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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Evolution of Pakistan’s National Security Policy

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Like any other nation-state, Pakistan envisions national security as the ultimate goal of its foreign policy. All concerned state institutions provide their input in the formulation of the national security policy. The foreign office, intelligence agencies, civil-military bureaucracy, and academia have a significant influence over the policymaking process. They offer strategic review of threats and challenges confronting Pakistan and provide support in achieving national security and foreign policy goals by employing and deploying their unique institutional expertise and resources. 

However, this is more so in theory than in practice, for the national security Policy of Pakistan as of any other western or democratic state like the US is primarily shaped and driven by its strategic community in light of its strategic culture. For sure, public aspirations and perceptions may inevitably find some expression and consideration in the making of national security policy yet it is predominantly conceptualized and determined by a narrow strategic community of the country, popularly referred to as the deep state or the establishment. Hence it can safely be stated that the national security policy of Pakistan does not necessarily stem from the general masses but a manifestation of the careful strategic calculations of the strategic community which reserves the ultimate prerogative, capability, and legitimacy in determining the parameters, thresholds, and objectives of foreign and national security policy of the state.

This inference leads us to an important question as to what is considered the national security of Pakistan ? What is considered as a grave national security threat and challenge, and last but not least what is considered as an acceptable and satisfactory condition of security by the country’s strategic community and security decision-making apparatus? 

The answer to these questions may be found through an examination of the linkage between a plethora of endogenous and exogenous factors that shape the broader security threat landscape and resultant national security policy, planning, strategy, and operational tactics of Pakistan. The exercise of national security policy and decision-making process does not occur in a vacuum rather there is a historical context to it. In this regard, the historical legacy of the post-partition-oriented dynamics of Pakistan has had a decisive role in shaping Pakistan’s strategic culture. This strategic culture has long shaped the national security threat perception of the strategic community and security establishment of Pakistan. 

On a critical note, it can be said that the strategic culture of Pakistan, albeit, providing a valuable analytic lens to better understand, predict, and counter the motives and actions of other states in an anarchic and hostile international political system is not without drawbacks. Strategic culture is like a double-edged sword. While it may be helpful in so far as it provides a context in which to develop a sense of self and others, but it can prove perilous to the extent that it causes ‘bounded rationality, leading to misinterpretation of situations and actions of other states based on past conditioning in a chaotic and uncertain world of immeasurable possibilities and ambiguities. States may incur unintended consequences and costs due to the phenomena of ‘bounded rationality which is an unavoidable pitfall inherent in the strategic culture. 

Against this backdrop, the strategic community of Pakistan perceives and frames India as the only real threat to the integrity of Pakistan. It appears to be a strong conviction that India has never accepted the ‘reality of Pakistan’ and is very unlikely to do so. This explains Pakistan’s predominantly Indo-centric defense and military strategy. It goes without saying that, the Indo-centric military security and defense policy of Pakistan can be criticized as too narrow and myopic that it compromises on other and arguably more important aspects of national security challenges. Yet there is plausible justification for it. For one thing, after partition, the political leadership of India always suspected the newly established state of Pakistan’s ability to survive as an independent country but their hopes that Pakistan would be compelled to rejoin Indian Union were dashed.  India’s role in midwifing the birth of Bangladesh in 1971 in violation of Pakistan’s national integrity, sovereignty, and international law further reinforced the Indo-centric military security policy of Pakistan. The quest for survival culminated in the logical conclusion once Pakistan acquired nuclear power and offset the conventional and nuclear military threat from India.  

Understanding the changing nature of warfare, India along with its regional and extra-regional allies resorts to hybrid warfare, and embroils Pakistan in unending conflicts, and preferably arm-race to render it socially fragmented, politically unstable, polarized, and economically bankrupt.  Indeed, India’s perennial quest to undo Pakistan has left an indelible imprint on the collective national psyche of Pakistan and predictably its strategic community finds no sufficient reasons to shrug off the bitter memories of the past or turn a blind eye in the face of relentless Indian machinations against Pakistan. Yet it has never been oblivion to the great toll of Indian hostility and wants amicable relations by resolving all bilateral and regional issues, traditional and non-traditional security issues.

For better or for worse, national security is a dynamic phenomenon and encompasses state as well as human security. Unfortunately, for seven decades after its inception, the concerns of state security overshadowed human security in Pakistan. Thus, cognizant of the changing security dynamics and foreign policy objectives, Pakistan is now in a position to maintain a balance between the traditional military security, especially against India, and prioritizing the long-overdue human security and economic security reflected in the newly adopted National Security Policy of Pakistan.

This encouraging development will augur well for the state and human security of Pakistan given that the two dimensions of security are inextricably interlinked. The first-ever integrated national security policy of Pakistan addresses the gap between human security and state security.

However, the daunting challenge is to develop a national consensus on a strategy to implement the policy. It’s not only just enough to get it approved by parliament but to also encourage a public debate on the policy. It should not be seen as a policy of a particular government but of the state for the policy to be successful in achieving the objectives. 

As for the answer to the questions posed above, Pakistan may be said to have achieved an optimum level of national security when it would have succeeded in securing strategic parity with India. Put another way, national security is not fully achieved unless India is wooed, cajoled, compelled, and coerced to relinquish its hegemonic designs and respects Pakistan’s national sovereignty (fundamental principle of modern nation-state system) as an equal sovereign power. The strategic community of Pakistan does not believe this to be the case given Indian unabated highhandedness. As a result, Pakistan emerges as a revisionist state and is more likely to continue with its revisionist foreign and security policy seeking and advocating for a just solution to all the unresolved political issues including the long-standing Kashmir dispute in line with the relevant UN resolutions and international law. Thus, the national security strategy of Pakistan, understandably to the chagrin of India, entails invoking international legal and humanitarian rights to highlight Indian excesses, challenging the existing regional political order and status quo on Kashmir which is characterized by Indian hegemony and domination. Pakistan is perceived to be antithetical to the very DNA of India by the Indian security establishment thus emerges from the phenomena of the security dilemma between the two South Asian nuclear rivals.

 In the prevailing situation where the prospects of rapprochement with India are meager at best, what would provide Pakistan with a sense of victory vis-à-vis India on Kashmir? The answer is simple when India cedes its illegitimate occupation and control of the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir in face of unwavering indigenous freedom struggle, mounting insurgency, international pressure, and Pakistan’s unflinching moral, political, and diplomatic support to this cause. This is the cardinal feature of Pakistan’s military and security policy towards India. Indeed, from the perspective of the security establishment and the deep state, Kashmir provides the only chance at vengeance and settling score with India for the dismemberment of East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.

There is a consensus within the strategic community that the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Pakistan helped achieve strategic/ deterrence stability and semblance of national security thus rendering India unable to deliver a strategic and geopolitical shock to Pakistan. Nonetheless, Pakistan remains deeply wary and suspicious of India given that it continues to pursue anti-Pakistan machinations and hegemonic designs. This has reinforced the perception of India being Pakistan’s arch-rival, always on the lookout to undermine the national security and integrity of Pakistan. Unsurprisingly, the security and strategic community are of the view that India seeks to harm Pakistan’s ‘strategic trinity’ comprising the people, the government, and the armed forces. The architects of Pakistan’s national security policy have no qualms that India wants to dismember Pakistan from within by driving a wedge between the ‘strategic trinity’ through sowing seeds of distrust, propaganda, and information warfare. India’s overt and covert support to anarchists, insurgents, or disgruntled groups and miscreants, especially in the marginalized, volatile, and impoverished contexts like Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and FATA explains Pakistan’s historical Indo-centric national security policy. 

In the final analysis, having offset the military threat from India to a great extent by achieving sufficient conventional and nuclear capability, Pakistan is now shifting from military security and geopolitics to human security and geo-economics. To this end, it needs to master the art of soft power strategy to improve its global image, address the multitude of human security issues, fulfill the requirements of modernity, and civilization. 

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Nisar Ahmed Khan, The writer is a Senior Editor at Times Glo and holds an MPhil degree in Defence and Strategic Studies from Quaid-I-Azam University, Islamabad.

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