Pakistan’s New Security Policy – Imran’s Lost Opportunity

The Pakistan government has produced its National Security Policy (NSP). The 110-page document (only some fifty odd pages are put in the public domain) is a laboured effort at pump-priming a new narrative that presents Pakistan as the peacenik. 

“The lingering dispute over Kashmir with India is threatening ‘regional’ security but Pakistan doesn’t want to have war with India for the next 100 years,” says the document and offers a road map for peace — “settle the Kashmir issue.” In essence it is a call to India to hand over Jammu and Kashmir to the Islamic Republic if peace is desired.

This is the theme Pakistan has been articulating for a long while; as recently as early January, Army Chief Gen Bajwa said the same thing for the nth time. Therefore, by making Kashmir the peg of the New Security Policy, Pakistan has broken no new ground. Instead, it has made the document a laughable statement.

Policy planners in Pakistan have been talking about India’s ‘expansionist’ and ‘hegemonic’ policies. They acknowledge in the same breath that India had returned to Pakistan the territories it had won in the wars between the two countries.

So, why this double-speak?  Why this peddling of a monumental lie? 

Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is fretting and fuming with survival mantra on his lips amidst reports of a deal between his bête noire Nawaz Sharif and the Army, ducks these questions. So does the NSP.   

The NSP lets out a trade secret though. It is that Pakistan believes in eternal animosity with India. And that the Hindutva laced barbs come natural to the leadership.

Because both the GHQ in Rawalpindi and the ‘selected’ civilian leadership in the federal capital, Islamabad, know they will not have their way in sorting out the ‘core’ issue of Kashmir, whoever be the ruler in New Delhi.

Well, neither Prime Minister Imran Khan nor his Army chief Gen Bajwa can claim the copy right for the Pakistani mindset of a permanent state of animus with India. That credit goes to Zulifiqar Ali Bhutto, a mercurial maverick who took Pakistan down the hill with his love for half-baked socialism in the seventies. Pakistan is yet to recover from the economic disaster, he had perpetuated. 

Bhutto called Indians dogs from the floor of Security Council. And trashed the Shimla Agreement he had signed with India as a face saver at the end of 1971 war.  

Bhutto’s successors on the Islamabad perch have made him proud with their India bashing to please the Army Shura, who are the real masters of the land of the pure, as Pakistan has been describing itself right from the day it was carved out of British India in 1947 by the colonial masters.   

From Zardari to Nawaz Sharif every moderate leader has been forced to do a U-turn on dealing with India and on trade with India by the permanent establishment of the country. 

The short point is that National Security Policy pushes Pakistan deep in to a ‘self-denial mode,’ and fails to come to grips with the twin dangers -Mullah-Maulvi led Islamist radicalism and the state -aided and abetted terrorism export. 

Both dangers are posing an existential threat to Pakistan but the rulers and their backers have not given up their short-term pursuits.

It is this reality that makes the NSP a laughing    statement more so as it advocates platitudes for ‘good governance’, ‘desire for welfare state’, ‘prosperity through economic-human security’, ‘setting the house in order’, ‘peace with itself and others’ and ‘rule of law’. And encompasses obligatory sections on national cohesion, economy, defence, internal security, foreign policy, and human security.

At its core, the NSP is totally silent on re-organizing the existing civil-military balance, which has throttled democracy in the country. Also, on making a shift away from a military-centered approach, which has made the country the hub of terrorism, and ties with India a hostage to the GHQ priorities.

The NSP authors and their Khaki masters appear to have not heard Hillary Clinton’s advisory: “You can’t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbours. You know, eventually those snakes are going to turn on whoever has them in the backyard.”

No surprise, the NSP “reads like a singer starting off with a good melody but soon losing the tune,” as Ayesha Siddiqa, a noted Pakistani military analyst, says.   Difficult to disagree with her prognosis!  

Imran Khan is on the last leg of his term as Prime Minister. He can still hope to salvage the situation, if he focuses on giving good governance, and economic development. Both planks demand strong political will; it is not in sight.

Imran Khan appears to believe in bashing the Opposition and baiting India as recipe for his survival!  Like most fellow politicians, he too is refusing to look beyond his nose!   The ground is slipping under his feet in the meantime! 

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