.e. hard and soft power. Hard power has a relative degree of
edge on military whereas on the other hand soft power has a relative degree of edge on
economy. Furthermore, power can be categorized into super power; middle power and great
power. Super power is the state which has a relative degree of edge on both military and
economy. Middle power on the other hand only has regional influence, whereas great power is
in the process of developing either hard or soft power.

There are three main approaches to the observation and measurement of power: 1) control
over resources, 2) control over actors, and 3) control over events and outcomes. The control
over events and outcomes approach emerges as the best approach to the measurement of
power in contemporary international politics because: 1) it is the only approach which takes
into account the possibility of interdependence and collective action, 2) it is more general than
the other two approaches, and 3) it produces a type of analysis which has both descriptive and
normative advantages.

As power is also defined as the ability of state A to influence state B, it can be measured by
seeing how much power one entity has compared to another in terms of : (a) influencing desired
outcomes, (b) organizing its base, e.g. numbers attending a demonstration, (c) or rates of growth, and
(d) agenda setting power. Yet, many political science and international relations treatments of these
subjects are naive and ahistorical.

There are three sources of power which are as follows:

 Natural
 Tangible
 Intangible

This is where we come to the differentiation between capacities and capabilities. Tangible sources of
power can be defined as “authority that is the form of "countable" capabilities of a country such
as weapons”. These tangible sources as mentioned are countable and hence come under the
capabilities of a state. By the term countable and tangible we mean things or resources which
are material and sustainable. Tangible sources of power are hence physical in nature and
include sources like geography, military, natural resources, population, territory, industrial
capacity, agricultural capacity and military strength and mobility.

On the other hand capacities are the intangible sources of power and are not countable. Also
unlike the tangible sources of power these capacities are more spiritual rather than physical in
nature. Capacities or intangible sources of power include; leadership and personality, ideology,
bureaucratic organization efficiency, type of government i.e. democratic or dictatorship etc.,
social cohesiveness, reputation, foreign support and dependency, nationalism, symbolism,
manpower etc.
Napoleon Bonaparte once said that “the foreign policy of a country is determined by its
geography”. This shows the importance of geography as a tangible source of power in making
the power of a state, and Pakistan has a huge advantage with respect to its geography and
topography. However a big land is always beneficial with respect to the exploitation of
resources due to which the subcontinent had always been a major source of attraction for
foreigners before partition, though it still is. The invasion by the British may also be concluded
as a deliberate action for political purposes not only to take advantage of the natural resources
but also to distort the map of India in order to put it in the form of a small country.

Though Britain being a less populated state as compared to India before partition, was able to
govern a more populous country, the demographic make-up or the population of a country as a
tangible source of power cannot be overlooked. The greater the number of people in a country,
the greater are the chances of economic development. Morgenthau presents his view by saying
that “Though one is not justified in considering a country to be very powerful because its
population is greater than that of most of other countries, it is still true that no country can
remain or become a first-rate power which does not belong to the more populous nations of
the world.” With respect to examples of the present world, China is emerging as a super power
and has the largest population. Also India with its development pace may take over as the next
super power in coming years has the second highest population.

Intangible sources of power like leadership prove that a weak nation becomes united and
powerful under a strong leader. For instance in case of Pakistan and in the present times Imran
Khan proved to be one of those charismatic leaders who made the people of Pakistan from
around the country to come united for an amalgamated purpose. Though he did not win, the
elections of 2013 have been encrypted in the minds of people and history of Pakistan forever.
The partition of 1971 can also be considered the result of poor leadership.

Also ideology which can be referred to as ideas about social, economic and political systems
have their own place with respect to being a source of power and intangible. Ideology pervades
a value system and as such it sustains a morale that contributes to the building of its strength.
On the other hands nations lacking faith in their value system face serious problems of national
integration and development.

These were some of the examples to illuminate the difference between tangible and intangible
sources of power and explain how both constitute together with their different types to
strengthen the power of a state.

Pakistan and its use of Power

Conventional war tactics are not the requirement for today’s globalized world. The complexities
of world issues today are dealt with diplomacy. Big powers nowadays use unconventional war
tactics such as political, social, psychological and economic warfare techniques. All these
involve diplomacy either coercive or peaceful. However, a state in order to successfully
negotiate must use its power to influence and convince other nations. Therefore usage of soft
power is the most essential tool to ensure global survival.

Polarized politics is having an immense impact on the Pakistani nation and it has been posing
security threats to the state that was founded on the principles, of peace, prosperity and
democracy. The internal matters and the external pressure on the state is causing conflicts and
clashes not only between the government and its people but also among the civilians

The aftermath of the 9/11 incident did change the world at large but it had severe
consequences for the State of Pakistan. Since then we are fighting the terrorism menace for our
interests and the world however, the west has never been appreciative of Pakistan’s efforts and
is continuingly demanding for more (‘doing more syndrome’).

The U.S Pakistan relations have always been a rollercoaster ride. U.S support to Pakistan for its
countless efforts against terrorism and for siding with America on various world issues is the
amount of money they lend us. This foreign aid however, is making Pakistan dependant and
unable to sustain on its own.
Moreover, the global image of Pakistan due to all these reasons is deteriorating day by day. So
it is high time that Pakistan realizes its strength and uses it to put forward her own opinion.
Pakistan needs to promote its domestic and international performance to alter its image in the
eyes of foreign media.

Kenneth Waltz provided a definition of power as the “extent that (one) affects others more
than they affect (oneself)’. A state’s power can thus be understood as the combination of
capacity to influence others or make them behave according to your will and resist
unwelcomed influence of others.

Achievement and maintenance of state security is one of the consistent objectives of all
statecraft. According to Stephen Waltz states react to perceived threats and then use its power
and diplomacy to balance it. The security situation in South East Asia specifically Pakistan is full
of complexities. The dominant position of India and its threats to Pakistan have led Pakistan
form and maintain its ties with China. China also looked upon India as potential challenger in
Asia. These factors led to the overlapping of interest of Pak and China i.e. mutual enmity
towards India.

For the last several decades China has used its elements of power-political, economical, military
power, nuclear and missiles capacity to influence Pakistan. China supplies Pakistan with cheap
and good quality military equipment and built a strategic road Karakoram Highway. On the
other hand Pakistan provides a market for China’s weapons, and access to western
technologies. Therefore Pakistan is using its geographical capability and foreign relation with
U.S to maintain relations with China.

Morgenthau asserted that ‘geography is the most stable factor upon which the power of a
state depends’. Pakistan geo political position is the cause of many problems such as insecurity.
According to Pakistan’s own assessment it feels exposed because its lines of communication
and the highly developed canal system that irrigates its fertile land is crucial for its survival runs
through and along the Indo-Pak boarder. This gives India a relative edge over Pakistan, as we
have seen in the past event of the Indus Water treaty.
Moreover Karachi being the only major sea water port in Pakistan and India’s ability to easily
reinforce a naval blockade of Pakistan and thereby cut Pakistan’s route to international
commerce is a serious threat and gives india more dominance over her.

However, over the last decade Pakistan has increased its ability to resist blockade. In addition
to Karachi port Pakistan has opened up new ports further west in Omara and Gawader and built
road infrastructure to distribute goods from those ports to Pakistan’s heartland. Even after this
if India is successful in creating a blockade; new overland routes to China will further protect
Pakistan from strangulation of the sea.

Moreover, militarily Pakistan has modernized and updated its Air Force after 2001 when
sanctions were lifted off. With purchases from Chinese, U.S and European vendors Pakistan has
both dramatically increased the number of modern fighter aircraft with beyond visual range
capability. On the other hand India’s fighter modernization effort has been languid because of
the cumbersome defense procurement rules designed to end corruption.

These facts reveal that although India because of its relative size (territory), population, foreign
support, better economic conditions and better use of soft Power might have a greater edge
over Pakistan, however, if Pakistan’s keeps on increasing on its military and geographic
capacities it is surely going to give India a hard time. Moreover Pakistan’s smart strategic move
to find a friend (China) midst of unfriendly nations is surely going to protect and save Pakistan
from potential enemies.

Realism focuses on material balance of power. A state’s increasing material capabilities

necessarily threaten other states because they may be used for aggression. In1974 India
displayed its nuclear potential by detonating a plutonium fueled device. In 1980 it launched its
first satellite. However, Pakistan in 1972 started its nuclear development and soon declared
itself a nuclear power. This fact is the major reason why Pakistan has an edge over all other
major power of the world. India knowing this fact will always remain liberal in its attacks on
Pakistan. Pakistan’s nuclear asset acts as a deterrence and is key in ensuring Pakistan’s survival.
Conclusion and Recommendation

For Pakistan to extend its influence on other nations and to have an edge over all other global
players it needs to focus on its tangible capabilities. More expenditure to develop and expand
agriculture in Pakistan is required. Economic Stability is the need of the hour as no counter
measures can be successful with a sound economy. It is important to balance Pakistan’s hard
power with soft power. Concentrated national policy needs to be chalked out to let hard and
soft power work. Regulation of media is necessary to ensure a clean and good global image of

As it is an age of information technology and psychological warfare, therefore, to keep up with

the global trend, Pakistan, particularly its decision making class,has to review its outlook and
policies at wider level. Otherwise the smart game played by other big players using tactics to win
the war without even indulging into it directly is known to all.


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