National Security Policy Of Pakistan: Implications And Beyond

Very recently, the National Security Policy (NSP) was unveiled by the Imran Khan-led government of Pakistan. The selective unveiling of the policy is significant for quite a few reasons. One, this is the first time that the country has come up with something that could be described as close to some sort of security doctrine. Second, this is a country that has predominantly been run by the Pakistan Army, directly under martial law or indirectly by advising the democratic government with the fixed dos and don’ts, having settled red lines that no government dares to cross. Coming up with a security public declaration of such an establishment is rare. Third, the said policy is supposed to have a detailed blueprint for as long as one hundred years. And most importantly, those parts of the policy that are in the public domain, not much have been talked about its once highly proclaimed Islamic Bomb.

Pakistan has come up with a first NSP in almost 75-years of its existence. During this period, it has lost a significant territorial part in the form of Bangladesh in 1971, courtesy India, that has furthered its insecurity and hatred vis-à-vis India. The policy that has been defined by the Pakistani officials as an umbrella document, that is to be used as a guideline for preparing all of Pakistan’s foreign, strategic and international policies.

Pakistan as a nation has important stakes in relations with countries like India, the US, China, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iran, Turkey, Russia, UK and a few others, along with regions/groups/ international organisations like Middle East, Europe, IMF, World Bank and so on. How good or functional relationships it has with them, will have a significant bearing on its economic, political and strategic policies and standing.

Talking of bilateral relationships, Pakistan’s most important relationship is seen with India. And here, it is among the most complex and delicate relationship the two neighbours have. While there are a few intractable, political, territorial disputes that owe their genesis to the partition days, the K-issue, i.e. Kashmir remains the most volatile issue that at least from Pakistani perspective, remains the key to the improvement of relationship. The Kashmir issue, along with Sir Creek, Siachen Glacier, sharing of Indus River waters, terrorism emanating from Pakistan into India are major difficulties for last many years between Pakistan and India.

However, Pakistan has since August, 2019 became stubborn that until Kashmir issue is resolved, it will not have even normal working relationship with India. Post the abrogation of Articles, 370 and 35A of Indian Constitution that provided a special status to the state of Jammu & Kashmir, Pakistan has made it a point that it will not have normal diplomatic, political or economic relations with India.

In the process, bilateral relations have been affected badly. The likely trade that could have been to the tune of US$ 10-15 Billion, is far from a reality and whatever little trade is happening currently, it at best is local/illegal trade. While India is suffering to a certain extent, with a huge, highly diversified, more than 10-times the size of Pakistani economy, continues to expand its global trade while Pakistan is facing a huge economic crisis. In continuation of its political rhetoric, it is importing a major part of its daily necessities like sugar, cereals, meat, vegetables from other countries, leading to a huge cost escalation, leading to a spike in inflation and affecting the lives of common citizenry in the country.

In the just declared NSP, Pakistan though has toned down its political rhetoric by accepting the centrality of economics and suggesting it to play a big role in Pakistani geostrategic policies now onwards. It also talks of an unusual 100 years period of not seeking hostility with India. However, the talk of normalising relations with India is dependent on reasonable progress on the Kashmir issue, makes the possibility suspect. Of course, given the current state of Pakistani economy, polity and diplomacy, there is a possibility of Pakistani government getting into a Track-II/Track-III diplomatic overtures with India in very near future.

The US and China are the two other major powers with whom Pakistan’s foreign policy is intractably linked with. For almost 65 years of its existence, Pakistan has depended upon American political, diplomatic and most importantly financial aid to survive. The advent of Trump in the US and Pakistan Army propped Imran Khan-led government, have changed calculations dramatically. The sudden withdrawal of US-led NATO forces from Afghanistan and the Pakistani complicity in the ascension of Taliban in Kabul has made situation so worse for Pakistan that its PM has been virtually begging on to receive a call from the US President Joe Biden that has yet to make its way in Islamabad.

The continuation of Pakistan in the FATF List, its day-to-day declining economic state, no foreign investments trickling in, EU ignoring it, the constant dipping in relations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE and no perceptible bettering relations with Iran, has compelled Pakistan to put all its eggs in Chinese basket. It has been forced to get loans from Saudi Arabia, UAE and China on humiliating terms just to run the country. While Imran Khan had put a lot of hope in Erdogan, the self-aspiring new Ataturk of Turkey, his own precarious economic, political condition has ensured that he remains of no use to Pakistan.

It is no wonder that for a change, the NSP of Pakistan has put stress on economy and not Islamic brotherhood. It has realised that to even run the day-to-day affairs, it need its economy to at least be resilient otherwise its inglorious track record of rushing to the IMF 22 times in a period of 62 years, will not allow it to remain even a fringe player in the south Asian region, forget the world.

Its miserable plight of pleading to FATF members to let it go out of the Grey List, has made it use all the politically and diplomatically correct statements of following a zero tolerance policy against terrorism. And surprisingly, not much has been talked about the so-called Islamic Bomb, that used to be a big feature of Pakistani foreign/diplomatic policy till even a decade ago.

While making (part of) a security policy public for discussion and consultations is a positive step, pragmatism, autonomy and protection of core national interests are the other thoughts that should take up the mind of Pakistani establishment, its army and diplomats. In international relations, there are no permanent friends or foes, only interests to be defined in the evolving world order, are permanent and the earliest, Pakistan accepts it, the better it will be in its own interest.