Pakistan’s NSP: Turning point in Indo-Pak relations | By Dost Muhammad Barrech


Pakistan’s NSP: Turning point in Indo-Pak relations

PRIME Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan on January 14, 2022, unveiled Pakistan’s new National Security Policy (NSP).

The policy is considered in various academic and political circles as a fresh approach aimed at refurbishing the conventional thought process involved in imagining Pakistan’s National Security Framework.

New NSP will primarily remain citizen-centric, cementing the economy, developing cordial ties with India and coping with the non-traditional threatsUnlike the security policy frameworks of the past, the new NSP has hugely shifted its emphasis from geostrategic to geo-economic domain.

However, one particular element of the bill which has sparked a well-anticipated debate is Pakistan’s take on how it will rethink its relations with India.

The recent past has witnessed that India has been accelerating its capabilities to counter both China and Pakistan in the region.

Despite this, NSP specifically stresses Pakistan’s commitment to developing cordial ties with India.

Arguably, imminent non-traditional threats to both states such as climate change, water scarcity, food scarcity and Covid-19 are bigger than imaginary traditional threats.

New Delhi should jump at the opportunity by making friendly relations with Islamabad to tackle non-traditional threats.

The two countries are grappling with non-traditional security threats.Droughts and late monsoon floods have started to cause low yields and human security issues.

Both India and Pakistan ought to be prepared in the foreseeable future for the non-traditional threats like pandemic disease and climate change caused by the prevailing exploitive capitalist system of the world that goes against the law of nature.

Nature certainly will take revenge on us in the shape of pandemic diseases and climate change.

More than 600 million Indians struggle with drought and India’s groundwater is depleting at a rapid pace.

The country remains the largest user of groundwater in the world.By 2030 more than 40 per cent of Indians will not have access to drinking water.

Alarmingly, more than 200,000 Indians die every year due to undrinkable water.

Meanwhile, Pakistan will become a water-scarce country by 2025, the 7th most vulnerable country to climate change.

Exploding populations and gradual degradation of the environment will cause imminent challenges.

Both countries faced further repression amid Covid-19.The two countries need to start climate diplomacy.

The Indus Water Treaty needs to be revised and renegotiated in a way that would also incorporate the factor of climate change and pollution on the Indus River.

In this backdrop, Pakistan has realized the exigency of having a friendly relationship with India through NSP.

Collective efforts and agreements between India and Pakistan are needed, like the Sino-Japanese environmental cooperation, to devise ways to address climatic challenges.

Both countries can cooperate on matters like reforestation and switch to green economies by relinquishing inefficient fuel sources.

Both can work together to domestically establish alternative efficient energy sources.According to a 2018 World Bank report, Pakistan-India trade has the potential to increase from USD 2 billion to USD 37 billion.

It is possible only if both countries take steps towards removing tariff and non-tariff barriers such as sensitive lists, strict visa policies, strict quality standards and lengthy procedures and waiting periods at the border.

Ironically, trade by other means (illegal trade practices like smuggling) is huge between the two and is estimated to be around USD10 billion dollars annually.

Stephen Cohen in his classic book “Shooting for a Century: The India-Pakistan Conundrum” has drawn a pessimistic picture of Indo-Pak relations.

He placed the mutual rivalry between both among the 5% conflicts in the world which cannot be resolved.

He also states that this region is among the least economically integrated regions in the world.

Let’s hope that NSP will morph Cohen’s pessimism into optimism.The opening of the Kartarpur Corridor in 2019 by Pakistan was a positive step in this direction.

Nearly 45,000 Indian pilgrims have been visiting Kartarpur since its opening on November 9, 2019.

Both countries can also capitalize on opening another such corridor in Sindh to exploit the Sufi shrines of Sindh for Indian Muslims.

Indians should be allowed to Mohenjo-Daro Larkana, the largest city of the Indus civilization, which remains one of the favourite places for them.

Visiting Mohenjo-Daro is an unfulfilled dream of Indians that could be fulfilled under a new corridor in Sindh.

If corridors like China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Kartarpur are possible, why can’t Pakistan and India initiate an economic corridor to nip the hostility in the bud?

Arguably, threat perception in international politics is socially constructed.Alexander Wendt rightly says that “anarchy is what states make of it”.

According to constructivists, enmity, friendship and sovereignty of the states are socially constructed.

Traditional security in the lexicon of constructivists is manmade and imaginary that can be altered into friendship.

Let’s construct a new chapter of friendship.The construction of enmity gave us wars, destruction, hatred, poverty and left us far behind in the era of science & technology.

The 74 years of enmity of India and Pakistan in the context of NSP can be re-constructed into durable friendship.

—The writer is a Research Associate at India Study Centre, Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad.


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