Changing geo-strategic environment: Pakistan’s national security in quagmire
THE Security landscape of Pakistan is in quagmire and the state is walking on a tightrope trying to pursue its strategic partnership with China and keeping its relations with the United States on a positive trajectory. The State is also dealing with internal matters of political instability, economic repression and resurge in terrorist activities. The geo-strategic location of Pakistan makes it a significant player in South Asia bordering with two great powers — China and India. The global great power politics and strategic nexus between the US and India pose a challenge to its National Security as well as to its vested interests on the regional chessboard. Hence, strategic moves of Pakistan should be rationally and diplomatically designed.
As in December 2021, Pakistan presented its first National Security Policy which expanded the state’s focus from traditional security to non-traditional issues. The policy identified various security domains that Pakistan will be looking at in the next five years. Pakistan’s security policy shifted from the narrow clutches of military security towards human security. Hence, geo-strategic environment demands a balanced approach between both military security and economic security.
The Washington’s National Security Strategy 2022 highlights the interest of the United States in the Indo-Pacific region. The US views China as the only power which has the will and capability to change the International world order according to its interests. The Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin reiterated, “China is a threat to the US interest despite Russia’s war and we’ll not let China change the status quo”. According to him, “China is the only competitor out there with both the intent to reshape the international order and increasingly the power to do so”.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman, Mao Ning, has accused Washington of “cold war thinking and zero sum game sensationalizing geopolitical conflicts and great power competition”. The US China rivalry and pledge of US to contain China through external alliances like QUAD and AUKUS makes the strategic environment vulnerable for Pakistan. Pakistan has been caught in this quagmire where it has to maintain balance in its strategic partnership with China and maintain good relations with the US.
Tilting on one side will be a strategic mistake and hence calculated moves are required to prevent direct involvement in superpower rivalry and competition. The hegemony of the US in International Monetary Forum (IMF) and Pakistan’s dependence on such organizations demands a stable relation with the US. With China, Pakistan shares a relation sweeter than honey and higher than Himalayas and, therefore, should focus on the successful completion of CPEC projects and joint cooperation in other sectors.
The traditional security landscape demands that Pakistan should focus on military modernization to deter the Indian aggressive designs in the region and maintaining strong relationship with great powers. But Pakistan lacks financial resources amidst the economic crisis. However, non-traditional issues are also on the rise in Pakistan with dwindling economic reserves, political instability, growing polarization, societal unrest, ethnic divide and food crisis and resurge in terrorism, target killing, unresolved conflict and unrest on Afghan border. These internal and external security issues determine the critical political and security landscape of the country.
This demands a holistic implementation of National Security Strategy-2022 where Pakistan has to focus on both traditional and non-traditional threats along with keeping the internal house in order. The political stability coupled with economic stability, improved civil-military relations and effective counter-terrorism strategies are necessary for internal order. And externally, Pakistan has to stay neutral and pursue its interests by creating convergences and opportunities for both powers to resolve their matters amicably. Hence, internal stability is very significant for external geo-strategic environment.