Pakistan’s new security strategy is another exercise on paper Bharat Shakti 19 Jan 2022 Maj Gen Harsha Kakar

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Pakistan’s New Security Policy Is Another Exercise On Paper

Pakistan’s new security strategy is another exercise on paper Bharat Shakti 19 Jan 2022

          Pakistan announced its new National Security Strategy (NSS) covering the period 2022-2026, in end December, which was unveiled on 14th Jan. This has neither been approved by their senate nor discussed in public domain prior to being adopted. It is a 110-page document, likely to be kept under wraps, with an abridged version released for public consumption. It contains chapters on national cohesion, economy, defence, internal security, foreign policy and human security. There is mention of J and K as a pending dispute, human rights in Kashmir and Hindutva as a major threat to Pakistan.

No inputs have flowed on how the same would be implemented, except that Imran Khan would take a regular feedback. In reference to India, Pakistan’s national security advisor, Moeed Yusuf, stated, ‘We are not seeking hostility with India for the next 100 years. The new policy seeks peace with immediate neighbours.’ This is a shift from the 1000-year war against India. He also added that Pakistan’s emphasis has shifted from ‘geo-strategic to geo-economics,’ a subject buzzing in Pak since early 2021.

          In March 2021, speaking at the Pak-Hungary dialogue, Pakistan’s foreign minister, SM Qureshi stated, ‘The transformed Pakistan’s focus is shifting from geopolitics to geo-economics.’ Addressing the Islamabad Security Dialogue in Mar 2021, General Bajwa highlighted his geo-economic vision for the country. This included peace within and with neighbours, non-interference in internal matters, boosting intra-regional trade and bringing sustainable development. Hence, the concept of geo-economics mentioned in the NSS is nothing new.

An official spokesperson, discussing the NSS mentioned, ‘there are no prospects of rapprochement with India under the current Modi-led government in New Delhi.’ The animosity which Imran has displayed towards the present Indian dispensation has been because India rejected all overtures for talks unless it ceases support to terrorism, an action which Pak is loath to take. Further, Indian decisions on Kashmir, on which Imran has had no global support, has shown him in poor light, smashing his ego to bits. It would have been more ideal to mention that talks if any would not be initiated by the Imran Khan led government.

There is no mention of withdrawal of Article 370, an oft stated pre-requisite for talks, though the NSS is stated to have included that the ‘longstanding Kashmir dispute with India has been identified as a vital national policy issue for Pakistan.’ The obsession for Kashmir has hampered Pakistan’s rational thinking since independence. The NSS also mentions that in case Indo-Pak talks commence and progress it could normalize trade and commercial ties with India. Indo-Pak trade is not of as great value to India as it is to Pak. What would benefit India is using Pak roads to trade with central Asia.

Geo-economics is an essential requirement for Pakistan if it seeks to survive in the years ahead. It is currently facing an economic crisis. Its survival is dependent on loans from friendly nations and global bodies. To meet conditions laid down by the IMF for its next tranche of loans, it was compelled to pass a finance supplementary bill also termed as the mini budget. Shaukat Tarin, the advisor on finance had earlier stated that the terms laid down by the IMF included State Bank of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill, withdrawal of tax exemptions and increase in energy tariff, all measures impacting Pakistan’s economic independence.

Last month, the Saudi’s had given a $ 3 Billion deposit to Pak under strict conditions which included a 4% interest, no roll over, can be recalled on 72 hours’ notice with no assigned reason as also would have to be repaid in case Pak defaulted on any global payments. The message sent was that in case Pak acts against Saudi interests, the loan would be recalled. Pak’s foreign policies, in addition to economic, are also dependent on loan dispensing countries.   

The World Economic Forum report released last week stated that Pakistan’s debt crisis is the top risk, amongst the five risks facing the country. The others include extreme weather, cyber security measures, price escalation and human made environmental damage. Such is Pakistan’s financial status that Imran Khan recently mentioned, ‘Pakistan will have to go to the IMF again if we do not enhance our exports.’

In the same breath Imran stated that Pakistan is in a better economic position than India, on which he was laughed at. Pakistan is the only global nuclear power surviving with a begging bowl. Moeed Yusuf, Pakistan’s national security advisor, had stated in an interview, ‘When we cannot (fulfil) the demands, we seek foreign loans. When you procure loans, your economic sovereignty is compromised.’ He added, ‘it affects a country’s foreign policy.’ Pakistan’s silence over Uighurs is due to its over-dependence on China. Another reality is that with a weak financial position, Pakistan cannot continue with its current military dominated strategy.

Since its independence, Pakistan’s national security thinking has been based on threat from India and regaining Kashmir. It had no other enemies amongst its neighbours. Its public was made to believe that India seeks to break the nation into smaller portions, which has been contrary to the Indian policy of a stable Pakistan. This provided unbridled power and funds to the army ignoring all other sectors. Desperation to avenge 1971 led to it becoming a base for global terrorism, commencing with supporting terrorists operating in Kashmir and Afghanistan. There was hardly any emphasis on human development or creating an industrial base.

There is no doubt that Pakistan can exploit its geo-strategic location to enhance its economy. India would have been the major exploiter of Pakistan’s geo-strategic location by utilizing Pakistan space as a trade route for central Asia. There would have also been investments in Pakistan from India, supporting the growth of the country. However, its misconstrued policies on enmity with India has ensured that it is ignored.

Pakistan could have also benefitted financially from multiple oil pipelines flowing through Pakistan for oil and gas for India from Central Asia and Iran but observing India through myopic glasses added to its own losses. Oft discussed projects like TAPI (Turkmenistan- Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) may never see the light of day. Even when it came to the recent Indian request to use Pakistan’s road space for moving aid to Afghanistan, it placed stumbling blocks.

Enmity with India has pushed Pakistan into an arms race which its economy can ill afford. Its official defence budget is 16% of its national expenditure, a figure which impacts development. Its support to terrorism has distanced it from most aid providing nations, including the US. Unless it changes its policies its mention of switching to geo-economics will be just words on paper.

Broadly, there has been no change in Pakistan’s approach as displayed by its NSS. It continues being guided by an anti-India approach (despite mentioning no hostility with India). There is no change to its policy of backing terrorism, while calling for talks, compelling India to turn down any request for dialogue. Pakistan’s policies are forcing it into an arms race which can severely damage its economy. With high dependence on economic aid, Pakistan’s economic and foreign policy are subservient to donors. This implies that its recently released NSS is just an exercise on paper.