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Monday Morning Webinar on Pakistan’s National Security Policy 2022-2026: An Assessment

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  • January 31, 2022
    Monday Morning Meeting

    Event Report

    Col. Guriqbal Singh Gill, spoke on the topic “Pakistan’s National Security Policy 2022-2026: An Assessment” at the Monday Morning Webinar held on 31 January 2022 at 10 AM. The session was chaired by Dr. Ashok K. Behuria and was attended by Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy, Director General, MP-IDSA, Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Bipin Bakshi, Deputy Director General, MP-IDSA, senior scholars & research analysts of MP-IDSA.

    Executive Summary

    On 14 January 2022 the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Imran Khan launched his nation’s first ever National Security Policy (NSP). The launch of this NSP comes at a time when Pakistan’s image in the international community has been deteriorating due to its support for terrorism and the economic crisis that it has been facing internally. This document however indicates a shift in Pakistan’s perception about national security as it focuses more on the non-traditional aspects of security like economic and human security than the traditional aspects of security like external aggression. Recent developments in the Af-Pak region including the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the internal security threats posed by Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP) and Baloch separatists have influenced the drafting of the NSP. The document also focuses on aspects like improving national cohesion through the promotion of inclusive economic growth in the underdeveloped regions within Pakistan. The document reflects Pakistan’s insecurities with India’s superior military capabilities and India seeking the role of a Net Security Provider for South Asia and the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). The document classifies enhancing economic security as Pakistan’s medium term objective and ensuring comprehensive security as its long term objective. The document puts Pakistan’s relationship with China on a high pedestal and indicates Pakistan’s estrangement from its strategic partnership with the US.

    The document despite adopting a comprehensive outlook towards national security ignores the practical realities and challenges that confront Pakistan. Although the document lays down certain policy objectives it fails to provide any mechanism for the implementation or execution of these objectives. As a result of this, the document appears to be more of a perception management exercise by Pakistan as it faces a negative image externally and economic uncertainties internally. The document does not adequately address the issue of terrorism due to which bilateral relations between India and Pakistan have been suffering for a long time. As a result, the document is unlikely to bring any significant change in Pakistan’s attitude towards India nor does it indicate Pakistan abandoning the use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy.

    Detailed Report

    Dr. Ashok K. Behuria, Senior Fellow, MP-IDSA commenced the session by giving a brief overview of the recently released “Pakistan’s National Security Policy 2022-2026.” He stated that the document puts a lot of emphasis on the economic and human security aspects of national security. Dr. Behuria described the document as containing a blend of realism and neo-liberalism oriented aspects like economic interdependence and hard security issues. He stated that although the document claims to focus on improving economic connectivity in the region it does not present any clear road map to achieve the same. He further commented that the anodyne pronouncements given in the document reveal the biases and disillusionment of Pakistan’s deep state. With these opening remarks, Dr. Behuria invited Col. Guriqbal Singh Gill to give his presentation on the Assessment of Pakistan’s NSP.

    Col. Guriqbal Singh Gill began his presentation by defining the concept of National Security as a multifaceted concept that encompasses all aspects of security for a nation-state, its citizens, economic interests and institutions. He stated that an NSP document provides guidelines for the government to address the security needs of the people and the state. He stated such documents essentially reflect the views of the respective Government and its institutions.       Col. Gill pointed out the fact that the common traits of such documents comprise of three key elements that include a state’s vision of the international system, threat assessment and delegation of functional responsibilities of each implementing authority.

    Col. Gill then gave a brief background of the various factors that prompted the Pakistani Government to release the draft of the NSP. He stated the most important factor was the developments in the Af-Pak region including the fall of the Western-backed Afghan government and Pakistan’s open support to the Taliban that has resulted in generating a negative image of Pakistan by the Western media. The second factor is the deteriorating relations with the US post its withdrawal from Afghanistan. Col. Gill mentioned the security issues threatening the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the struggling Pakistani economy that requires International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout as other contributing factors. Apart from this security factors like the external threat from India, internal threats from Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) & Baloch separatist movements and issues on the domestic political front are other aspects that have influenced the NSP.

    Analysing the contents of the document Col. Gill stated the eight sections of the document focused on aspects like policy formulation, national security framework, national cohesion, economic issues, territorial integrity, internal security, foreign policy and human security. He pointed out that the second section on the national security framework is one of the most important sections as it reflects the challenges and changes in the strategic thinking of Pakistan. Col. Gill brought out the fact that economic security has been made the cornerstone of the national security framework and the document indicates a possible psychological shift in Pakistan’s national consciousness. The second section dwells upon the emerging non-traditional threats like terrorism and economic vulnerabilities. The document reveals that Pakistan views the enhancement of economic security as its medium-term objective and ensuring comprehensive security as its long-term objective. Col. Gill brought out that the third section on national cohesion is unique as it provides certain policy guidelines which the other sections lack. These policy guidelines focus on the need to achieve national cohesion through inclusive economic growth in the underdeveloped areas within Pakistan. He also stated that the details for execution of these policy guidelines have not been mentioned. Col. Gill explained that the fourth section deals with charting a roadmap towards securing the economic future of Pakistan. This section points out external imbalances, vertical and horizontal inequalities as the key challenges that threaten Pakistan’s economic future.

    The fifth section on defence and territorial integrity focuses on aspects like border management and conventional military threats. Col. Gill stated that managing Pakistan’s border issues across the Line of Control (LOC) with India and the Durand Line with Afghanistan are the key issues of this section. He pointed out that although this section deals with important security aspects for Pakistan such as contestation in the Indian Ocean, India’s nuclear triad, space, information and cyber security threats, but it lacks a detailed assessment as it is covered within ninety words. Section six on internal security focuses on threats from terrorism to the development initiatives denoting threats to CPEC, hostile intelligence agencies, the role of extremism and sectarianism. He stated that although Pakistan has described internal security threats as its biggest challenge but those aspects have been already dealt in the 2016 national action plan published after the attack on the Peshawar Army School. Explaining the seventh section on foreign policy Col.Gill stated that Pakistan labels China, Iran and Afghanistan as friendly countries. Regarding India, there is a brief reference to Jammu & Kashmir and the revocation of article 370 in 2019.  He described the entire section as a PR exercise to project a positive image of Pakistan internationally. The final section dealing with human security aspects like population, healthcare, climate, water, food and gender security has been described by             Col. Gill as an attempt by the Pakistan government to give the document a comprehensive outlook.

    Summarising his presentation Col.Gill described the NSP document as a perception management exercise as Pakistan’s image has taken a beating over the last couple of years. He stated that there has been some signalling towards India in terms of one step forward and one step back. Also, China has been put on a higher pedestal and US has been put along with the rest of the World citing cooperation beyond combating terrorism. He pointed out that the emphasis on the economy and internal issues indicate that Pakistan is looking inwards due to the extensive economic crisis it faces. Col.Gill stated that India should not lose sight of the fact that the Pakistan Military had sought a ceasefire last year and is reaping its benefits. He brought out the fact that the Indian Army Chief has spoken positively about the resolution of the Siachen Issue during his Army Day press conference and India has also recently asked for the scope to expand religious tourism in its communication to the Pakistani Government.

    During the panel discussion Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy described the release of Pakistan’s NSP document as a window-dressing exercise due to the imprimatur of the academic styled document lacking any practitioner’s inputs on the practical realities and challenges. He stated when India and Pakistan became independent in 1947, there was a positive view that both nations would share a harmonious future but this view was short-lived with Pakistan’s invasion into Kashmir months after Independence. Recalling Ayub Khan’s offer for a no-war pact with India that had the conditionality for resolution of the Kashmir dispute and Indus Water sharing issue, the Director General pointed out that any attempt to establish enduring peace with Pakistan had been impeded by the Kashmir issue. He further stated that the policy document does not adequately address the issue of terrorism that India constantly faces in its relationship with Pakistan. The Director General brought out that the document reflects Pakistan’s drifting away from its strategic relations with the US and its increasing affinity with China. He also noted that the document did not sufficiently cover Afghanistan beyond referring to it as a gateway to Central Asia for Pakistan and did not dwell upon the strategic significance of the greater Af-Pak region in connecting South Asia with Central Asia. He stated that the document is more of an internal perception building effort taking into context the upcoming Pakistani General Elections in 2023.

    Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Bipin Bakshi, stated that despite the criticism of the document for being more theoretical and lacking policy guidelines, the attempt to articulate Pakistan’s wider security interests and threat perception can be commended. He stated that Pakistan’s shift from focusing on traditional security issues to human security issues which has been reflected in the NSP is a positive development. The document’s mention of India’s nuclear triad and the technological advances is a reflection of Pakistan’s fear of India’s superior military capabilities. The Deputy Director General stated that the existing ceasefire benefits Pakistan as it has been able to facilitate infiltrations without the fear of Indian retaliation. Col. Vivek Chadha, Research Fellow, MP-IDSA stated that the document does not reflect the reality and is unlikely to bring about any major changes in Pakistan’s attitude towards India.

    During the Q&A session responding to a question posed by the Deputy Director General on Pakistan gaining from the ceasefire along the LOC, Col. Gill said due to the overwhelming firepower of the Indian Army the Pakistani Military had been under severe stress. He agreed with the DDG that the ceasefire is detrimental to India as it has provided Pakistan with the impunity and freedom to push in infiltrators across the LOC without any counteractions from the Indian side. To a question on reactions of nations like the US, China, Turkey and Malaysia to Pakistan’s NSP, Col. Gill responded by saying that there has been no reaction from either the US or China and any other Islamic States including Malaysia and Turkey. Responding to a question on the necessity for India to draft an NSP, Col. Gill stated that it is necessary to have political consensus to identify a nation’s security challenges on paper and to have clarity on the military policy which will ensure the right allocation of resources towards national security.

    Key Takeaways –

    • The document reflects a shift in Pakistan’s focus from traditional security issues to non-traditional security issues like Economic and Human Security.
    • Although the document provides some policy guidelines to achieve its stated objectives but it does not lay down any clear mechanism for its implementation or execution.
    • The document reveals Pakistan’s insecurities against India’s superior military capability and at the same time lays emphasis on aspects of non-traditional security.
    • The Document puts China on a higher pedestal and indicates Pakistan’s drifting away from its strategic partnership with the US.
    • The release of the document can be considered as a perception management exercise due to the negative image of Pakistan in the International community.

    Report prepared by Dr. R.Vignesh, Research Analyst, Military Affairs Centre, MP-IDSA