Pakistan’s newly minted National Security Policy (NSP) underscores a shift in priority from geostrategy to geo-economics as its core objective. However, as attractive as the notion of geo-economics sounds, Pakistan’s neighborhood remains prone to geostrategic dynamics and thus it will be a daunting task for Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government to execute its NSP in letter and spirit.
No doubt, Pakistani policymakers have for long invested in hard power and helped raise a professional armed force. Pakistani scientists can manufacture conventional and nuclear weapons, and its military is confident it can defend the country from foreign aggression, especially from eastern neighbor India. However, Pakistan is lagging behind in the economic sector, and its human security indicators are equally unimpressive. These shortcomings undermine the country’s soft image and expose it to financial vulnerabilities.
Ironically, despite the gruesome traditional and non-traditional security challenges, the ruling elite has failed to provide a comprehensive national security policy during the last seven decades of the country’s existence. Therefore, the review processes and debates to systematically revamp and improve the national security policy were always missing.
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The federal cabinet approved Pakistan’s first-ever National Security Policy (NSP) 2022-2026 on December 28, 2021. The NSP is imperative for objectively debating the principal priorities and values that guide state security provision, management, and oversight. It is an official description of the threats and risks of the security environment and also spells out how the government aims to ensure the security of the people and the state.
The current government’s NSP announcement is a landmark initiative because it defines the national interest and strategy required to achieve those set goals. It is an encouraging development because now we have a single comprehensively written NSP document that encompasses traditional and non-traditional security challenges and their solutions.
The NSP introduced transparency in the security policy and provided an opportunity for security analysts to critically examine the policy and recommend practical solutions. Pakistani society’s security discourse will help form a consensus on the threat spectrum challenges and countermeasures.
Dr. Moeed Yusuf, National Security Adviser, claimed that Pakistan has shifted to a comprehensive national security framework to ensure citizens’ safety and security. He tweeted, “It is a truly historic achievement; a citizen-centric comprehensive National Security policy with economic security at the core will now be pursued in earnest.”
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The NSP also focuses on military, terrorism, water security, and population growth as a comprehensive policy. It also sheds light on foreign policy, particularly on issues relating to Kashmir and Afghanistan.
The NSP will assist in securitizing human security challenges, which were deliberately or inadvertently ignored in the past, and makes the people a real stakeholder in these matters. Without the active participation of the people, the government cannot resolve various non-traditional security challenges such as socio-political problems, environmental degradation, and pandemic diseases. In addition, the NSP certainly assists in adequately addressing the sectarian and ethnic cancers that have been haunting Pakistani society.
The NSP emphasis on economic security is a rational decision. Without financial well-being, the nation-state does not have a sovereign defense, a prerequisite for sovereign existence in the prevalent anarchical international system.
Pakistan has a troubled neighborhood. The current situation at its eastern and western borders is not reassuring for geo-economic pursuits. Islamabad cannot pursue its geo-economic goals without improving bilateral relations with India and driving the international community to improve economic stability in Afghanistan.
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Currently, the country is in immense need of colossal foreign direct investment. Admittedly, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the flagship project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, germinates optimism about infrastructure development. But without the investment of other technologically and economically advanced nations, the CPEC cannot flourish. The NSP, keeping economics as its primary focus, attracts foreign direct investment (FDI). It set the direction and highlighted that Pakistan is no more a garrison state. Thus, it enhances regional and international confidence and cooperation.
Realistically, Pakistan cannot exploit its geo-economic advantages without improving its national economic governance. However, inflation and the practice of various mafias hoarding basic commodities make people’s lives miserable.
To conclude, the NSP helps prioritize security puzzles and chalks out consensual countermeasures. Besides, it promises Pakistani citizens safety, prosperity, and well-being.
Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal is Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. Author of India’s Surgical Strike Stratagem: Brinksmanship and Response, (2019). He is also an advisor on Non-Proliferation to SASSI, London and a course coordinator at Foreign Services Academy for the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. This piece was first published in Arab News Pakistan. It has been republished with permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.