ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s external environment will remain challenging throughout 2020 which will have serious implications for its economy, security and internal stability, says a report published by a local think tank.
The think tank, Islamabad Policy Institute, believes that tense relations with India would continue to consume much of Pakistan’s strategic and diplomatic bandwidth. It, moreover, forecast that peace process in Afghanistan would in near future continue to be marred by uncertainty.
The report tilted, ‘Pakistan Outlook 2020: Politics, Economy & Security’, has reviewed current trends in external environment, economy, political stability, and security and on the basis of that made short-term projections in these areas. Foreign policy aspect has been analysed by former foreign secretary Salman Bashir, while the military dimension has been dealt with by former defence secretary retired Lt Gen Asif Yasin Malik. Economist Syed Hussain Haider evaluated the economic situation and Farhan Bokhari assessed the prospects of political stability.
The report said that the situation in occupied Kashmir and plight of Muslims in India will guide Pakistan’s engagement with Delhi. Chances of limited conflict between India and Pakistan would remain high, it added.
Islamabad Policy Institute in its report believes tense relations with India will continue to consume much of country’s strategic and diplomatic bandwidth
Mr Bashir has maintained that the foremost threat to Pakistan’s security from India has become dire with transformation of India as a Hindu state under the Bharatiya Janata Party. He contends that US support for India, while ignoring Delhi’s reckless behaviour was in violation of all norms of civility, international norms and principles. The biggest challenge in 2020 for Pakistan, he therefore believes, will be to manage the fallout from the US-India nexus.
Mr Malik said that India considers Pakistan as an impediment to its rise as a regional hegemon, but at the same time it realises the limitations of a military adventure against it. This, he opines, is frustrating India.
The former defence secretary fears that India could in this situation intensify its operations to internally destabilise Pakistan. Indian strategy, he said, would be to undermine Pakistan Army’s credibility and support among the public, fuel sub-nationalism in Balochistan and escalate terrorist activities in the newly merged districts of KP province or the erstwhile Fata.
“Larger objective appears strategic encirclement of Pakistan, thus, creating a multi front threat scenario. It would cause a priority dilemma as well as resource stress on our security forces,” he added.
The report further said that navigating China-US competition will test craft of Pakistani policy-makers in near term. This would, moreover, strain Pakistan-US ties while complicating regional environment from Pakistan’s perspective. About ties with the US, it said, it is a near certainty that bilateral engagement will remain limited to the minimum agenda of Afghanistan for foreseeable future and transactional nature of the relationship will continue.
The report flagged developments in the Middle East as a defining challenge for Pakistan’s foreign policy.
On the economic front, the report projected that Pakistan’s GDP growth would remain close to 2.5 per cent because of slowdown specifically in large scale manufacturing and agriculture sectors.
Inflation would remain high hovering around 13pc. Increase in power tariffs and higher oil prices could, however, cause inflation to shoot beyond these estimates. Furthermore, it is anticipated that policy rates would be cut in 2020, because the current rates are unsustainable.
Mr Bokhari believes that as long as party structures remain weak and led by families where highest offices have passed on in a hereditary manner, political parties will remain inherently weak and unable to meaningfully contribute to the discourse on key policy issues.
Published in Dawn, January 26th, 2020