Pakistan’s National Security Policy—Old Wine In New Bottle Or A New Blend

Pakistan’s National Security Policy—Old Wine In New Bottle Or A New Blend

Pakistan today finds itself in a situation where its external and internal circumstances have changed completely. It does not enjoy the same camaraderie with America as it used to a decade ago. After American withdrawal from Afghanistan, Pakistan is of little use to America. Pakistan’s economy is in dire straits.

Years of funding terrorism and maintaining terrorist organizations has completely eroded the social harmony in the country, which is a prerequisite for economic growth. Its chickens have come home to roost. Pakistan is in a fix as to how to navigate this dangerous situation.

The only plausible solution suggests a course correction, but it involves considerable political risk. But not changing its present course carries more significant risks. It is this kind of predicament that egged Pakistan to change its old posture vis-à-vis India and its old ally America along with making amends with Russia.

This changed posture was recently articulated in its first “citizen-centric” National Security Policy.


Pakistan recently released its first coded document on national security. The document has put up many interesting points for debate and discussion. It seems the former Pakistan cricket captain Imran Khan, now the Prime Minister of the country, is preparing for a different kind of test match with India—one hundred years of peace with India. This is a different kind of century he has set his heart on.

At least on paper, this is what the document intends to achieve. But the world cup-winning cricket captain is on a sticky wicket on this issue as the biggest threats to peace are playing on his team.

Cross-border terrorism, funded and supported by the Pakistani Deep State, is the reason why there is no peace between India and Pakistan. People who drafted Pakistan’s much-touted national security policy seem to have overlooked this small detail.

It talks about a century of peace with India, but it betrays their obsession with Kashmir. Is it a gimmick or a lie or both? A closer perusal is warranted.

The document is 100 pages long—55 of them have been made public; the rest is classified. The policy covers a 5-year period between 2022-2026. As usual, the strategic establishment in India is both bemused and circumspect.

The suspicion is based on ground realities and past experiences. When it comes to Pakistan, the last word is always of the Pakistan Army. What the Pakistan Army thinks is the priority, and what it does is policy. Moreover, the Pakistan Army has a history of stabbing in the back.

When Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was taking a bus trip to Lahore to mend ties between the two countries, the Pakistan Army was undertaking a secret incursion into the Indian territory in the Kargil sector to take back Kashmir. Naturally, the security establishment has given a lukewarm response to the document.

The world is well aware of the Pakistan Army’s predilections. Then why this farce of a national security policy is the question that comes up in our minds. Nevertheless, since Pakistan has come up with a policy, there is a need to read it threadbare to find out whether there is a real change of heart or this is just old wine in new bottle. 

According to Imran Khan, this policy is all about the economy. This is not surprising given the precarious condition the Pakistan economy finds itself in. After 22 IMF bailouts, Pakistan has finally realized that financial security is the key to all security. The reality that without adequate foreign exchange reserve, the Pakistan Rupee will continue to lose its purchasing power seems to have hit home.

Reading between the lines, the document squarely blames India for all of Pakistan’s economic woes. Their trade and connectivity plans are on hold because India is not helping. Their strategic stability is off balance because India’s nuclear arsenal is growing. Their look-east diplomacy is not rolling out properly because of India’s obstructive behavior. The semantics are cliched.

They are parroting the same old grudge against India—we want talks but India is unwilling. The document states that Pakistan believes in resolving all outstanding issues with dialogue; however, certain recent Indian actions remain significant hurdles in that direction.

The obvious reference here is to the abolition of Article 370 and altering of Jammu and Kashmir statehood. Kashmir has been circled out as the fulcrum of India-Pakistan relations. The document blames India for spreading disinformation against Pakistan, for starting an arms race in the region, and also for false propaganda.

At the same time, Pakistan wants to trade with India. It is estimated that bilateral trade between India and Pakistan can go up to the tune of $10 billion to $20 billion. Pakistan needs that money to set its economy right and pay off the huge debts that it has borrowed in the past.

There is a clear and concerted effort to de-hyphenate trade and security-related issues like terrorism. Prime Minister Modi had made it amply clear to his Pakistani counterpart that trade and terrorism cannot go together. The Uri surgical strike and the Balakot airstrike are milestones in this regard. Relationships are not built this way. It is not possible to have prosperity without peace.

This is all very well known to Pakistan. Then, is the whole exercise of a national security policy and this change of heart a big farce. Recently, the Indian Army chief General Naravane said that Pakistan is hosting around 400 terrorists at border launch pads who will be pushed into Kashmir after the winter is over.

They are being trained for attack and infiltration. This is no way to to build trade and peace.

They also changed their stance with regards to their old benefactor, the USA. The document states that Pakistan does not subscribe to camp politics, which is an obvious reference to the fact that the ties between the countries are not what they used to be. The sentiment is reciprocated across the Atlantic as the USA does not count on Pakistan as a reliable partner in the region anymore.

Pakistan has gone ahead and become a colony of China, describing their relationship as sweeter than honey and stronger than iron. The CPEC has been declared as a national asset with the proclamation that it enjoys national consensus, notwithstanding widespread protest against it in Balochistan, resulting in violence and death of Chinese engineers working there.

The document states that Pakistan wants to reimagine its ties with Russia even though the document does not contain even a separate section for Moscow. They have been clubbed together with Central Asia.

Historically, Pakistan and Russia have never been close and generally have been geopolitical opponents, especially during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

Afghanistan still continues to be Pakistan’s trump card as far as its ties with Central Asian nations is concerned. Moscow wants stability in Kabul, and Pakistan thinks it can guarantee that and use it as a leverage to improve its ties with Russia.  

The document offers nothing new. The critics point out that the policy paper offers no roadmap to achieve the goals stated in it. Pakistan needs to realize that peace is not some distant goal to be reached.

Peace is a continuous and steady process that is achieved through sincere and meticulous efforts over a period of time. Only good intentions mentioned in a piece of paper will not suffice. They have to be backed by honest actions. As they say, the path to hell is paved with good intentions.

edited and proofread by nikita sharma

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button