Security policy places economy front and centre

Published January 15, 2022
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks at the launching ceremony of the National Security Policy on 
Friday.—White Star
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks at the launching ceremony of the National Security Policy on Friday.—White Star

ISLAMABAD: Amid spiralling inflation and a significant rise in the cost of living for nearly all Pakistanis, it is perhaps fitting that the country’s first-ever national security policy acknowledges economic stability as a key component of national security.

“Pakistan’s vital national security interests are best served by placing economic security as the core element of national security. The country’s security imperatives in the next decade will be driven by the need to realise its economic potential while ensuring national cohesion, territorial integrity, internal security, and citizen welfare,” states the National Security Policy (NSP) 2022-2026.

Approved by the federal cabinet last week, a public version of the policy was unveiled by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday

While the policy puts economic security at the core of its comprehensive national security vision, other elements covered in the document include national cohesion, defence and territorial integrity, internal security, foreign policy, and human security.

The policy, which is being described as an umbrella document for various sectoral policies, provides strategic guidance for action in these priority areas, while identifying opportunities and challenges.

PM admits going to IMF tantamount to compromising country’s security

The policy makes a rare distinction between traditional security that focuses on defence, territorial integrity, internal security, and diplomacy; and non-traditional security, which consists of broader elements that impinge on a country’s economic health and citizens’ well-being.

In accordance with its emphasis on strengthening economy, the policy urges putting geo-economic priorities on a par with geo-strategic imperatives. The strategy proposed is one of “sustainable and inclusive economic growth” to expand the national resource pie, so that more resources can be provided to meet the requirements of defence and other sectors, without having to alter the spending pattern.

Addressing a ceremony held to mark the launch of the report, Prime Minister Imran Khan also echoed this sentiment. “Unless we grow together (as a nation) we will always remain insecure. Security can only be achieved through inclusive development and growth,” he said.

Moreover, PM Khan was quick to underscore that a country cannot be secure without having a sound economy. “When we go to IMF – the lender of the last resort – and accept their conditions, our security is compromised,” he said.

He regretted that the country never had a plan to secure itself economically, adding that Pakistan would remain insecure if the rich kept getting richer with no measures in place to protect the downtrodden and vulnerable segments.

The report also suggests stepping up economic diplomacy by building new economic partnerships that could also support Pakistan’s political and strategic interests.

Defence and internal security

The NSP puts forward the concept of ‘comprehensive national security’ encompassing economic, human, and traditional security for the “safety, security, dignity, and prosperity” of the people.

PM Khan hailed the policy as “all-encompassing and multi-dimensional” as he vowed to align all government agencies towards realization of its objectives. The prime minister linked the military dominance of the national security vision so far to the “insecure environment” in which the country found itself since its creation because of the security threats from India.

Citing the example of USSR, he said, that such one-dimensional approaches cannot ensure unity and integrity for any country.

“Pakistan’s future lies in embracing change and breaking the inertia of status-quo in a world that is undergoing fundamental transformation,” the document states, urging a refocusing of diplomatic efforts for engagement with the outside world under “new realities”.

In the defense sector, the NSP notes that “lingering border disputes” continue to pose security threats and calls for capitalising on “opportunities” afforded by newly-instituted border management initiatives and the fencing of the border with Afghanistan and the merger of the erstwhile tribal areas alongside securing gains made in the fight against terrorism.

However, it says that the use of force by India cannot be ruled out. It attributes this risk to the prevalence of the extremist Hindutva ideology that is dominating nearly all institutions.

“Pakistan is committed to defending its territorial integrity in response to any military misadventure. Requisite conventional capabilities will be ensured through astute investment in constant modernization of our armed forces without embroiling in any arms race,” the policy notes.

It also calls for enhanced indigenous of defence production and prioritisation of network centricity, battlefield awareness and electronic warfare capabilities. As per the policy document, these will be paid for through the gains of an improved economy.

On space security, it states that Pakistan continues to maintain a policy against the militarization of space at international forums, but in view of the developments in the neighbourhood, there will be continued investment in the national space program.

The NSP also says that information and cyber-warfare pose a whole new dimension of security challenges and it was important to put in place robust mechanisms to protect cyberspace from malicious use, recommending investment in the cyber security of critical infrastructure.

Touching upon hybrid warfare, the policy says, “Pakistan will adopt a holistic, interconnected whole-of-nation approach to neutralise attempts to undermine Pakistan’s security and stability through hybrid warfare.”

“The foremost aim of our foreign policy and military capability will remain peace and stability in the region and beyond, based on mutual respect and sovereign equality,” NSP states.

Regional security

The Indian Ocean, the policy says, is fast becoming a contested space and the Indian role there is negatively impacting regional security and economic interests. The NSP recommends a renewed focus on strengthening Pakistan’s maritime capabilities to meet emerging challenges by protecting its Exclusive Economic Zone, ensuring the freedom of navigation, and protection against piracy.

Noting that the expansion of India’s nuclear triad, open-ended statements on nuclear policy, and investments in and introduction of de-stabilising technologies were disturbing the strategic balance in the region, NSP declares that Pakistan’s deterrence regime is vital for, and aimed at, securing regional peace.

Regarding India, the national security policy linked problematic ties between Islamabad and Delhi to the Kashmir dispute and the Modi government’s hegemonic designs.

“Pakistan remains committed to normalisation of relations with its neighbours based on mutual respect, sovereign equality, and a collective effort to find pathways for conflict resolution with the belief that shared economic opportunities are cornerstones for achieving prosperity in Pakistan and the region,” it said.

Continued cooperation with the United States, the document says, will remain critical for regional peace and stability and expresses a desire for diversifying this relationship through “mutually beneficial” engagements.

“Communicating Pakistan’s concerns to policy makers in Washington while seeking to broaden our partnership beyond a narrow counter-terrorism focus will be a priority. Pakistan will continue to seek areas of convergence with the United States in trade, investment, connectivity, energy, counter-terrorism, security, and intelligence cooperation,” it adds.

Internal security

According to the policy document, the threat of terrorism still exists, despite progress in counter-terrorism operations, as it is used by hostile actors for disrupting peace and development projects. Under the policy, the counter-terrorism strategy would continue the capacity building of law-enforcement agencies, efforts to choke terror-financing, conducting intelligence-based operations, undertaking development projects, and promoting an anti-terror narrative.

Violent sub-nationalist activities have also been exploited by hostile foreign intelligence agencies, the policy said and proposed a four-pronged strategy in this regard, which included separating reconcilables from irreconcilables; cutting off recruitment; constricting financial sources; and pursuing targeted socio-economic policies.

Extremism and radicalisation have also been identified as major threats to societal peace. “The exploitation and manipulation of ethnic, religious, and sectarian lines through violent extremist ideologies cannot be allowed,” the policy document said, adding that swift and uncompromising action would be taken against those producing and disseminating hate speech and material.

Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2022

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