An analysis of the inherent contradictions in Pakistan's National Security Policy, where the interests of the state are not aligned with those of the country's beleaguered populace.
Pakistan National Security Advisor , Moeed Yusuf (left) and Pakistani Prime Minister, Imran Khan (right). Image Credit: Global Village Space
Pakistan's citizens have always had to deal with a contradictory national security strategy. For Pakistan's security policymakers, it has also remained perplexing. They have failed to develop a widely approved national security policy that strikes a balance between Pakistan's security and the security of its population. Throughout history, strategists have miscalculated the balance between foreign and internal security risks to Pakistan and its inhabitants when formulating security policies. Extremism in creating security policy, in whatever form, is hazardous to the nation's unity and existence.
Constitutional amendments and a focus on foreign security have far-reaching implications for the future. Instead of depending on one extreme type of security regime or the other, the government must establish a balanced national security policy with the support of all political and constitutional institutions.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan unveiled Pakistan's first-ever National Strategic Plan (NSP) last week, focusing on human and economic security.
What prompted Pakistan to create a new National Security Policy?
Recently Moeed Yusuf, National Security Advisor of Pakistan in an interview given to Gulf News elaborated that, Pakistan has a variety of policies relating to defense, internal security, food security, and other issues. Over time, these policies helped keep Pakistan secure, but with the growing importance of traditional and non-traditional security challenges that a fluid global structure is creating, the need of the hour was understanding the interconnected and interdependent nature of Pakistan's security challenges.
Intent of the National Security Policy
Pakistan's National Security Policy is centred on ensuring the safety, security, dignity, and prosperity of all Pakistanis. It will place a strong emphasis on economic security as the cornerstone of national security in order to expand our national resource pie and redistribute more resources to meet human and traditional security demands. It will combine focus on geostrategies with a greater emphasis on geoeconomics in the future.
What does Pakistan want to Achieve?
Pakistan is currently seeking a comprehensive national security structure as a result of this. The symbiotic interdependence between economic, human, and traditional security is recognized in our comprehensive National Security Policy, which is citizen-centric. For the first time in 74 years, Pakistan's National Security Policy (NSP) has been created, although without the participation of parliament. Traditional military security is now being infused with human welfare and a major focus on economic security, which may or may not lead to human security.
But fundamentally, one could question how a new idea of national security can arise without thoroughly analyzing the lessons learned from previous military disasters.
While the shortcomings of a dormant security paradigm are swept under the rug, the question must be asked: what really is new in the first National Security Policy?
It is finally being accepted that 'traditional security,' i.e., defense, cannot be achieved without assuring economic security. The truth is that an impoverished economy has crumbled under the weight of traditional security. As a result, traditional military security has come under increasing scrutiny. Although it is unwilling to establish a clear distinction between traditional security and human security, the released NSP paper gives only an abstract analytical and fragmented framework.
Cacophony of an Unstable State
Pakistan’s prime focus is unmistakably on its military. As an essential requirement for economic progress, redress is sought. If a dependent and weak economy's conflicts and demands are essential, they must be addressed first. Then, logically, all components of conventional security must be subjected to economic imperatives, ensuring peaceful cohabitation, mutually beneficial economic cooperation, and recalibration and settlement of the "central issues" through lengthy and painstaking discussions.
The biggest example of an unstable state is the state of the Pakistani economy which, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), is at a crossroads. Pakistan has participated in more IMF programmes than any other South Asian country, yet none of them have had an influence on the country's wasteful bureaucracy and political leadership. The IMF bailout package for 2019 is valued at $6 billion. Pakistan has a shady history of borrowing money to stay afloat. The country's outstanding debt was about 100% of GDP as of April 2021. Pakistan's foreign exchange reserves are less than $8 billion, just enough to finance 1.5 months worth of imports. The country relies on borrowed funds and borrowed time to get by. Pakistan is embroiled in a never-ending conflict with itself.
Economic Debacles vis a vis National Security Policy
The reality that a frail, insecure, and unproductive economy can no longer endure the load of debt and crushing defense obligations appears to have prompted a minor modification in the National Security Policy.
In Pakistan's low accumulation, low value-added, low productive, low tax, dependent, and rent-seeking economy, there are numerous basic issues that must be addressed on a long-term basis. The main problem it confronts is that a shaky economic foundation cannot support the weight of a national security superstructure. Dependency and underdevelopment issues are exacerbated by a wide range of rent-seekers in both the commercial and governmental sectors, tax evaders, and parasitic rural and urban elites.
It can neither stop the vicious cycle of deficits and indebtedness nor meet the fundamental needs of our people and their physical and material security since we have one of the lowest investments, saving, and tax to GDP ratios in the area, as well as terrible social indices.
Pakistan’s Failed Binary of Human Security and Economic Security
Regional collaboration and economic partnerships, rather than regional disputes, are needed to improve economic security, which is so important. However, the NSP has a long list of geostrategic compulsions that will not assist in unlocking the region's enormous economic potential.
In any event, economic security that is neither inclusive nor long-term does not automatically imply human security. Even if there is some growth, the gap between the affluent and an unlimited number of poor continues to widen. As a result, the majority of life's benefits for the working classes, as well as the professional social strata, have all but evaporated. Millions of young people who are illiterate or semi-literate have no direction in life.
Pakistan has to do a lot more to satisfy the sustainable and participatory development goals outlined by the United Nations (U.N.) .What is neatly hidden in the mythical economic security notion is how and from where the resources and incomes will be created, and how much will be dispersed according to the goals of human security in order to improve our people's quality of life.
The Way Forward
The Pakistani leadership is steadfast in toeing a pro-US line, even if it means separating itself from its most trustworthy friend, the People's Republic of China, due to a deep-seated mentality. This is why the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project's progress has stalled. Despite a visible change in Gulf states' attitudes toward India, the NSP maintains a chilly attitude against Iran. Although Pakistan sees itself as a crossroads between Central and South Asia, it overlooks the fact that the main beneficiaries of trade would be China and India - the latter of which is unwilling to conduct business until the Kashmir problem is resolved. While continuing to boost bilateral trade, the NSP appears to be unwilling to learn from the China-India model of dispute resolution.
To conclude, it is vital to highlight that Pakistan's security policy was India-centric for the first three decades, following independence, culminating in three major wars in 1948, 1965, and 1971. Pakistan's military leadership has been heavily affected by jihadist ideology, and it is frequently chastised for pampering extremists and terrorists.
(Aditya Mehrotra is a foreign policy and international law researcher).