Reappraising the national security paradigm

.. by Raza Muhammad Khan

PAKISTAN has so far been able to deter war and protect its freedom and safety, against major external aggression, through a national security policy that is based on credible deterrence and defence. Our responses to Indian aerial bombing of Balakot and Iranian missile raid at Baluchistan were a demonstration of this strategy which re-established deterrence and prevented escalation. But since this posture is now well known to our nemesis, they have switched, since long, to low intensity conflict (LIC), comprising a series of sub-conventional, gradual, persistent, hostile actions including terrorism, to achieve their objectives.

This policy aims at our politico-military destabilization and attrition, perception manipulation through social media, to encourage anarchy and chaos like that witnessed on May 9, last year, wearing away our resolution and resistance and eventually getting us accustomed with this environment, through ‘thousands of cuts’. Thus, apparently, deterrence at this level of the threat spectrum is either eroded, missing or dysfunctional. This view is partially reinforced by the ‘Guardian’ and later the’ Washington Post’ revelations and incontrovertible evidence in April, about the murder of citizens of Pakistan and other countries, by Indian Intelligence agencies through state hired and sponsored criminals’ syndicates and global terrorists. These actions have been openly owned by Modi and his Defence Minister; by taking arrogant credit of their culpability and portrayal as daring leaders, to garner votes in the ongoing Indian elections.

Perhaps these reports were commissioned by the Indian government itself for political benefit, ignoring international implications with impunity. If so, such attitude itself should concern the world, particularly, the US, Canada, Australia, Pakistan and others. The timings of the foreign media reports also suggest their deliberate leakage, for contrary aims of a mild warning to Modi and to oblige him, through his re-election, to, use him later, for the known motives. Regardless of the forgoing, these stories have lent enough credence to what Pakistan has always been claiming; that the Modi regime is radical, rogue and complicit in LIC inside and outside Pakistan. There are four reasons why we haven’t been able to deter this mode of conflict: First; our archrivals recognize that our responses in this sphere, through social media, the NAP and the Provincial CTDs are primarily defensive, costly in blood and treasure and difficult to execute (barring cross-border actions against terrorists inside Afghanistan). While this strategy is working, but it has not reduced Indian Informational onslaught against our minds or rooted out terrorism, so far.

We are also aware that while this strategy is working, it has not reduced Indian efforts to hijack minds of our youth; or rooted out terrorism, so far. Second; the risks and costs of this response are perceived as low, tolerable vis-à-vis it’s benefits, and acceptable in a protracted conflict situation to the other side; Third; Modi has assumed that as a quid pro quo to his commitment to contain China, his Allies will condone his behaviour in this scenario. Fourth; our tolerance thresholds at the political level, about this form of aggression, have not been clearly and publicly communicated to our enemies. Considering the preceding factors, our strategy must be reoriented to deter these threats through a combination of political, diplomatic, legal, financial, military and cyber security means. At the top level, essential resources and direction must be provided to all elements of national power, for deterrence (which is psychological) and defence, (mainly physical), to safeguard us from this ominous shade of threat spectrum.

Additionally, the cost of such belligerence must be raised for the aggressors, to the extent that it hurts them more than what’s being inflicted on us. Our will and ability for this must be unambiguously relayed to India and its supporter and Afghanistan. We must pursue, hunt down, avenge, pre-empt and punish the master minds, financers, supporters and perpetrators of such aggression, inside and outside Pakistan. There may be risks and costs associated with this paradigm shift in our strategy, including escalation, but the status quo must be broken, and risks managed and calibrated, like we did, before Operations ‘Swift Retort’, and ‘Marg Bar Sarmachar’.

At the diplomat level, our national security policy must be visibly integrated and coordinated for collective action by China, Iran, UAE and Saudi Arabia, all of whom have economic stakes to protect, inside Pakistan. Further, consolidated dossier of evidences, gathered by Pakistan must be shared with the local and foreign media, UNSC and friendly countries to sensitize them about dangers to peace in the sub-continent and beyond, posed by states sponsoring terrorists. In the financial domain, besides other measures, money laundering transactions by India traced so far, through which mercenaries were paid for murders and sabotage inside Pakistan and elsewhere, must be shared with the FATF secretariat, its key members and the media, for blacklisting and censuring India.

Recourse to legal actions must encompass registering premeditated murder cases against senior Indian officials, for killing Pakistani citizens, at the International Criminal Court, in collaboration with aggrieved families abroad. If needed, new legislation, to award timely and deterrent punishment to foreign and domestic terrorists and ‘anarchists’ must be a part of these actions. Greater budget allocations to counter Indian Informational war; and to frontline provinces of KP and Balochistan by the federation is now a compulsion. It’s also imperative that the provinces enhance their CTDs capacity to deter and defeat terrorists. Once deterrence is re-established, through these measures, the cost of defence against multi-directional threats will significantly dimmish.

Only with a combination of several proactive measures, can we hope to defend our digital domain, stabilize our borders with Afghanistan and ensure security of foreign investments (in Gwadar, CPEC, Reko Diq, Saindak, Diamir-Bhasha projects and other mega initiatives of the SIFC). A safe environment for foreign investment could improve our economy and reduce our dependence on external loans which will, in turn, strengthen national security in real terms. Finally, this appraisal has proffered some bold but necessary and cost-effective approaches for peace and prosperity of Pakistan, hoping that these would also restore regional harmony and balance, along with global norms of responsible conduct.
—The writer is the former President of the NDU.   Email: [email protected]

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