Published On: Fri, Dec 27th, 2013
Published in Category: Islamabad

Rethinking National Security of Pakistan: Challenges & Opportunities

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ISLAMABAD: On the occasion of 40 years of its founding, the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad (ISSI), organised a seminar on “Rethinking National Security of Pakistan: Challenges & Opportunities”.

While welcoming the guests, the Director General (ISSI) Rasul Bakhsh Rais said that it was sometime in 1972 that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the then President of Pakistan, gave the idea of establishing the Institute of Strategic Studies.

He read out a document where years back this decision of establishing a think tank was taken. He also showed a slideshow of the past 40 years of this prestigious institute.

In his keynote address, Sartaj Aziz said that Changes around the world have taken place at a very fast pace. Concepts like nation state and national sovereignty have eroded. Economic gravity is shifting to Asia. Rise of China is also a very important development.

Indian aspirations for global power and turmoil in Arab world are the events that Pakistan cannot take its eyes off. In the region, Pakistan enjoys good relations with China but has serious problems with India and Afghanistan. Uncertain situation in Afghanistan is a source of concern for Pakistan. Pakistan also has a problem of improving its image globally.

However, all these challenges can be converted into opportunities. There is a global consensus that there should be peace in this region. Pakistan’s geostrategic location is also an asset which can be used to boost trade and cooperation in energy sector throughout the region. He emphasised that it is Pakistan’s desire to improve relations with India.

Only a better environment in South Asia will ensure SAARC to realize its full potential. Mr. Aziz said that Pakistan also need to reset its relations with the US. He also mentioned about the working of Cabinet Committee on National Security.

Sartaj Aziz stressed the fact that in order to find solutions to all these problems, Pakistan will have to put its own house in order. If Pakistan can deal with its internal problems, then external challenges will not be so hard to handle.

Earlier, a number of intellectuals also expressed their views on this issue of great importance. Talking about the 21st century problems for Pakistan, Dr. Maria Sultan, Director General, South Asian Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI), highlighted three emerging security challenges.

She said that it will be important for how Pakistan looks at the emergence of pre-emptive use of force, for whether the attack will be coming from the eastern front or the western front? Secondly, internal security problems presented by various groups and their economic dimensions and lastly, how Pakistan deals with the fault lines i.e. Shia –sunni problem, narratives based on ethnic lines, economic divide and finally to ensure writ of the state.

Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, Director & Associate Professor, School of Politics & International Relations, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad spoke on “Strategy to Meet Future Military Challenges to Pakistan”.

He was of the view that strategies are never static and they always change. Strategic environment plays important role in shaping a suitable strategy. Pakistan has been facing military threat since its creation. Unfortunately, these threats multiplied with the passage of time.

The new government under Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif could improve the situation on Pakistan’s Eastern and Western borders but worst case scenario cannot be ignored. For Pakistan biggest threat is India. Afghanistan presents Pakistan with another serious security challenge.

Jaspal viewed threat emanating from transnational terror organisations as the third major security challenge for Pakistan. Citing the Salala incident and Abbottabad operation, Mr. Jaspal termed the military threat from non regional powers as the fourth major threat for Pakistan. And finally, Pakistan’s relations with Iran needed Pakistan’s immediate attention

Director General (ISSI), Rasul Bakhsh Rais while talking about “Security Studies in Pakistan: Continuity and Change” opined that the traditional paradigm of security studies that is premised on external military threats is not capable of fully explaining the national security problems of post-colonial third world states like Pakistan.

The discourse on security in Pakistan has to come out of traditional mindset. Security studies cannot be confided to military threats only. Internal security has to be brought under focus. Problems that Pakistan faces like radicalism, sectarianism, ethnic militancy or the situation in Karachi requires urgent attention of researchers, scholars and policy makers. ,

With this, the event came to an end. Chairman (ISSI) Ambassador (R) Khalid Mahmood thanked the participants and the guests for making the event a success. He also said words of appreciation for all his predecessors and researchers who had worked at ISSI in past 40 years.
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