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Pakistan National Security Policy a Flawed Exercise
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Col (Dr) PK Vasudeva | Date:25 Jan , 2022 0 Comments
Col (Dr) PK Vasudeva
is a Defence Analyst and Commentator.

Pakistan has recently released a public version of its National Security Policy (NSP) document. The document has been authored by Moeed W Yusuf, who was earlier, the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on National Security Division and Strategic Policy Planning, later re-designated as the National Security Adviser (NSA) by Prime Minister Imran Khan. Drawing from his experience as former associate vice president at the Asia Center at the United States Institute of Peace, Washington, D.C – Khan has managed to provide a scholarly appeal to the document, with clever use of bombastic English that could impress amateur international audiences.

From Pakistan’s strategic perspective, the document feeds into the ongoing efforts of the ‘miltablishment’ (military establishment) to reinvent itself as a ‘change-agent’ of a new narrative, based on the prioritisation of geo-economics as the key driver on national priorities, rather than the earlier paradigm based in pure geo-politics. Essentially, given the precarious economic situation facing Pakistan, and its fallen international standing after the Taliban victory in Afghanistan, the reality has dawned upon the miltablishment that it cannot be business as usual, of running with the hares and hunting with the hounds. Therefore, the NSP has to be seen as a part of the focused effort to change the international perception of Pakistan as a ‘national security state’, obsessed with chasing an elusive parity with India, and maintaining the dominance of its military in every sphere, at any cost.

The document has incorporated all the right terms that would appeal to Western audiences. Sample some; “safety, security, dignity and prosperity of the people”, “sustainable and inclusive economic growth”, “preservation of diverse cultural heritage”, “good governance to strengthen the state-citizen contract”, “ensure transparency and accountability”, “strengthening the human security pillar of comprehensive national security”, “seeking a peaceful neighbourhood based on mutual co-existence, and so on. The repeated emphasis on enhancing trade, investment and connectivity is also given to make a mark in international business circles.

A finer reading of the document reveals that from India’s point of view, the publication is nothing but a sophisticated exercise in insincerity. Almost all direct and indirect references to India have a negative connotation. Perhaps, the only saving grace in the entire document is the line “Pakistan, under its policy of peace at home and abroad, wishes to improve its relationship with India” (page 36, under “India”), and the restoration of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution by India is not mentioned as a pre-condition in the context of any bilateral proposition.

The document has other references to domestic security issues, which are nothing but clever attempts to paper over the serious problems that have not been acknowledged, let alone acted upon with due sincerity by Pakistan, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The most blatant ones’ are concern terrorism and narcotics trafficking. In the discussion under “Terrorism”, one finds the absurd claim that “Pakistan pursues a policy of zero tolerance for any groups involved in terrorist activities on its soil” and “…with national resolve and dedication, Pakistan has fought one of the most successful wars against terrorism in the past two decades”.

Subsequently, under “Narcotics and Organised crime”, it is claimed that “Pakistan has been declared a poppy-free country since 2001”. The vacuity of this statement is belied by the fact that a majority of Afghanistan origin opium, heroin and methamphetamine is trafficked through Pakistan, with the tacit support of state agencies, primarily the Inter-Services Intelligence. 

There is a major lacuna of the document in the absence of any serious proposition concerning addressing the serious human rights situation in Afghanistan. There is also a subtle endeavour to underemphasize the burgeoning dependence upon China on vital matters of national interest. The publication has already come under sharp criticism by domestic critics within Pakistan, who have called it high on platitude and low on substance. Despite its claim of bringing in the factor of “geo-economics”, alongside “geo-strategy”, the publication does not make any commitment to reduce or rationalize the unsustainable Defence Budget of Pakistan, which remains largely out of public scrutiny.  

The document adopts a slick presentation style, summarising the discussion of its six thematic sections in Policy Objectives, at the end of each relevant chapter. There is, however, no discussion on the “how’s” of the vaunted objectives listed in enigmatic language. It is a major weakness of the document – in absence of even broad allusion to the main components of the Policy Objectives described, the infirmities of the discussion will only become magnified in time.

The document has been given a time frame of four years by the authors. As a sincere exercise in self-delusion, and a ploy for diverting the attention of the world from the real problems, which strike at the root of Pakistan’s anachronistic existence, the document may become redundant in less than half its intended time frame, on an optimistic note. For India, it is another proof in evidence that the insincere miltablishment of Pakistan will use every trick in the book to buy time and attempt to encash on tactical peace to achieve its unflagging grand strategic objective of remaining the ultimate arbitrators of Pakistan’s destiny.

The existing national security paradigm could provide neither state security nor human security to Pakistan. One wonders how a new concept of national security can emerge without critically drawing the right conclusions from past devastating military adventures. While keeping the failures of a moribund security paradigm under the carpet, the question must be asked, what is so new in the “first” national security policy document, on which so much self-praise is being showered?

It is being belatedly admitted that without ensuring economic security, “traditional security”, i.e. defence, is not possible. The fact of the matter is that under the burden of traditional security, an impoverished economy has collapsed. And, consequently, traditional military security has also come under mounting pressure. The published NSP document provides only an abstract analytical and disjointed framework, although it is reluctant to unambiguously draw a line between traditional security and human security.

What ought to be the contours of a meaningful paradigm shift? In simple and clear words, human security, as opposed to the security of the state, demands the security of people based on their fundamental rights. But, this basic feature of any qualitative change is mentioned casually and superficially, and that too in the last chapter of the document. Five chapters deal only with traditional security and other matters related to it, another chapter covers foreign policy and one chapter deals with economic security.

The emphasis is undoubtedly on defence. The document is overloaded with concerns over increasing asymmetry in conventional weapons with India. Redressal is sought in the growth of the economy as a necessary prerequisite. If the contradictions and demands of a dependent and fragile economy are fundamental, they have to be set right first. Then, logically, all aspects of traditional security must be subjected to economic imperatives, which warrant peaceful coexistence, mutually beneficial economic cooperation, and recalibration and resolution of the “core issues” through protracted and patient negotiations. Rather than taking a maximalist approach towards the most intractable “core” issues, it would require taking a path towards a peaceful settlement of disputes with all neighbours, promotion of mutually beneficial trade and investment across borders, and building economic synergies to strengthen economic interdependence.

Conclusively, Pakistan’s NSP is a flawed exercise in futility.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

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