“ Of all the countries I’ve dealt with, I consider Pakistan to be the most dangerous, because of the radicalization of its society and the availability of nuclear weapons.”
--- Former US Secretary of Defence, Jim Mattis
Neighbouring Pakistan, beset with acute financial problems, political instability, teeming insurgencies within and purportedly even external threats has, prima facie done well, to formalize and issue a National Security Policy (NSP)-2022 document chartering its course on strategic matters till 2026. Whether the NSP will fulfill Pakistan’s oft misplaced geopolitical ambitions and address the harsh realities of its precarious economic woes is another matter. That many regional analysts have dismissed it as ‘old wine in a new bottle’ and hinted at it being directly aimed at merely retrieving its rapidly plummeting image with its old allies and friends in the western and Islamic world is not surprising ! Nevertheless, for all of Pakistan’s friends and foes, reading between the lines of Pakistan’s carefully crafted NSP will be worth the effort to discern the future course Pakistan endeavours to charter or wishes the world to know hiding behind lofty terminologies!
Pakistan’s NSP was released with much fanfare by its Prime Minister Imran Khan on 14 Jan 2022 amid wide publicity. The NSP, comprising eight sections, is a 110 page document out of which 62 pages are in the public domain and the rest would obviously be the classified portion for its decision makers. It has been prepared by Pakistan’s National Security Division headed by Dr Moeed Yusuf, their NSA. Reportedly it has been discussed for seven years prior to its issue. The NSP is supposedly valid till 2023 till the next general elections and also suggests that the next government may make any alterations it desires bearing in mind varying dynamics in the geopolitical and security situation confronting Pakistan.
Salient Features : NSP
The document claimed to be Pakistan’s first national security document seeks to “co-locate Pakistan in emerging global trends and identifies policy objectives and priority areas under a prevalent and foreseeable global and regional environment.” It states that Pakistan will “ deter any aggression by maintaining a cost-effective and adaptive military focused on modernization and optimization of force structures to ensure adequate conventional capability and maintain full spectrum deterrence within the precincts of credible minimum nuclear deterrence, without getting involved in an arms race.”
In the second section of the NSP, Pakistan’s national security imperatives are conceptualized with the security and dignity of all citizens being accorded priority. It envisages Pakistan sustaining its sovereignty by “ensuring national cohesion and harmony, preserving territorial integrity, enhancing economic independence and ensuring the writ of the state.”
Pakistan’s NSP prioritizes Economic Security at its primary goal in its overall National Security visualization. It does not claim to replace geopolitics with geo-economics but realizes their complementing roles. PM Imran Khan, while launching the NSP, emphasized the criticality of economic security ahead of other constituents of national growth. The NSP also refers to the distinguishing nuances of traditional and non-traditional security respectively. Accordingly, the executive summary states that “ appreciating this symbiotic relationship between economic, traditional, and human security allows the articulation of holistic policy actions that will prepare Pakistan to optimize national security outcomes in the coming decades.”
Unity in Diversity
Amazingly and perhaps targeting the global audience, the document emphasizes on a much in use Indian terminology “unity in diversity” of religion, ethnicity and socio-economics. To balance its newly expounded sense of equanimity it also in the same breath refers to “ divisive discourse” unleashed by “external forces”------- without naming them but clearly has India, Afghanistan looming large in its mindset ! Also not surprisingly, it identifies Pakistan as “an Islamic state” and recommends the shaping of an “inclusive national discourse” whilst preserving the Islamic character of the nation as laid down in the constitution. Thus there appears no change in its policy of protection of minorities or ensuring their dignity, social and economic alleviation.
Conscious of its grave internal political instability, the NSP tries to repair the growing fissures inside Pakistan by planning to achieve “ patriotism and social cohesion through national values and ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic diversity.” It hopes to foster national unity through “ education, cultural institutions, and an inclusive national discourse.” All this noble sounding phraseology, as is widely known, will not find much acceptance with the countless terror tanzeems proliferating in Pakistan including many supporting Imran Khan’s regime.
Economic Security : The Main Pillar
The NSP places prudently economic security at the core of its national security objectives and has identified priority areas where it recommends the Pakistani federal and provincial governments to invest in. The three economic challenges it identifies are the external imbalance, vertical inequalities and horizontal inequalities. Pakistan’s precarious foreign exchange imbalance and reserves are known world-wide and how it manages to tide over this colossal problem will be watched carefully both within Pakistan and outside by those who trade with them. The NSP recommends reducing the gap in the vertical inequalities existing among its populace by providing direct assistance to its impoverished citizens--- something which it may have learnt from Indian and Bangladesh policies ! As regards horizontal inequalities ( economic gap within its provinces) it warns of regional inequalities being exploited by sub-nationalist elements. However, Pakistan must practice what it preaches and its investments both in the Balochistan and Sind provinces remain woefully short in comparison to its other provinces especially Punjab.
Section IV which is titled “Securing Our Economic Future,” and comprises the economic strategies, as stated in the above paragraph, also highlights “ Pakistan’s prized geo-economic location” which “ provides a unique opportunity through north-south and east-west connectivity for South and Central Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.” Importantly this section also lays down the policy objective of joining the ‘upper middle-income countries’ in the stipulated timeframe (up to 2026) which appears rather wishful thinking ! Another absurdity is the NSP stating that “ Pakistan’s economic resilience is demonstrated by a positive growth trajectory and vibrant economy despite political uncertainty and security challenges.” Currently, as is widely known, Pakistan is undergoing severe economic distress with its foreign exchange reserves at a dismal US 17 billion dollars and looks forward anxiously to doles from the IMF, China, Saudi Arabia , UAE and the US .
Pakistan’s Military Strategy
Pakistan’s military strategy is conceptualized in Section V which is captioned ‘ Defence and Territorial Integrity’. The NSP does not name India but Pakistan’s over-obsession with everything Indian and to an extent the Afghanistan conundrum comes out crystal clear in its appraisal. The NSP states that with a “regressive and dangerous ideology gripping the collective conscience in our immediate neighbourhood, the prospects of violent conflict have grown immensely.” It also talks about the “self-professed role of any country as a so-called net-security provider in the wider Indian Ocean “ affecting the “region’s security and economic interests negatively.”
As is commonly known that Pakistan, since years, has strived to bridge the gap in conventional military capability vis-à-vis India by reliance on its nuclear deterrence. Accordingly, it formalizes its nuclear policy by expounding that Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence “ occupies a critical role in the security calculus of South Asia. Pakistan’s nuclear capability deters war through full spectrum deterrence within the precincts of credible minimum nuclear deterrence in concert with our conventional military capabilities and all elements of national power.” However, Pakistan’s statement that its “ deterrence regime is vital for and aimed at regional peace” is indeed laughable ! In reality, Pakistan will do well to ensure the security of its nuclear assets is assured in a foolproof manner especially from the many highly radical and inhuman terrorist groups floating around in Pakistan. In addition, highlighting the growing significance of hybrid warfare, it states that “ Pakistan will adopt a holistic, interconnected whole-of-nation approach to neutralize attempts to undermine Pakistan’s security and stability through hybrid warfare.” It further adds that “ with information and cyber warfare posing a new dimension to our security challenges, instituting robust mechanisms to protect cyberspace from malicious use are essential tools for our security.”
The next Section VI is an important one which expounds Pakistan’s policies towards Internal Security. It covers challenges like terrorism, extremism and sectarianism, sub-nationalism and organized crime--- all these issues gravely afflict Pakistan owing to its double-faced policies both within and especially in its neighbourhood. By all standards, the terminologies used in this section appears directed at convincing a global audience of Pakistan’s sincerity in curbing terrorism---- something no nation in the world will digest witnessing Pakistan’s inalienable record of supporting terrorism not only in India and Afghanistan but in some western nations too. The NSP unconvincingly claims that “ Pakistan pursues a policy of zero-tolerance for any groups involved in terrorist activities on its soil. With national resolve and dedication, Pakistan has fought one of the most successful wars against terrorism in the past two decades. “
The Pakistan government’s devious policy of appeasing many terror tanzeems within Pakistan for political ends and terrorism also being used as an extension of its state policy in the neighbourhood,since decades, is widely condemned all over the globe and currently Pakistan is under the scanner by the Paris based UN led Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for imposing sanctions on it. This is an area where Pakistan must vastly improve its track-record. Pakistan will have to rein in its Army who themselves are in cohorts with many terror outfits like the Lashkar-e-Taiyabba(LeT), Jaish-e-Mohd(JeM), Sipah-i-Sabaha and many others for conducting terrorist operations in India’s state of Jammu and Kashmir(J&K).
Section VII of the NSP is captioned ‘Foreign Policy in a Changing World’. This chapter is nothing but an exercise in chaste sounding noble ideas where Pakistan endeavours to project a human security-centric outlook and blames “ unfair negativity attached to its image due to sustained disinformation and influence operations by its adversaries.” How much of Pakistan’s counter propaganda will cut ice with the rest of the world is rather obvious knowing its past record!
Jammu and Kashmir
Not surprisingly, Pakistan’s obsession with J&K makes it confer a separate section on J&K itself. In this section, expectedly, Pakistan repeatedly reiterates its long-standing animosity towards India. It states that “ a just and peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute remains a vital national security for Pakistan” and goes on to declare that “ Indian occupation forces continue to undertake human rights abuses and oppression through war crimes. Crimes against humanity, and genocidal acts in IIOJK ( Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir). It further goes on state about India’s “rise of Hindutva-driven politics” and India’s “attempts to impose one-sided solutions that can have far reaching negative consequences for regional stability.” Thus Pakistan continues to remain in its future orientation an India-baiter and has clearly spelt out its hostility towards its much larger neighbor.
Pakistan views the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as a project that is “redefining regional connectivity and providing impetus to Pakistan’s economy.” Overall it summarises its relations with its mentor China as being “ based on trust and strategic convergence.” Surprisingly, Pakistan seeks to improve its relations with its original benefactor, USA, clarifying “beyond a narrow counter-terrorism focus.” It wishes not to succumb to ‘camp politics.’ Pakistan’s foreign policy tilt towards China is more than evident and the US may not be too happy at Pakistan openly displaying its preferences for China in comparison with the US.
The final chapter, Section VIII deals with “Human Security” challenges ,which as is commonly known, afflict Pakistan’s radical and impoverished society considerably. Many UN/ NGOs based reports clearly indicate the many measures which Pakistan needs to take to reach a modicum of human security standards.
Pakistan, as a sovereign nation, is fully empowered to make its own security, economic and geopolitical policies based on its experience and the likely future challenges it envisions for itself. The formulation of NSP-2022 is thus a step in that direction. It has couched some human security and economic growth measures in its future plans in a positive manner. However, where the NSP fails miserably is in the arenas of its foreign relations especially with India, US and Afghanistan and its wishy-washy attitude towards handling of terrorism both within and in the region. Though it mentions that “ Pakistan, under its policy of peace at home and abroad, wishes to improve its relationship with India”, the bulk of its policies as enunciated in the NSP are clearly anti-India and a reflection of Pakistan’s perennial hostility towards India. After the Taliban take-over of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the various terror outfits like the LeT, JeM and even the ISIS are in touch with each other to intensify operations in J&K.
Overall, the NSP is primarily targeted at the international audience to convey that Pakistan is changing for the better----- though all those who have dealt with Pakistan earlier know the bitter truth. Very recently, former Pakistan High Commissioner to India, Abdul Basit, had tweeted that resuming dialogue with India would be a “mistake of massive proportions.” The Indian political and security establishment must factor in Pakistan’s propensity for creating trouble for India in a variety of ways. Till Pakistan does not undertake concrete steps to improve its relations with India, the latter needs to be on its guard and watchful of Pakistani provocations and mischief. In its NSP , Pakistan may not have stated it, but it clearly knows that if it continues to pursue anti-India policies ,on China’s prodding or independently it will be the clear loser. India as it strives to improve all the constituents of Comprehensive National Power to successfully confront a two front conflict, may wish to give Pakistan a chance afresh to bring peace and harmony in this region.
(Lt General Kamal Davar is one of India’s leading strategic experts and was India’s first DG Defence Intelligence Agency).
*Quotations used in the above Analysis are taken from the published portion of Pakistan’s National Security Policy 2022 available widely in the public domain.