Pakistan, a failed state known for sponsoring and harbouring terrorists, has since its birth on the world map been indulged in making false promises to India and the world, especially regarding mitigating use of its territory for initiating terrorist activities. In one such false attempt to portray their seriousness in maintaining good relations with their neighbours, Imran Khan-led government has come up with its first National Security Policy to restructure and strengthen its economy and military might by adhering to peace policy in the neighbourhood. But experts opine that it’s no more than an image makeover attempt that looks hollower than ever.
Pakistan’s National Security Policy: A Quest or an Eyewash?
By SUBHASH CHANDRA YADAV
Just when all doors and windows seem to be shut, one begins to make efforts to find some way somehow to get out of a situation. This metaphor is best suited for Pakistan in the present times. There is evidence to it. Pakistan launched its first-ever National Security Policy (NSP) on Friday, January 14, by Prime Minister Imran Khan in the presence of Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa and other senior officials. It is said that the NSP will be a guiding principle for all economic and other policies; all executive actions are expected to work for the NSP.
Citizen’s dignity of life and security is held central by eliminating economic inequality and providing direct support to the poor, bolster the economy and bring holistic development in the country.
The National Security Policy 2022–26 took seven years of due diligence and rigorous consultations by the National Security Division (NSD) before it was completed by the National Security Advisor Moeed Yusuf. The novel policy makes it imperative for Pakistan to deter war and defend the country's territorial integrity and sovereignty. This will be done at ‘all costs’ by building up and employing all elements of national power.
The document is a manifestation of 110 pages, but it has been declared ‘classified’, which means even the Pakistan’s Parliament won't have access to it, forget the scrutiny. But a 50-page version has been published where not all matters are disclosed.
It highlights some of the visionary objectives of the Islamic Republic. They want peace with its ‘eastern neighbour’, ties with Iran, role in Afghanistan and strategic links with China. The policy speaks of having no conflict with India for the next hundred years at least.
But that’s not all that the document speaks about. There is more to it that dampens the entire exercise of the National Security Division. It has many references to India.
Blowing hot and cold in same breath
Great ideas like the quest for peace for the coming hundred years, no conflict with immediate neighbours and normalization of trade and business ties with India to enhance the economy of Pakistan are some of the tall ideals talked about in the NSP. Not to forget, the two South Asian giants have recently resorted to adhere to a ceasefire at the Line of Control (LoC). But there is more to the document than what meets the eye.
Strategic matters’ experts read the document in a different fashion—across the world. There are lots of ambiguities that rather paint a darker picture. For example, the new policy talks of strengthening the ‘traditional’ security which means that the country will continue to pour in resources into the military and weapon acquisition. It says that efforts shall be made by policymakers to deal with various threats. The underlying and guiding principle would be, ‘Ensure the defence and territorial integrity of Pakistan in all their manifestations’.
The policy highlights the objective of deterring war through all elements of national power, while exercising the right to self-defence if war is imposed. The route is through harnessing conventional capability and full-spectrum deterrence.
The document says, ‘Deter any aggression by maintaining a cost-effective and adaptive military focused on modernisation and optimisation 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’.
On the one hand, the policy states that it wants an era of peace with India for a hundred years, and on the other, in length, it demonized the Hindutva and present democratically elected government in India. It holds that, ‘with a regressive and dangerous ideology gripping the collective conscience in our immediate neighbourhood, the prospects of violent conflict have grown immensely. The possibility of use of force by the adversary as a deliberate policy choice cannot be ruled out’. The policy has also stressed on the critical role of the nuclear deterrence in the security calculus, especially in South Asia. NSP goes on to highlight the future focus of Pakistan on managing border disputes but calls India responsible for the menace, hybrid warfare, countering challenges of state and non-state actors, focus on enhancing space-based technologies, strengthening cyber security, data security and surveillance capacity.
There is one portion that brings out one of the real causes of pangs of Pakistan establishment—India’s growing power in the Indian Ocean. It says that the Indian Ocean looks like turning into a space for contestation and the self-professed role of any one country as a so-called net-security provider in the wider Indian Ocean would affect the region's security and economic interests negatively. IDSA’s Manzoor Ahmad says that Pakistan mentions India in the fifth section of the NSP 14 times, but their approach to improve relations with India is ‘negative’. He says that Pakistan continues to stick to its old narrative on Jammu and Kashmir; the Islamic state reiterates that ‘Resolution of Jammu and Kashmir remains a vital national security interest for Pakistan’. What this actually means is that J&K may continue to be their left, right and centre of all policies as it has been for seven decades.
A makeover attempt
While speaking to National Political Mirror, Major General Anil Sengar (veteran) held that the NSP is just an image makeover attempt of Pakistan to project itself as a peace-pursuing country and use it in image projection. He also mentions that the country is begging everywhere for loans for basic functions of governance, and no institution is responding for well-known reasons. ‘This policy is a result of the stark reality that Pakistan is facing, Economic mess, loss of international credibility over the years, backfire of its Afghanistan Policy, loss of patronage of US, thus stoppage of economic doles’, he says.
The economic plight of Pakistan is an open secret. It’s under a mountain of debt. Its external debt is about 41 per cent of its total nominal GDP. Even the interest payment is not possible in the current growth rate of 3 to 4 per cent. Budgetary allocation to the military stays high for its tall geo-political ambitions and people under the burden of a failing economy where inflation runs in double digit and job creation is not happening.
On its attempt for peace with India, Major General Sengar, former Indian Defence Attache in Turkey, Syria and Lebanon says, ‘Pakistan’s understanding of peace with Afghanistan would mean its ability to manipulate Taliban for its interests. With India, it would mean India compromising to its demands without Pakistan seeming to buckle to India. It is a difficult position to achieve’. He apprises that Pakistan is struck with the Taliban as no country has recognized their rule, its emptying Pakistan’s resources, and they have also become adversary of Pakistan lately.
Major General Sengar also goes beyond South Asia, ‘International credibility is at an all time low. Even in the Islamic countries, Pakistan has lost clout and India gained major footholds. Arab countries are trading with India. India’s international stature has grown immensely. There is a paradigm shift in relations between Islamic countries and Israel too. Its cause as champion of the Islamic world has no takers’. It is also true that the West now sees Pakistan as the real cause of America’s defeat in Afghanistan. Trump stopped money to ‘fight war on terror’, and Biden is more than eager to follow his predecessor. The travesty is such that the American President has not even spoken to the Pakistan Prime Minister since he joined office.
Another travesty with the NSP is that there is no cross-party consensus before drafting this policy. Hence, many say that this policy has no takers. It’s just another gimmick of Imran Khan to claim a progressive outlook when he has failed to perform. Since there is a lack of participatory process, there is no future guarantee that the NSP will be adhered to by other governments of Pakistan.
Major General Sengar is also of the opinion that India should look at the last 75 years of their policies and behaviour, and for the prognosis, ‘Pakistan has shown no change of heart even in its approach to issues of contention with India. While this policy talks of, in a manner, de-hyphenating Kashmir, there is a caveat of progress on these issues’.