The Imran Khan government has produced the country’s first ever National Security Policy (NSP) document that outlines Pakistan’s approach to national security and provides guidance to the government departments. A public version of the document has been published. Pakistan’s joins a select group of countries to have a formal national security policy document. Even India, which has had a national security council since 1999, has so far not produced such a document.
By Arvind Gupta
The document has been produced by the National Security Division of the Pakistan government after consultations with civilian and military stakeholders as well as think tanks and other institutions. It has been approved by the National Security Council which includes various ministers and the Chief of Army Staff. It is not clear whether the document has been approved by the Cabinet. The opposition parties have criticised the government for not consulting them before releasing the policy.
The document lays down the conceptual framework of the government’s national security approach and has chapters on national cohesion, economic security, defence, internal security, foreign policy and human security.
The rational of the new national security policy approach has been described in the following words: “The Policy places economic security at the core of comprehensive national security, emphasising a geo-economic vision to supplement the focus on geo-strategy, and recognises that sustainable and inclusive economic growth is needed to expand our national resource pie. This will in turn allow greater availability of resources to bolster traditional and human security.”
PM Imran Khan writes in the foreword that Pakistan’s National security approach must be “citizen centric”. In National security Adviser Moeed Yusuf Khan’s words, the policy is “a clear and bold vision, emphasising a geo-economic paradigm that supplements our geo-strategic approach”.
The policy is supposed to provide guidance to the other departments. It lays down a roadmap of implementation which is not mentioned in detail in the public version.
A Broad Framework for National Security
The document conceptualises National security in the broader context integrating non-traditional and traditional dimensions. It says, “The challenge before us is to move away from the traditional guns versus butter debate, instead recognising that traditional and non-traditional aspects of national security must be linked through a symbiotic relationship.”
The policy holds that Pakistan can take advantage of the new opportunities that are arising in the emerging world order provided it follows a geo-economic approach aimed at exploiting its geostrategic location, connecting with the surrounding regions, making Pakistan hospitable for foreign direct investment, increasing Pakistan’s exports, tapping into new technologies, investing in human resource development and skills, improving coordination amongst institutions and following a whole of government approach in the implementation of the policy.
There is candid admission that Pakistan’s deplorable economic situation has impacted Pakistan security adversely. The document acknowledges the country’s weaknesses quite frankly: low productivity, mounting debt, inadequate skills base, poor education system, inefficient use of resources, massive disparities, income inequalities, and growing stress on food, water and energy resources, and many others.
The document seeks to correct Pakistan’s image as terrorism supporting, intolerant country. The policy says that “Continuous and dedicated efforts will be made through an approach centered on cherishing the diversity of Pakistan, inculcating tolerance, and promoting national cohesion through educational and cultural institutions and an inclusive national discourse.”
There is an entire chapter on ‘human security’ which mentions the challenges arising out of “population and migration, health security, climate and water security, food security, and gender security.” The document mentions gender equality, preventing structural violence and ensuring equal participation of women as issues of “paramount importance”.
The policy also talks about interfaith harmony and minority rights, and recognises the need for “intellectual expression and thought based on openness and equal opportunities irrespective of caste, creed, religion, gender, or socio-economic standing.”
The internal security chapter deals with terrorism, violent sub-nationalism, extremism and sectarianism, drugs and narcotics nexus with politics and business. It claims, rather disingenuously, that “Pakistan’s efforts at creating strong financial monitoring system to prevent terror financing have been globally acknowledged”. It talks about “undertaking intelligence-based operations against all terrorist groups, preventing any use of financial sources for terrorism”. A multidimensional approach consisting of targeted socio economic interventions and governance related initiatives in regions where “violent sub- nationalist elements operate”.
In India, the document would be perused with keen interest to see whether Pakistan’s hostile approach to India will change under the geo-economic paradigm.
The NSP stresses that Pakistan wants peaceful relations with India but then goes on to make the improvement in relations dependent upon a “…just and peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute” which “remains at the core of our bilateral relationship.” It holds India responsible for the sorry state of bilateral relations “…bilateral ties have been stymied as a consequence of the unresolved Kashmir dispute and India’s hegemonic designs.”
As if that was not enough, the document directly interferes in India’s internal affairs when it expresses concern at the rise of so-called “Hindutva driven policy” that “impacts Pakistan’s immediate security”.
The anti-India rant goes on. India is blamed for “military adventurism”, “non-contact warfare”, “arms buildup”, “belligerence towards Pakistan” and policies of “exceptionalism that undermine the global non-proliferation regime”. It is also accused of “imposing one-sided solutions that have negative consequences for regional stability”. The document says that India is consistently engaged in “spreading disinformation to target Pakistan”. There are veiled references to surgical strikes, air strikes against terrorist hideouts after Pulwama terror attack, the abrogation of article 370 and India’s effort to highlight Pakistan’s consistent support to terrorism and terror financing. Recent Indian actions are considered to be “hurdles” to dialogue.’
There is no sign of a rethink on Jammu and Kashmir. Indian Armed Forces in Jammu Kashmir are described as “occupation forces” and accused of carrying out “human right violations” and “genocide”. The document repeats Pakistan’s usual refrain that it “remains steadfast in its moral, diplomatic, political, and legal support to the people of Kashmir until they achieve their right to self-determination guaranteed by the international community as per the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions.”
Without specifying article 370, the document asserts that “India’s illegal and unilateral actions of August 2019 have been rejected by the people of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).” And that “India continues to create false propaganda around the Kashmiri resistance to hide its illegal actions.”
India is regarded as a threat. The document warns that “With a regressive and dangerous ideology gripping the collective conscience in our immediate neighbourhood, the prospects of violent conflict have grown immensely…. The possibility of use of force by the adversary as a deliberate policy choice cannot be ruled out.” And, to meet this threat, “Requisite conventional capabilities will be ensured through astute investment in constant modernisation of our armed forces without embroiling in any arms race.” The country would increase its “capabilities in network centricity, battlefield awareness, electronic warfare capabilities, and other force multipliers”.
In the light of such uncompromising formulations, it is difficult to conclude that Pakistan’s India policy will change in the near future even as it tries to tell the world that it is adopting a new paradigm in its national security approach.
There is nothing startlingly new or unexpected in the document in so far as Pakistan’s relations with other countries are concerned.
Pakistan would expand its “deep-rooted historic ties with China” based on “trust and strategic convergence, across all areas of mutual engagement”. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will provide “impetus to Pakistan’s economy and jumpstart domestic growth, alleviate poverty and improve regional connectivity”. Pakistan would invite other interested countries to invest in “CPEC related and other special economic zones.”
Pakistan would like to broaden its relationship with the US beyond the narrow focus on counterterrorism.
The importance of Central Asia in Pakistan’s geo-economic paradigm is recognised explicitly. Russia and Central Asia get a favourable mention. The document says, “Pakistan is committed to reimagining its partnership with Russia in energy, defence cooperation, and investment”, and, “Under ‘Vision Central Asia’, Pakistan is working towards actualising agreements on energy and transit with the Central Asian Republics.”
On Afghanistan, the document talks of Pakistan’s commitment to “facilitating and supporting peace and stability in Afghanistan in close collaboration with the international community through addressing economic, humanitarian, and security issues.” Afghanistan is regarded as a potential “gateway for economic connectivity with Central Asian states”. This would be the “key driver for Pakistan’s support for peace in Afghanistan.” Russia and Central Asian countries are described as “important partners in our shared objectives of peace and stability in Afghanistan.”
The target of the document is not so much India as the rest of the world.
Through this document Pakistan is trying to project to the rest of the world that it is a progressive, moderate country with a huge economic potential and not an intolerant, bankrupt, dysfunctional, terrorist infested country as India would have the world believe. Pakistan would like to correct that perception through the new understanding of national security that it is presenting to the world.
The fact is that Pakistan is hurtling towards economic bankruptcy. Pakistani leaders and officials are openly admitting that the mounting debt crisis has impacted Pakistan’s sovereignty as every now and then the country has to rush to the IMF for loans on stringent conditionalities. Every year Pakistan borrows USD 15 billion to repay its debt obligations. Its external debt has ballooned to USD 130 billion while its foreign exchange reserves are about USD 24 billion.
Pakistan is desperate to have foreign direct investment and external funding without which its economy cannot improve. The National Security policy document seeks to project a benign image to the world.
The national security policy has steered clear of giving any major prescriptions on traditional security issues. That is the preserve of the Pakistan Army. It is not clear to what extent is the Army on board. However, going by Bajwa’s remarks last year at the Islamabad Security Dialogue in which he had also talked about geo-economics and a new paradigm for national security, it would seem that the document has the Army’s tacit approval at least.
Imran Khan mentions in the foreword that Pakistan would become a welfare state in the image of Riyasate Medina. The document also says that Pakistan would fight Islam phobia internationally. But, religious fundamentalist groups are likely to see the geo-economic paradigm and pandering to the world for foreign direct investment as capitulation.
It would be a welcome move if Pakistan actually puts economics at the heart of its policies. That will be good for India, the region and the world. But, whether Pakistan has the intention to do so is not clear given the fact that it continues to regard India as the main threat. There is no hint of any impending change in Pakistan’s India’s policy.
Talking about geo-economics and the broad-based security is one thing, implementing the words into deeds is an entirely different matter. The document implicitly accepts that the Pakistani state is becoming increasingly dysfunctional. It does not hide the fact that the country is facing many serious problems. The drafters of the document themselves say that many of the goals and objectives mentioned in the document are “aspirational” which means that implementing them would not be easy.
As for India, the proof of the pudding would like in its eating. For India, the document is not likely to be more than a sophisticated PR exercise. However, the rest of the world may not see it so. At least Pakistan would hope that other countries would be impressed with the charm of human security and geo-economic concepts that the NSP emphasises so much.
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