National Security Policy of Pakistan 2022-2026 – An appraisal – The Express Tribune

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The much-touted National Security Policy of Pakistan (NSP) 2022-2026 is out after much fanfare
Finally, the much-touted National Security Policy of Pakistan (NSP) 2022-2026 is out after much fanfare. The public version is a 62-page document, released by the National Security Division (NSD) that contains eight sections with an executive summary.
The document is claimed to be ‘Pakistan’s first national security policy document’ which is debatable. Each year the participants of National Defence University (NDU) Course and Armed Forces War Course (AFWC) jointly produce a National Security Paper (NSP) as an end-product of the yearlong course at the NDU, that is presented to the political and military leadership of the country, including the Prime Minister, President, CJCSC and Service Chiefs. There have been repeated attempts by the NDU and the military at articulating the ‘Defence Policy of Pakistan’ and providing enough lead towards formulation of its parent document, the NSP.
The NSP 2022-2026 seeks to “co-locate Pakistan in emerging global trends and identifies policy objectives and priority areas” under a prevalent and foreseeable global and regional environment. It claims to articulate ‘a citizen-centric ‘Comprehensive National Security’ framework for Pakistan’ that aims to ‘ensure the safety, security, dignity, and prosperity of our people’…indeed a very tall claim.
The NSP tries to recognise both ‘traditional and non-traditional security aspects’ or threats (as the military calls them). It places ‘economic security’ at the core of ‘comprehensive national security’ that any environment-savvy policy framework would do. It does not claim to replace geopolitics with geoeconomics, but realises their complementing roles. It attests to the fact that a stronger economy affords a robust security by allocating more resources to national security and defence.
The document appreciates the ‘symbiotic relationship between economic, traditional, and human security’ under an evolving environment containing ‘multiple centres of economic and military power’ in the contemporary global landscape that is drifting towards multipolarity. It identifies Pakistan’s geostrategic location, its proximity to the global flashpoints and the ongoing global competition, something that is described as our ‘negative relevance’ to the regional and global power construct. However, the caution for proactivity and ‘forward-looking approach’ for the policy makers is urgently in order. One hopes, this distills into actionable steps to remain in step with the ‘fluid global environment’ improving our external relations as well as internal security and societal harmony.
Read more: Economy and national security
Understandably this public-release document does not talk about specifics of prevalent and foreseeable domestic, regional and global security environment; Pakistan’s national interests (vital, primary, secondary, peripheral, constant and variable) and the broad framework of protecting these. The various policies like defence policy, economic policy, foreign policy and internal policy etc, that will flow from this mother document, are expected to cover the same in greater detail.
The NSP is an attempt to ‘provide an insight [to the general public] into the overall vision and direction of the country’s national security’ as it claims. One hopes, the civil-military synergy that went to create this document, has followed the more rigorous approach of identifying the hierarchy of national purpose, aims, objectives, interests etc that has been taught to generations of policy makers at the NDU.
More specifically beyond the generalities of the ‘need’ for an NSP, its ‘process’ and periodic review in Sction I, the NSP talks about the national security vision, concept and principles for policy implementation in Section II. This Section follows six thematic sections. Opportunities for national cohesion and policy guidelines are identified in Section III. It is in Section IV, that the NSP dilates upon securing Pakistan’s economic future, identifying challenges and opportunities. Section V deals with defence and territorial integrity. Section VI discusses internal security. Major space is devoted to foreign policy in a changing global framework under Section VII. Human security is discussed in the last Section VIII. Some important takeaways.
There is nothing new in reiterating the lofty ideals of Pakistan ‘envisioned as an Islamic welfare state, internationally relevant and aligned with universal principles of justice, equality, and tolerance’ that ensures ‘fundamental rights and social justice without discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, or belief’.‘Unity in diversity’ is the Government’s guiding principle fornational cohesion/harmony.
Likewise, the tall claim of a citizen-centric approach as the PM writes in his message, and his fond reference to the ‘Riasat-e-Madina’ …one hopes are not rhetorical claims of a political dispensation given the recent disaster in Murree. Similarly, the claim in Section III about‘ making public service responsive to peoples’ needs would also be hollow without tangible difference on ground. The details contained in Section IV, titled ‘Securing our Economic Future’, including economic security through ‘trade, energy, education and human resource, and emerging technologies’ would also be seen in the light of PTI’s economic credentials… to be believed. The policy objective of joining the ‘upper middle-income countries’ in the stipulated timeframe (up to 2026) is also too wishful.
It is Section V that provides policy guidelines for ensuring ‘defence, deterrence, and territorial integrity, space and cyber security’. It tasks the military to ‘defend Pakistan’s territorial integrity at all costs’ and‘deter any aggression through a full spectrum deterrence’ including a credible minimum nuclear deterrence, without getting sucked in an arms race. It is good that now a more robust policy framework talks openly about coalescing both conventional and non-conventional means of deterring and fighting aggression.
Also read: New security policy seeks ‘peace’ with India
After highlighting ‘Internal Security’ challenges like terrorism, violent sub-nationalism, extremism and sectarianism, and organized crime in Section VI, the policy objectives include ‘writ of the state’ all across; prioritizing of fighting the cited challenges; ensuring rule of law and providing equal opportunities to the citizenry, through an ‘independent, expeditious, and citizen-focused justice system’. Again, a tall order.
Section VII on foreign policy emphasizes; ‘projecting Pakistan’s positive reality’. It identifies just and peaceful resolution of Kashmir dispute ‘a vital national security interest’; wishes to improve relations with India under centrality of Kashmir as core dispute; emphasizes promoting/supporting peace and stability in Afghanistan; underlines bilateral cooperation with China, welcoming FDI in CPEC-related and other projects; and improving border management, regional peace and intelligence sharing with Iran.
About the near abroad the NSP emphasizes mutual cooperation, and economic ties with GCC; fraternal ties with Saudi Arabia augmented by trade, investment, energy, defence, and cultural relationships. That Pakistan ‘fully’ commits to the security of ‘harmain’ and supports a ‘just and equitable two-state solution’ acceptable to Palestinians under the UN and OIC resolutions. NSP looks for furthering ‘bilateral economic linkages and defence cooperation’ with Turkey particularly, and West Asia in general.
While shunning ‘camp politics’ the NSP reiterates Pakistan’s continued cooperation with the US and diversification of relationship beyond the narrow counter-terrorism focus, looking at 'trade, investment, connectivity, energy, counter-terrorism, security, and intelligence cooperation’.
Pakistan is committed to further strengthening Pak-UK relationship ‘to explore new economic and trade initiatives post-Brexit’ besides counter-terrorism cooperation. Likewise, Pakistan looks for ‘cooperation in trade, industrialization, science and technology’ with European Union countries.
NSP pursues mutually beneficial relationships with Africa, Asia-Pacific, Australia, and Latin America, Asia-Pacific region, East Asia, ASEAN Nations, seeking to widenits ‘Engage Africa’ initiative.
Pakistan, recognizing the significance of multilateralism and international organizations like UN, WB and IMF etc ‘believes in an equitable and standards-based reform of multilateral structures’ to minimize exceptionalism and address collective interests of Global South. It remains committed to the ‘efficacy’ of OIC, SAARC, SCO and other forums.
Pakistan globally stands against injustice and xenophobia, building on being a leading voice against ‘Islamophobia, debt relief for developing countries, and the return of ill-gotten wealth from developed countries’. NSP outlines the climate change focus of the government.
Finally, Section VIII, titled ‘Human Security’, examines areas like population and migration and securities in health, climate, water, food and gender. Policy objectives identified are ‘climate resilient development; promoting sustainable agriculture to ensure availability and affordability of food; and the empowerment and inclusivity of women and transgender.
The Government sets ‘whole of govt approach’, inclusivity, self-confidence and resolve, introspection and pragmatism, proactiveness, prioritization and consistency as ‘principles of policy implementation’…good words only if not followed through.
As a whole, it is an impressive document on paper, fully loaded with jargons and phraseology, that arm-chair intellectuals and foreign educated PhDs are good at churning out. The credit is due for the National Security Division given the fact that for the first time, something that was understood has been committed to paper, as an official policy; providing an engine of moving forward and coalescing thought and action. This is also a first at informing the general public of something that was hidden from them and left to guess work. Students and academics hence have a mother document.
It would be interesting to see the various policies and their operationalization, that flow from NSP-1. A periodic informed review seems in order.
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