PM Imran Khan’s vision of Madina ke Riyasat, where not only equity and justice prevail, but as his recently launched ‘Koi bhooka na soye’ scheme, shows his understanding that inherent security revolves around different aspects of ‘human security’. It is an awareness that has come to be shared by others in powerful offices.
In this context, Pakistan hosted its first-ever security dialogue, Islamabad Security Dialogue, to define the country’s new strategic direction in line with the prime minister’s vision of peace, regional connectivity and development partnerships with the world.
The Islamabad Security Dialogue is in line with the increasing number of such get-togethers held across the world, from the Aspen Security Forum in the USA, Shangri – La conference in Singapore, considered to be Asia’s premier defence summit, and even the Raisina conference in India which started in 2016; the aim of all to discuss key national and international security issues of the day.
The stated aim of the National Security Dialogue was powerfully expressed by the organizer and Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on National Security Division and Strategic Policy Planning Dr. Moeed Yusuf as “We have been treated unfairly over the years, especially by the foreign media that paints Pakistan in a negative light; that’s an area that’s our responsibility to address”, said SAPM, adding that Pakistan needs a coherent narrative to promote its factual reality to the world.
In his address to inaugurate the conference, PM Khan said that it is vital to understand that the concept of national security needs to be more comprehensive, covering a broad range of areas and not just restricted to defense. “National security is also about non-traditional issues like climate change and food security which threaten Pakistan and its overall security,” said the premier. He spoke at length about these challenges and said that solving these issues would be the country’s top priority.
His ministers and others echoed his thoughts in subsequent sessions as Commerce Advisor Abdul Razak Dawood emphasized the importance of a strong economy to enhancing a country’s power and strengthening national security. Addressing the second session of the Dialogue titled “Economic Security at the Core”, he stated that Industrial, Energy, Food, Connectivity, Financial Security and Economic Diplomacy are pillars of Pakistan’s economic security and that history has shown that economic backwardness leads to social conflicts and political turmoil and thus weakens national security.
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Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam, while addressing the session titled ‘Responsibility Within: Instituting a Human Security Paradigm’, stated that Pakistan needed to focus on climate change adaptation to ensure human security in the current era of mounting environmental degradation.
Demographic security should be at the core of the human security paradigm, and there needs to be a paradigm shift in governance to ensure credible utilization of resources, stated SAPM on Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar while delivering her keynote address on ‘Poverty Alleviation: Casting Safety Net.
The coup d’ etat was the speech made by COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who touched upon several points, Pakistan’s vital geostrategic location, regional connectivity, and seeing Pakistan outside the CPEC prism. He presented four clear points necessary for Pakistan to enhance its national security and it was clear he believed that economic strength was crucial for all fronts.
However, it was his comments on India and ‘Pakistan putting its house in order’ that had social media buzzing. When talking about Pakistan’s relations with India, he said that it’s about time that both India and Pakistan bury the past and move on. Though, he added that for the resumption of the peace process or meaningful dialogue, India would have to create a conducive environment, particularly in Indian Illegally Occupied Kashmir.
He stated that Pakistan understood it was important to put its ‘house in order’, and having overcome the menace of terrorism, it was now working towards sustainable development and improving the economic conditions of under-developed areas. However, his point on the latter issue sparked a lively debate on social media questioning what was different about these comments and those spoken by ex-PM Nawaz Sharif during the Dawn Leaks.
Causing fewer sparks was the ever-smooth Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who highlighted Pakistan’s desire to steer clear from participating in geopolitical competition and rivalries, and instead opt for “co-existence and win-win cooperation.” A point echoed by Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed in the ‘Evolving World Order and Pakistan’ session, who stressed that connectivity with countries and regions is key to Pakistan’s foreign policy in the coming decade, with Pakistan having ‘strategic space’ to promote its vital interests.
Ambassador at Large Ali Jehangir Siddiqui touched on the hyper revolution brought about by technology and its disruption to the world order. He highlighted the importance of democratizing access to technology, both within countries and between the rich world and the poor and stated the benefits of doing so would outweigh any exploitation for hybrid warfare.
The Islamabad Security Dialogue was a great start – having conversations on issues that matter internally – the understanding that human security is essential for a strong, unified country – especially one subject to fifth-generation hybrid warfare – is a concept that was alien to the elite captured power rulers who governed the country earlier. Like the British PM Margaret Thatcher, who changed the whole political and economic landscape of the United Kingdom by the time she left power. There is now a complete consensus amongst the country’s institutions that economic and human welfare and peace are at the core of any national security.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has set this wider human security agenda on the Pakistani landscape. It is a concept that will now remain whoever comes to power. These conversations should continue and need to be openly debated without political acrimony. Whether this means that for a national consensus a grand national debate needs to be ignited is another question.
Internal conversations are extremely important and necessary; however, going forward with this initiative, it must come to its raison d’ etre, which SAPM Dr Moeed Yusuf beautifully laid out as explaining Pakistan’s story on issues. It can only be done by picking up issues of global concern; Climate change, Islamophobia, G20 Debt, and becoming thought leaders or policy generators in these areas.
These are the conversations we need to engage in with the world around us, and we look forward to an even more diverse and globally inclusive audience and speakers next year, bringing out in Ambassador Ali Jehangir Siddiqui’s words “Pakistan’s perspective on the region and the world.”
The two-day (March 17-18) Islamabad Security Dialogue was organized by the National Security Division (NSD) in collaboration with its Advisory Board, comprising five leading think tanks of the country, to engage the country’s influential research institutes in policymaking on domestic and international issues.
The think tanks included the Center for Aerospace and Security Studies (CASS), Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI), National Defence University (NDU) ‘s Institute of Strategic Studies, Research and Analysis (ISSRA), Institute of Strategic Studies (ISSI) and Institute of Regional Studies (IRS).
The conference comprised of five sessions covering themes catered to the multi-dimensional challenges that the country is facing today. With five sessions in total, the conference covered a whole range of issues concerning Pakistan, from understanding its ‘Comprehensive National Security’ and ‘Economic Security at the Core’ to how to create a Human Security Paradigm, Regional Peace and Security, Evolving World Order and Pakistan. Given it took place under Covid precautions, it was mostly an online affair, with most speakers being national interspersed with a few international speakers.