Emerging new security challenges for Pakistan
CAN Pakistan overcome new security challenges which are emanating from changing regional security landscape and internal discords? Externally, Pakistan faces new security threats from looming civil war in Afghanistan, shifting global power dynamics and China-US power competition, growing Indo-US strategic partnership, changing nature and characteristics of the Indian state, advancing technology and cyber threats, navigating new geopolitics of the region, and emerging trans-boundary terrorism challenges.As civil war looms in Afghanistan, it will create security challenges for Pakistan.
The fallout of Afghanistan civil war can be refugee influx in the KP and Baluchistan, which have already been volatile provinces of the country. The more Afghan exodus reaches in these two provinces, the greater economic pain will be felt.
Consequently, conflict escalates over meagre resources—especially water and food—between different segments of society, creating new theatre of contest in both provinces of the country.
Moreover, the Afghan Taliban, as advancing to take over Afghanistan, emboldens other extremist groups such as the TTP and the ISIS to increase their terrorist activities in Pakistan, thereby disrupting hardly achieved internal peace and stability.
With shifting winds of power from West to East, Pakistan, owing to its geostrategic location, will find itself in the eye of geopolitical storm of India-US power competition.
Pakistan’s balancing approach toward the US and China is no longer workable; it has to make a strategic choice between Washington and Beijing as both powers’ growing competition is compressing time and space for Islamabad.
Obviously, by aligning with either of the two great powers, Pakistan will confront with new security challenges because great powers can cloud the strategic environment of the region. Growing Indo-US strategic romance can greatly affect the regional strategic stability.
To contain China, the US has forged strategic alliance with India; both countries have increased their military collaboration.
Despite nuclear deterrence, strategic balance in the region will tilt in favour of India provided that Washington throws its strategic weight behind New Delhi to obstruct Beijing’s regional outreach.
As a result, Pakistan will be at disadvantaged position as the regional balance of power shifts against it, while India is radically transforming internally.
Notwithstanding India has claimed to be a secular and democratic country, power usurpation by the BJP-RSS cohort, with ultranationalist sentiments, has changed the nature and characteristics of the Indian State.
The moderate and secular impulse of the country has stopped working; India is now becoming a dangerous radical country with increasing extremist tendencies in both government and media.
This ideological change in India has brought about the Pulwama-Balakot crisis, which has increased the risk of nuclear escalation between the two nuclear armed countries.
Ideological shift in India, as it has been taking place since the BJP has come to power, would have horrendous repercussions for the regional peace. It increases the risk of strategic miscalculation by affecting crisis as well as deterrence stability.
However, technological advancement is critical for modern development. But it has security implications, too. Artificial intelligence and cyber security advancement by adversary put the vulnerable country at risk.
India’s primacy in the IT sector creates national security challenges for Pakistan because New Delhi attempts to use its technological superiority to carry out cyber attacks against Islamabad.
Critical communication networks will be disrupted that certainly results in the breach of national security data by putting all security installations, banking systems and information sectors at risk.
Besides, information warfare and cyber terrorism are also woven into global technological landscape.
Moreover, shifting sands of regional geopolitics puts stress on the country’s national security.
Navigating these troubled waters will not be as smooth as it seems since geopolitical transformation is occurring in Pakistan’s neighbourhood and beyond.
Militant groups at the helm of affairs in Afghanistan, Indo-US strategic alignment, Indo-Israel bonhomie, Saudi-Iran discontent, Arab normalization with Israel, great powers competition at the Indo-Pacific region, Russia’s return to South Asia and China’s quest to be the next global superpower are critical developments which can be a litmus test for Pakistan’s national security.
Although Pakistan has succeeded in eliminating terrorist networks by launching several military operations at conflict ridden areas of the country, terrorist outfits have flown to Afghanistan and other neighbouring countries from where they operate and carry out sporadic terrorist activities in Pakistan.
Religious and nationalist banned militant organizations tend to launch attacks on Pakistani soil by hiding in neighbouring countries.
Recent mounting terrorist activities in the country signify that new security threats are emerging from trans-boundary terrorist operations.
Internally, identity crisis, ethno-nationalism, extremism, deteriorating state-society relations, political polarization, contest over inter-provincial water resources and socio-economic insecurity are critical challenges for country’s national security.
These challenges can stymie Pakistan’s economic progress and political stability which are crucial for internal cohesion and national harmony.
Both external and internal security threats deserve indiscriminate attention. Pakistan can overcome external challenges by crafting proactive foreign policy measures in order to protect its national interests.
Pakistan’s geo-economic shift is a significant policy initiative that will help the country in steering out of new geopolitical crisis.
Besides, appreciating diversity, getting rid of extremism, making equal distribution of resources, promoting democratic culture, and educating the youth can be panacea to these security challenges.
—The writer is a strategic affairs and foreign policy analyst.