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Pakistan’s New Security Policy - A Shot in the Dark

Pakistan's federal cabinet approved the National Security Policy (NSP). The Policy has not been released to the public but Pak media has quoted some excerpts. The policy is said to have taken seven years to draft and included extensive consultations. The five-year policy document covers the period 2022-26 and is said to set out the national security vision and guidelines for attainment of goals. The NSP is expected to guide the government's foreign, defence and economic policies and decision-making.

Based on the human security paradigm, the NSP reportedly seeks to leverage, "symbiotic linkages among human security, economic security and military security with safety and prosperity of citizens being at the centre of the whole-of-government approach," as reported by the Dawn.

The policy covers “traditional and non-traditional security challenges, including economy, food, water, military security, terrorism, population growth and dealings with the external world, especially major powers”.

Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar said the policy was an important milestone in strengthening Pakistan's national security. "The comprehensive framework recognises interlinkages between various strands of national security, imperative to meet emerging challenges in [the] evolving global environment through a whole of government effort," he said. "Pakistan's armed forces will play their due part in achieving the vision laid out in the policy," the ISPR director-general said.

In terms of theoretical construct, the NSP appears to be a hybrid of the Human Security and the Comprehensive Security paradigms that have been debated in academic circles from time to time and the cross fit is seen as highly impractical to implement, thus the NSP may be a shot in the dark.

More over, it is not clear if the NSP addresses the spawning of radical extremism in the country which is said to have transcended law and order now. Extremism will also increase with Taliban in power in Afghanistan.

Policy confusion is also evident as in parallel, Pakistan's National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) submitted a draft of the national counter violent extremism policy to the interior ministry. NACTA was assigned the task of drafting the policy by a newly established Secretariat for the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) which is evidently under revision from 20 points to 14 points.

Core of Policy Economic Security

The Core of the NSP is said to be economic security when Pakistan is struggling to meet demands of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) while it tunes in with the emphasis on geo-economics laid in foreign policy of the country.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on December 29 said that Pakistan's foreign policy must respond to global trends and manage the external environment to ensure security of Pakistan's sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence, and advance the development agenda. He was addressing the passing out ceremony of Foreign Service Probationers.

Qureshi claimed that Pakistan had re-oriented the thrust of its diplomatic efforts towards economic benefit and prosperity of the masses. "Economic Diplomacy is not just a buzzword, but a blueprint to leverage our diplomatic assets in the service of our development agenda. We have put in place a "Strategic Engagement Plan" with the European Union and the "Strategic Economic Framework" with Turkey," he remarked.

Another arm of this is said to be "Engage Africa" Initiative. Making a breakthrough in the European Union (EU), the worlds toughest markets for entry of goods and services given the stiff competition, a similar environment in Africa and Turkey's economic woes imply that the geo-economic framework will continue to face many challenges.

How Pakistan can achieve economic security without opening trade relations with India is unclear. There has been a degree of economic synergy in trade between the two largest economies and consumer markets in South Asia which has remained untapped as relations between India and Pakistan have been held hostage to Islamabad's policy of exporting terror to India particularly after a series of incidents since the September 2016 Uri terrorist attack.

The ring of terror is now widening to include support to the Khalistani terrorists groups which are looking at carrying out attacks in the Indian state of Punjab in 2022 being an election year.

On the other hand, there is a rising call in India for triggering Pakistan's economic collapse howsoever elusive that may seem, but hawks do see portends of the same, particularly in recent months with the Pakistani Rupee at an all-time low.

Another factor that is expected to impact Pakistan's economic quest is Kashmir with Islamabad's unrealistic approach of rejecting dynamics in the now Union Territory with repealing of the Special Status on August 5, 2019. Pakistan's shrill rhetoric is continuing despite having lost the sting due to recent developments in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. With the possibility of elections in the Indian UT in 2022, Pakistan's narrative of coercive subjugation of the people across the Line of Control is expected to weaken.

If not India trade with which countries is expected to provide a fillip to Pakistan's newly adorned NSP based on economic security. China Pakistan trade is one way to import from that country. The potential economic engagement with Afghanistan, Central Asian Republics or Iran other neighbours of Islamabad clearly lacks the size and volume that will ensure the nation's economic security.

In December, the Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul railway project, known as the Eco Container Train (ITI), was resumed by the container train move from Pakistan to Iran and Turkey. The length of the Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul railway is 6,500 km, of which 2,570 km is in Iran, 2,000 km in Turkey, and about 1,900 km in Pakistan. The three countries also plan to launch a passenger train on the same route in the near future. How much trade this can generate in realistic terms remains to be seen?

Despite the attempt to focus on geo-economics Pakistan main challenges are geopolitical due to strategic location which has been flaunted in the past as an advantage. Caught in the vortex of global and regional strategic competition between key powers as the United States, China, Iran and a backstop of terrorism in Afghanistan, Islamabad can scarcely ignore high politics, which has been called by some as the new Great Game in the region.

Internally the National Security Policy has been dismissed by the opposition. The opposition refused to attend a briefing by the National Security Adviser Mr Moeed Yousuf, who many saw as a visiting fellow from Washington who has assumed the office in the last two years. All in all the NSP appears to be an academic exercise to shore up the reputation of Mr Yousuf.


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