2016's Pakistan

Written By: Jennifer McKay

The new year is off and running. A glance at the global situation doesn’t exactly fill one with cheerful thoughts and optimism. Wars, poverty, massive numbers of refugees moving across Europe in search of safety, rising Islamophobia in many western countries, and economic downturns are now a feature in many parts of the world. With so much continuing chaos in the world around us, what can we expect for Pakistan in 2016? Will it really be a happy new year?


First let’s look back at 2015 to assess some of the key achievements and challenges for indicators, then consider how these might play out in 2016. There were many of both, large and small, but let’s focus on a few of the big ones that are a regular feature of our lives in Pakistan – peace and stability, law and order, relations with Afghanistan and India, natural disasters, impact of global events, and economic prosperity. Pakistan had a quieter 2015 than we might have expected following the tragic end of 2014 when we mourned the murder by terrorists of more than 140 people, 122 of whom were children at the Army Public School in Peshawar. The perpetrators have been dealt with, either killed in the attack, or have faced the Military Courts for the ultimate punishment for their horrendous crime. But the pain is with us still a year later and for the families, it will never fade.


But as 2015 progressed, things seem to improve a little. The APS attack was a wake-up call to the nation that the fight against terrorism is a fight for all of us, not just the Armed Forces and security agencies. A 20-point National Action Plan (NAP) was formulated to bring together all government institutions and agencies to take all steps to eradicate terrorism. A series of initiatives and responsibilities were established within the NAP and some have already been implemented, contributing to a drop in the levels of terrorist activity. However, there is still much more to do and this will require the commitment of all the government authorities at all levels of government throughout 2016.


To find core reasons for why 2015 was a better than expected year, we can look to the extraordinary success of Zarb-e-Azb in the tribal areas. After 18 months of military operations, the benefits have really kicked in, and most of FATA, including North Waziristan, is now cleared and peace is returning. The last few pockets of resistance close to Afghan Border were, at the time of writing, being cleared.


In a mid-December update from Director General of ISPR, Lieutenant General Asim Bajwa, he apprised that the main terrorist infrastructure has been dismantled and their links with sleeper cells have largely been disrupted. Intelligence Based Operations (IBOs) continue to identify and break up remaining cells. At least 3,400 terrorists killed and 837 hideouts, from where they carried out their terrorist activities, have been destroyed. More than 13,200 IBOs have been conducted across the country in which 183 hardcore terrorists have been killed, and 21,193 arrested. That’s quite a success story.


But this success has come at a heavy cost. Some 488 officers and men of Pakistan Army, Frontier Corps KPK, Balochistan, and Sindh Rangers, sacrificed their lives and 1,914 were injured in Operation Zarb-e-Azb by mid-December 2015. The terrain, in which the Army has taken on the terrorists in FATA, is a hard place to fight – the terrain is extremely challenging. So it makes the success of Zarb-e-Azb all the more impressive, especially when you compare it to the huge International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) operations conducted over many more years, next door in Afghanistan.


With peace returning to FATA, more than 110,000 families displaced by the operations, have already returned to the various agencies, including North Waziristan. The cost of re-settling the displaced families has already placed a substantial financial burden on the country and will continue to do so. But this is a small price to pay for peace. We should not neglect these people, as the country owes them a great deal. They have lost so much to allow the military to bring us greater peace and stability. In 2016, most of the remaining 192,000 displaced families will return. This is a major achievement. Many doubted that this could be achieved in such a time frame but a coordinated effort between government and Army, with additional support from international donors and civil society, has made this possible. In 2016, there will also be a stronger focus on the rehabilitation and reconstruction phase in FATA to ensure there is proper funding, technical and other support available, to ensure proper restoration of the area and improvement in living standards to ensure future stability.


Security and law and order issues across the entire country are improving. Following the establishment of military courts to deal with terrorists, 142 cases have been referred, 55 cases decided, 87 cases are in process and 31 hard-core terrorists have been convicted. This is a significant step forward. Too often in the past, those who have committed terrorist acts escaped justice in the civilian courts as fear prevented judges, lawyers and witnesses from proceeding against them, freeing them to strike again.


Karachi is becoming more peaceful since Rangers commenced operations there to improve the law and order situation. In 2016, Rangers will continue their operations making Karachi a much safer place for residents and visitors. And Balochistan, so long a troubled province, has taken great steps forward towards peaceful solutions with many separatists and militants handing in their weapons to the Government and Army and agreeing to become peaceful. The overall improvement in security and law and order across the country has given people more confidence to attend public festivities and national events for the first time in several years making national and Independence Day celebrations a more joyous time. While it would be naïve to think that there will be no incidents – and as I was writing this, an attack at Parachinar in Kurram Agency – the overall situation looks like it will continue to improve in 2016.


2016 will also see a change in the Chief of Army Staff. The current COAS, General Raheel Sharif, has captured the public’s imagination and confidence with his ‘can do’ leadership and achieved a great deal during his tenure. Towards the end of 2016, his tenure is due to come to an end and a new COAS will be appointed. Regardless of whether his tenure is extended as some have suggested as a possibility, or whether a new COAS is appointed, the country can be confident that matters, related to the defence of the nation, will continue to progress in positive direction.


Relations with India soured in 2015 with an increase in ceasefire violations by India on the Line of Control and the Working Boundary, leading to the deaths of a number of Pakistani civilians, and Rangers. The vitriolic rhetoric by leaders in India against Pakistan was ramped up and despite the agreement made on the sidelines of the Ufa meeting for talks to be held between the two countries, nothing eventuated as India insisted the only agenda item would be terrorism while Pakistan had a broader agenda including Kashmir.


However, as the year drew to a close, a breakthrough appears to have been achieved, to the surprise of many. The External Affairs Minister of India, Smt. Sushma Swaraj led an Indian delegation to the Fifth Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process held in Islamabad on December 8-9, 2015. During the visit, she called on Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, and held discussions with the Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, Mr. Sartaj Aziz.


According to a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, during the visit, Minister Swaraj and Mr. Aziz condemned terrorism and resolved to cooperate to eliminate it. They noted the successful talks on terrorism and security related issues in Bangkok by the two NSAs and decided that the NSAs will continue to address all issues connected to terrorism. The Indian side was assured of the steps being taken to expedite the early conclusion of the Mumbai trial. Both sides, accordingly, agreed to a comprehensive bilateral dialogue and directed the foreign secretaries to work out the modalities and schedule of the meetings under the dialogue including peace and security, CBMs, Jammu & Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek, Wullar


Barrage/Tulbul Navigation Project, economic and commercial cooperation, counterterrorism, narcotics control and humanitarian issues, people-to-people exchanges and religious tourism. The two foreign secretaries were tasked to work out the details of the comprehensive bilateral dialogue and the level of interaction in various working groups and also decide the modalities and schedule of the meetings under the dialogue.


If the comprehensive talks do actually eventuate, it will be a positive step forward. However, as we have seen in the past, as was the case at Ufa, the bonhomie seems to fade quickly and the ceasefire violations start again. If the talks do stay on track, then the people in the villages on the Pakistan side of the Line of Control and Working Boundary should be able to look forward to a more peaceful year ahead.


The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process, is focused on a peaceful and stable Afghanistan and a secure and prosperous region through a series of Confidence Building Measures including disaster management, counter terrorism, counter narcotics, trade, commerce and investment, education, and documents. Pakistan is a key player amongst the many member and supporting countries of this important process which was initiated in 2011, and has hosted a number of meetings including the December Ministerial Conference and two Regional Technical Group meetings on the Disaster Management Confidence Building Measure. Pakistan is the Co-Chair of the Disaster Management Confidence Building Measures, which brings together a number of the member countries to focus on this important issue. Heart of Asia is proving to be an effective grouping of nations with a number of successful steps already achieved as we saw at the Islamabad meeting.


In addition to the attendance of the Indian Minister and the outcomes arising out of that, there were indications of renewed warmth in relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan. President Ashraf Ghani was another high profile visitor for the Heart of Asia Conference in Islamabad and held positive meetings with the Prime Minister and also the Chief of Army Staff. Shortly after these meetings, the Head of the Afghan Intelligence, Raimatullah Nabil, announced his resignation citing his disagreement with the President’s statements in Pakistan on a more positive cooperation. Most likely, he was pushed. Nabil has been a constant negative force in countering Pakistan's earnest attempts to help broker peace talks in Afghanistan. It is hoped that these recent developments will pave the way for closer ties in the coming year. This will be a very positive outcome for both countries in trying to find solutions to a lasting peace in Afghanistan. With a resurgence of attacks by the Taliban in Afghanistan in recent months, this becomes more urgent. Peace in Afghanistan will bring positive outcomes for Pakistan and the region. It would again be naïve to think that this complex process can be achieved quickly but we should at least hope for some forward steps in 2016.


Natural disasters again made their presence felt in Pakistan in 2015. Glacial lake outburst, cloud outburst and flash floods hit various parts of Chitral in July causing extensive damages to houses, mosques, bridges, roads, irrigation and water channels. The communication infrastructure has also been severely affected. Fortunately, loss of life was low but a large number of people were cut off in this mountainous terrain.


Then on October 26, an earthquake struck the same areas, killing 232 people, damaging 97,995 homes, as well as infrastructure including roads, telecommunications, clinics and schools. The total cost of rehabilitation and reconstruction of the areas affected by the floods and the earthquake is estimated at more than USD 500 million. Yet, despite the endless chain of disasters over the years, very little has been done to reduce the risks posed by the catalogue of potential disasters that can cause massive damage in Pakistan. The direction we need to take in Disaster Management in 2016 needs to include a strong focus on Disaster Risk Reduction and Community Based Disaster Risk Management. Reducing risk reduces that cost of natural disasters, and leads to a far more resilient country, yet there is little investment by governments at any level in this.


But what of the rest of the world and how will what’s happening elsewhere affect Pakistan? The Middle East is in chaos and it, really, is difficult to keep up with who is bombing whom. The misery of innocent civilians as their homes, neighbourhoods and their entire countries, are reduced to rubble, has created a refugee crisis not seen since World War II. The humanitarian needs of these millions of people caught up in the conflict and fleeing Iraq and Syria, is causing extreme pressure on donor funding, drawing much away from other countries like Pakistan. Should there be a major disaster in Pakistan in 2016, the amount of international funding available to supplement the national efforts is likely to be severely reduced. This will make life very difficult for those affected.


With peace comes the chance of prosperity and also an improvement in investor confidence. Investment is too big a topic for this article and better addressed by those who specialize in economic matters. But there is something else that will enhance investor confidence and that is solving Pakistan’s energy crisis. The government has promised to do this by 2017 so let’s hope we start to see improvements in 2016. What a difference this will make to business and living in Pakistan!


Pakistan is a developing country so we should not compare ourselves with developed countries. Instead, we should focus on what we have to do to achieve developed status one day in the future. The country has almost 200 million people and many challenges to overcome to lift people out of poverty and ensure education, healthcare, housing, and food security for all. This will take a long time but it would be nice to get to the end of 2016 and see positive steps forward have been made. Despite the challenges, Pakistan will continue to face, to me it seems to be a safer and more peaceful place than so many other countries now. With attacks on the decline, a more positive spirit, and engagement with the neighbours on a fair and equitable level, we can move forward.


So will it be a happy new year for Pakistan? We cannot know what lies ahead but some of these positive indicators certainly should allow us to take from Jinnah’s words and have hope, courage and confidence. Happy New Year, Pakistan!


The writer is Australian Disaster Management and Civil-Military Relations Consultant, based in Islamabad where she consults for Government and UN agencies. She has also worked with ERRA and NDMA. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Iran-Afghanistan-India TRIANGLE Is an ‘Entente Cordiale’ Possible?

Published in Hilal English Jan 2014

Written By: Didier Chaudet

Recent events could give the feelings that some of the Pakistan's neighbours are getting closer to each other, maybe in a way that could be detrimental for Islamabad's interests. Everybody has in mind, of course, the recent President Karzai's visits to Tehran and Dehli. In Iran he has claimed that a “long-term partnership” would be signed between the two countries. As for India, it hosted Mr Karzai for the fifth time in the last three years; proof enough of a strong relationship. During President Karzai's trip, New Delhi officially stated that the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between the US and Afghanistan should “reflect the concerns of India as well as Iran.” Such visits and diplomatic exchanges explain the reaction of the adviser to the Pakistani Prime Minister on Security and Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, reminding that Pakistan does not oppose any assistance given to Afghanistan, and that “Iran and India should refrain from supporting a particular group in the war-torn country.” But are these trips by President Karzai enough to talk about a true diplomatic triangle between those three states? A true 'Entente Cordiale', the way it existed between the French, the British and the Russians before 1914 with Germany as its target. Likewise, a diplomatic triangle between New Delhi, Tehran and Kabul could only emerge as a force accusing Pakistan of all regional problems related to their own security issues.

It is clear that there are rather good bilateral relations between Tehran and Kabul, Kabul and New Delhi, and Tehran and New Delhi. It cannot be denied that Iran has been positive for Afghanistan's development since the fall of the Taliban. Like Pakistan, it had to deal with the bulk of the Afghan refugees since 1980s; drug trafficking and security-related issues coming from Afghanistan have also been a long-term concern for Tehran during this period. It explains why Iran invested so much in Afghanistan after 2001. Between 2001 and 2009, no less than US $600 million have been given by Iran as humanitarian aid to Afghanistan; a pretty generous support for a state with its own economic difficulties. Iranians have invested in Afghanistan, particularly in Herat, Nimruz and Farah. Until 2008, in Western Afghanistan alone, it had invested no less than US $500 million. It is the second largest trade partner for Kabul, after Pakistan. Clearly, without Iran, Afghanistan would have much more difficulties to rebuild itself. India and Afghanistan have a history of good relations, which unfortunately were not always linked to a desire for stability and peace in South Asia. It was partly based on a common hostility towards Pakistan. Indeed, Kabul was the only capital contesting the right for Pakistan to be part of the UN after its creation, and it fomented revolts and Pashtun separatism before the Soviet invasion, claiming the right to create 'Pashtunistan' that would make the Durand Line nullified.

After 2001, India has been particularly helpful to help Afghanistan rebuild itself. Overall, the Indians have provided more than US $2 billion in aid to Kabul. The last example of Indian investments is the construction of the new Parliament building, the Indian government is financing for the 2015 Afghan legislative elections (US $178 million, on an 84-acre plot). Of course, such generosity is not without motives linked to Indian interests. Indian activities in Afghanistan show clearly, to any independent analyst, that New Delhi is acting with her competition with Pakistan in mind. As for Iran, it is a very important partner for India. Through the Islamic Republic, New Delhi can have access to Afghan and Central Asian markets. Indeed in 2008 the Indians gave to Afghanistan an access to the sea through the Chabahar port after constructing a 218-kilometre road from Delaram (western Afghanistan) to Zaranj (Iranian border). And it seems eager to develop a deep-sea gas pipeline with Iran rather than supporting a pipeline on the land passing through Pakistan, that could be a factor of peace, and much less expensive, but that could make it dependent on its South Asian western neighbour.

But these good bilateral relations do not make an 'Entente Cordiale'. As the time of a war between rigid alliances, the said war being warm or cold, is ancient history. Of course, we do not live in a time when a true international community works for the common good of all. We are far away from such a world. But the 'Cold War mentality' is for sure not a good way to understand the world anymore. Each state is pursuing its own interests and is reacting differently towards threats, as these can be of varying importance from one country to the other.

Indeed, India, Iran, and Afghanistan are getting along to some extent. But there is no coordination between them to create any kind of triangular alliance. Already in the 1990s, when India, Russia, Iran, and the Northern Alliance had a common enemy i.e. the Taliban, they could not create a true alliance against the Afghan Emirate. They had, like the Kabul-Tehran-New Delhi 'triangle' today, rather good bilateral relations. But there has never been, at any point, a systematic cooperation against the Taliban. Even during the time when peace in Central Asia was disturbed by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) which was very close to Mullah Omar and Al Qaeda (1999-2001), even after Indian Airlines Flight 814 was hijacked (24 December 1999 – 1 January 2000) by militants who found refuge in Afghanistan, there has been no attempt to create a true alliance against the Taliban.

Only Iran has been truly active, much more efficient than Russia or India to help the Northern Alliance. This Iranian efficiency and the inability of the three states to create a true alliance against the Taliban at the time came from the same cause: the fact that they did not see the Afghan Emirate as a threat. India and Russia have considered themselves as great powers for some time. But still, they are not immediate neighbours to Afghanistan, and they have other, more immediate interests and issues to take care of. The situation was, and still is, different for Iran: Part of the Taliban have shown a great hatred against Shi'a Islam and Tehran. The followers of Mullah Omar gave shelter to Iranian Sunni Baloch and Turkmens in open revolt against their state. The killings perpetrated against the Hazara community, who are Shi’a Muslims, and even more against Iranian diplomats during the capture of Mazar-i-Sharif by the Taliban in August 1998, had made of the Afghan Emirate, an important threat for Iran.

In comparison, Central Asians have sometimes accused the Russians to use the fear of the Taliban as a way to coerce the 'near abroad' into submission, and India has been much too obsessed by China and Pakistan to see Afghanistan as an important issue. Still today, the positions of the three states towards the Taliban are not the same: Iran stays very cautious, but has created diplomatic links with the Taliban, which have made Karzai's government uncomfortable, to say the least. As for India, it focuses on the Taliban and on the Afghan issue mostly, again with Pakistan in mind, rather than to focus on Afghanistan alone.

Indeed, Tehran, New Delhi and Kabul would have difficulties to create any kind of alliance because of other diplomatic relationships contradicting a strict convergence of views at diplomatic level. It is particularly linked to the relationship each of these capitals have with the US. India has tried to manage keeping a rather good relationship with Iran, but had sometimes to submit to American pressure, proving to the Islamic Republic that New Delhi will definitely not be a 'all-weather' friend. India has also developed very strong links with Israel after the Cold War, and even more so during last decade. Since 2007, Israel has surpassed France as the second military supplier to the South Asian giant, only behind Russia. Hence, India has developed a close diplomatic relationship with Iran's two worst enemies. It will not stop Iran and New Delhi to do business together, and to converge on some subjects. But such a situation makes any real strategic alliance unrealistic.

Moreover, Afghanistan has a complex relationship with the US. There can be tensions at times, but one should not mistake those temporary tensions with constant issues. Kabul has shown in the discussions related to the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) that it could see the American/NATO presence as a way to “protect” itself against its neighbours, i.e. Pakistan and Iran. Such attitude is dangerous for regional stability; it proves that the diplomatic gap between Iranian and Afghan interests is too deep when it comes to Western presence in the region.

As the US has seen the Iranian regime as an enemy since 1979, and as tensions will probably be there even if we are living now a beginning and very limited “détente” moment between Tehran and the Americans, the Iranians could only feel comfortable with neighbours on its east free of Western military presence, and hence opposed the BSA. But this agreement is directly linked to the Western help, the Afghan state should get after 2014. So whatever happens, 2015 will be a time when foreign troops, even in a limited number, will still be in Afghanistan, making complete friendship between Iran and Afghanistan difficult. Last but not the least, even Afghanistan and India cannot totally move along on all important issues. The scars left by NATO presence in Afghanistan has made anti-Americanism a reality in part of the Afghan population, especially because of the night raids on Afghan villages, and the collateral damages linked to some American actions. If India will continue to have stronger relations with the West for its own benefit, the Afghan position towards the India will stay ambiguous. And if India's foreign policy is any indication now, even if officially India will defend the right for Kabul to have some level of independence from the West, it may not be able to go beyond those supportive words because of her interests. Indeed, despite their discourses, Indian diplomats can only wish for an American presence as long as possible in Afghanistan because they do not have the means to fill America's shoes to help stabilize the country. Hence, Afghanistan and India will not be able to see eye to eye on this important subject.

In fact, India, Iran, and Afghanistan do not have even the same vision about influence of Pakistan in Afghanistan. Indian analysts and diplomats are eager to present Islamabad as the source of all evils in Afghanistan and elsewhere. But actually, there are some who are skeptical about Indian diplomacy towards Afghanistan in India itself. It has been expressed very clearly by Shekar Gupta from the Indian Express, to “leave Af to Pak” as the alternative would be to continue a “Cold War” against Pakistan in Afghanistan that could be costly for India. This explains why India has recently been averse to the idea to give to Karzai, the lethal weapons he has been asking for, during his last visit. Still Indian voices continue to use their help to Afghanistan as a way to pressurize Pakistan, something Iran cannot condone. Indeed, Iranian diplomats have been very critical of Islamabad at times. But there is no faction in the Iranian political/diplomatic spectrum with a true and strong hostility against Pakistan, the way there can be in India. There is not a “pro-Pakistan” faction in Tehran, but there is no “anti-Pakistan” lobby either. At the end of the 1990s, Iran had made it clear to Pakistan that if there were a war between Iran and the Taliban, Tehran would consider Islamabad to be the force responsible behind the Afghan Emirate. But after this period, Iran has always seen Islamabad as a neighbour it could talk to. It unofficially recognized in the 1990s that Pakistan could have some level of influence on Afghanistan, as long as it would not cause trouble for the interests of Iran.

Traditionally, for the last 30 years, Iran has been influential mostly in Western Afghanistan, as a way to protect Iranian territory, nothing more. The Islamic Republic wants peace in her East as its main concern comes from tensions at its West (Saudi Arabia, the US and its allies). It also needs Pakistani cooperation to protect its territory against Sunni jihadists active mostly in Sistan-Balochistan. Iranians occasionally criticize Pakistan for not doing “enough” in that regard from their point of view. But they do remember that this is with Pakistan's help that they have been able to neutralize the extremist “Jundallah” movement, and that to secure Iranian Balochistan, it will need some level of cooperation with its neighbour. Last, but not the least, even if numerous political actors in Afghanistan can be easily seduced by the anti-Pakistani rhetoric they can hear from some Indians, the true men of state will be unable to have an ideological position against Pakistan. Pakistani influence on Afghan economics and security, the very fact that president Zardari and PM Sharif's governments are eager to be part of Afghan stability and, the human link that exists between the Pashtun population of the two countries, makes hostility against Islamabad a suicidal choice for Kabul.

Hence there is no true triangle against Islamabad. In fact, a careful foreign policy towards Iran would make sure that no true opposition to Pakistani interests appear in the near future. Islamabad will have to follow, with continued interests, the political views in Iran and New Delhi's diplomatic choices towards Kabul. But it seems that Indians and Afghans have understood that peace in Afghanistan will be impossible without Pakistan. Hence a classical, realist and reactive foreign policy from Pakistan will be enough to make sure that, after 2014, Afghanistan, and then India, accept a solution respecting complete South Asia's interests for stability and economic development.

The writer is a Visiting Research Fellow at Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI). He is in charge of the Program on Iran and South Asia at IPSE (Institute for Prospective and Security in Europe). This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Not All Quiet on the Eastern Front

Published in Hilal English Jan 2014

Written By: Tughral Yamin

As we spill into the year 2014, the US departure from Afghanistan draws inexorably towards an end, the fate of our Western neighbour looks increasingly uncertain. There is a dreadful feeling that any chaos that may take place in the aftermath of the withdrawal of the foreign forces would have a direct impact on Pakistan in the shape of a fresh influx of refugees that would severely burden an already weak economy. One can understand the uneasiness about the political and military vacuum created once the NATO and ISAF are de-inducted and the forces that may fill this void. There is another sinister corollary to the emerging Afghan conundrum i.e. things are not quiet on the Eastern Front. Fire is being exchanged along the Line of Control (LOC) and there has been artillery shelling along the Working Boundary. There seems to be a method to the madness. If analysed critically three military strands seem to be emerging from the Indian policy to keep Pakistan under pressure as it struggles to politically and militarily engage with the Pakistani Taliban and prepares to meet the challenge that would be created with the emergence of fragile or fragmented Afghanistan.

The first element of this policy is an extremely aggressive stance towards Pakistan. Beginning this year there have been a spate of ceasefire violations along the LOC. The informal ceasefire that has held since 2003 hasn't actually collapsed but has been severely shaken. Things have not only begin to heat up on the LOC, the Indian occupation forces have increased their activity to eliminate alleged infiltrators in Keran Sector and have blatantly lobbed artillery shells into the villages next to the Working Boundary. To ratchet up the tactics of coercion, a flurry of hostile statements have emanated from the political and military leaderships of India blaming Pakistan Army and its intelligence agency for provocations leading to exchange of fire and deaths of soldiers and civilians. Although the prime ministers of the two countries having met on the sidelines of the annual September meeting of the UN General Assembly had agreed to resolve the issue of cease fire violations through a meeting of the DGsMO (the meeting that took place on December 24, 2013), Mr Manmohan Singh didn't let go of any opportunity to rail against Pakistan. From the podium of the UN General Assembly he labelled Pakistan as the 'epicentre of terrorism' and on his plane journey back from Beijing he blamed Pakistan Army for the LOC violations. All this is in stark contrast to Mr Nawaz Sharif genuine efforts to build up the process of peace. Unfortunately for all their war mongering the Indians got a sympathetic ear from the international audiences, while Pakistan received no bouquets for its peace initiatives.

The second element of this policy is to mend fences with China. On October 23, India and China signed a border defence co-operation agreement. This was a remarkable come down from the nasty border spat that had taken place earlier this year, when the Indians had blamed the Chinese border guards for penetrating 20 kilometres into the Doulat Beg Oldi Sector and establishing a border post there. Instead of bullying the Chinese, the Indians had sent their bellicose foreign minister Salman Khursheed to patch things up. This time it was their gentle and soft spoken Prime Minister himself talking of peace with the Chinese leadership. In a sentiment reminiscent of the heady early days of the Non Aligned Movement, when Nehru raised the slogan of Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai, the Indian prime minister talked of the two ancient civilisations of China and India resolving their differences through dialogue. It was in the same vein that the agreement to maintain border “peace, tranquillity and stability” was signed and sealed. The deal also sought to improve communication between the two armies. Although the disagreement over the border demarcation of several Himalayan border areas would remain an unresolved issue, this visit of the Indian prime minister to meet the new Chinese leadership is seen as a sign of the warming of the relationship between the two countries and of course, reason for more trade. China is already one of India's top trading partners.

The third part of this strategy is to expand defence relations with Russia. This was most visible during the 14th Indo-Russian summit held in Moscow, where the prime ministers of Russia and India met on October 21, 2013. In a joint statement after the meeting the Indo-Russian defence ties were described as “unmatched by any other relationship.” It was stressed that it formed the “crucial element of the strategic partnership.” While Russia is the key defence partner involved in joint design, development and production of key defence platforms, both countries want enhanced cooperation in the key areas of rocket, missile and naval technologies. Ahead of the summit, India and Russia had agreed to extend indefinitely their 15-year-old partnership for producing the Brahmos supersonic anti-ship missile and to develop a still more potent hypersonic version of the missile. The joint statement welcomed the completion of trials of the Vikramaditya (formerly Admiral Gorshkov) aircraft carrier, the delivery this year of the Trikant frigate, the sixth stealth frigate that Russia has built for the Indian Navy, as well as licensed production of the Su-30MKI fighter plane and T-90S tanks. The two sides also noted progress in the construction of the fifth-generation fighter aircraft and multi-role transport aircraft. Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who oversees the defence industry, said that there were plans for further cooperation in aviation technologies and shipbuilding with Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony during his visit to Russia for the commissioning of the refurbished aircraft carrier and an annual meeting of the Intergovernmental Commission for Military-Technical Cooperation. The Russians have also drawn up comprehensive proposals offering the Indians helicopters and aircraft, and construction of new surface warships and submarines. India and Russia have already agreed to enhance cooperation in space technologies. A new working group for Glonass (Russia's equivalent of the US Global Positioning System) had been set up and India has been offered to partner Russia in this programme and to set up two Glonass ground control stations in India. India is the only country to which Russia has agreed to give access to Glonass military-grade signals, which will enable the Indian military to greatly improve the accuracy of its land-, sea-, air and space-launched weapon systems.

Meanwhile in Rajasthan's Mahajan Field Firing Ranges (MFFR) Russian and Indian mechanised and Special Forces (SF) carried out joint drills from October 18 to 26. The purpose of the military exercise was to deal with evolving scenario in the immediate neighbourhood i.e. Afghanistan. After the manoeuvres, the Commander of the Indian 6th Independent Armoured Brigade and the Chief of Staff of the 36th Army addressed a joint conference at Gajner, Bikaner and gave out salient details. Titled Indira-3, the exercise involved the use of tanks, Infantry Combat Vehicles (ICVs), helicopters and SF. The SF practiced raids similar to the one that got Osama bin Laden. According to reports, the NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan has reignited concerns of the two allies, who had joined forces against the Taliban in the past. In the decisive phase of the exercise, the two armies concentrated on liquidating an imaginary rebel leader, securing their own lines of communication and destroying the whole stronghold for which a whole mock town had been created inside the MFFR. Observers noted that the Indians were using Russian tanks and guns. Pakistan does not want war with any country in the region, much less with India, but the developments that are taking place in the region must not be ignored and necessary safeguards taken.

The writer is a retired Brigadier and PhD. Presently he is Associate Dean Centre of International Peace & Stability (CIPS) at the National University of Sciences & Technology (NUST) Islamabad. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

National Security: and its Impact on Nation’s Psychological Health

Written By: Dr. Mauna Gauhar

According to Humanistic School of Psychology, humans have an innate capacity to grow. When the environment is conducive, people feel safe and their sense of security is enhanced. Secure people are able to incorporate ideas, find novel, creative practical solutions, have a purpose in life, contribute socially, look after themselves, can regulate emotions and work towards personal autonomy. The sooner we invest in the psychological world of human resource the quicker we would observe change.

The quotient of mental / psychological health of a society can be measured from the increase of unrest, agitation and crime rate amongst the masses. Societies become self-destructive when a segment of population creates disruption and no counter measures seem to be taken towards correction. As a humanistic professional, I am ever concerned about client population and their issues, especially those relating to safety and security. Psychological issues have grown manifold in the face of ever growing environmental and circumstantial challenges that we as a nation are facing since decades. A child born in today’s Pakistan is already faced with the energy crises, terrorism, dwindling economy, socio-political instability, proxy wars, ethnic, religious and sectarian divide; a few to name. The parents and the child is born to, are already affected by the fore – mentioned difficulties. In many cases, both the parents have to earn either to maintain or to improve the quality of life. However, the stress and pressures of work, personal psychological baggage, existential issues and the endless presentation of negative state of political affairs on the media impact the minds generally, and get translated into interpersonal familial relationships. The stress an average Pakistani carries today and continues to face is huge and is often on the increase; and their coping mechanisms in the face of it often inadequate. As a result, restlessness, intolerance, relationship issues, drugs intake, physical and mental health problems are on the rise. Pakistani nation is exposed to traditional and non-traditional security threats, the collective impact of which has affected the mental and physical health of people generally. Masses have experienced neglect for so long that resorting to extreme behaviours appears to be the only way to be noticed.

The term ‘security’ refers to protection against threat to human life or well being. However in broader terms, any challenge that is perceived as an existential problem, and the intensity of which calls to action the coping mechanisms of individuals or state. For instance environmental, security, communicable disease, economic challenges, financial security, terrorism, natural calamities, drug trafficking, piracy, illegal immigration, famine, sanitation, lack of education / skill, large opponents, propaganda, violence, inter-sect disharmony, psychological warfare, subliminal messaging, mental and physical health problems – all these factors fall in the category of security threats and therefore require corrective measures as these affect the mental health and human growth index adversely.

The importance of safety and security for the human survival and development can be ascertained from the fact that most of the psychological / psychiatric issues manifested in the adult personality can be traced back to lack of safety which one received as a child in the form of neglect, abuse and maltreatment etc. Such earlier negative experiences lay foundation for future emotionally insecure personality. Emotional insecurity or simply insecurity refers to a feeling of general unease or nervousness that may be triggered by perceiving oneself inferior or vulnerable in some way which threatens one’s self image. When people have to live with such feelings day in and day out, it is drainage of energy. These feelings are further enhanced when threats in the environment persist unabatedly.

An insecure individual perceives him/herself as frail, sees the world as a threatening wilderness, and most people as perilous and selfish; feels rejected, isolated, hostile and anxious, is by and large skeptical and miserable; is often conflicted and shows signs of tension; has a tendency to turn inwards and isolate himself; is vexed by guilt feelings, has an alternate unsettling influence of disturbed self-esteem; has a tendency to be neurotic; and can be for the most part, self-centred and egocentric. However in every insecure individual there is a ceaseless, endless aching for security. Two people with the same capabilities may have entirely different levels of insecurity. People often have some of these feelings from time to time, however, in a rather emotionally secure person these feelings are temporary. This is not to be mistaken for modesty, which includes perceiving one's inadequacies yet at the same time keeping up a sound dosage of self-assurance. Insecurity may lead to the development of paranoia, shyness, and social withdrawal or it may alternately encourage compensatory behaviours such as arrogance, animosity, aggression or tormenting. Exposure to insecure environment erodes people’s self confidence, trust and belief in their capabilities. Even if situation changes for them, they fear that the current positive state is temporary and something bad might occur which will let them down and cause disappointment and distress.

Governments have fundamental obligation to secure their populace from security threats. These administrative commitments are, obviously, not absolute. However, when threats to social security assume a substantial scale among the general public, lives are taken or destroyed. "Security concerns" as an idea legitimately enters talk when safety threat predominance achieve levels that debilitate and upset economic activity, erode administrative power of the state, weaken governance and institutional functions and negatively affect a state's energy to influence externally. The failure of the related departments to address the national security concern has to do with the lack of capacity to address such issues, failure to admit this shortcoming and apathy towards this existential need of the nation. One such example is the non-functionality of the National Security Council and the minimal implementation of national security policy. The price for this neglect is paid by the general public and the sense of individual and collective anxiety is on the rise. As per psychological theoretical understanding, insecure individuals find it difficult to actualize growth tendencies, are overly defensive and most of their capabilities such as intelligence, creativity, tolerance, autonomy, self regulation are in disharmony and their full functioning is hampered. If this insecurity is part of personality of a leader, then the leader is self-serving than the nation.

Having highlighted the issues of national security and its impact on individual psyche, some suggestions are now presented which may contribute to ameliorate the situation. First and foremost, it is important to realize and hence admit that the issues regarding security and safety have been dealt with inadequately. A concentrated effort towards planning and implementation of national security policy should be geared as a priority. Safety and security has many facets as mentioned above. Each requires separate specialized attention, policy making, planning, legislation, execution and post execution assessment/evaluation.

Second, our leadership capacity requires serious enhancement. Laws should be enacted to make it mandatory for the political leadership to continuously undergo personal development trainings and programmes. Elements of spiritual concepts such empathy, selfless service, social responsibility, altruism etc. should be adopted and manifested through behaviour. It has been observed that leaders who have the capability to transform humans, are high in social, emotional, spiritual and academic intelligence. However, if a leader who performed average academically, but had been high on other forms of intelligence have also been much effective in motivating humans.

Third, terrorism is a vast subject and a global concern. It is the biggest menace each one of us has to live with on daily bases. Neither have we been proactive in dealing with the ideology of terrorism, and as a result, depolarization of the radicals and prevention from future contamination of the suggestive minds have not been achieved. Although the military operation may bring temporary relief, it is the mindset and intra psychic dynamics of the terrorist personality that needs understanding. Depolarization should be viewed in the light of personal change which is an emotional, cognitive, behavioural and social process. It can be activated through psychotherapy and rehabilitation. The root causes such as poverty, lack of education as well as traumatic experiences should be remedied to prevent relapse. Expertise should be developed though higher education and training for the professions involved; any non expert intervention tantamount to further abuse and exacerbation of the problem.

Fourth, lack of social justice insemination and the lack of protection as well as maltreatment by custodians of the civil administration such as police has further added to the common man’s insecurities. The mentioning of police reforms have surfaced several times in the media, however no considerable progress became visible over the period of time. Army, being the most organized institute in the country, could be involved and joint training of police and army recruits could be instituted with providence of same facilities for the police force. Strict code of ethics as well as accountability procedures followed by remedial training may address the issues.

The purpose of this article is to bring to light the emotional suffering of the people of this country due to non-secure environment. In the absence of any relevant measures and guideline, people feel confused and clueless as to what to do about the deteriorating state of affairs. Anger amongst the masses is high and instead of finding creative solutions, the general trend is to take confrontational dogmatic stance against each other which results in further conflict. When people are defensive, they take rigid views of situations to the exclusion of other’s ideas. As a result, divide widens and people are further pushed down the quagmire. If challenges are not taken on and solutions are procrastinated, they gain mass (examples of these dynamics can be witnessed when there is a political, religious, ethnic or ideological clash and people resort to annihilate each other). When humans are stuck, frustrated, confused, low, broken, lacking trust and confidence etc., they are far from constructive ideas and exercising creative potential. In such states, they need support and direction for removing internal blocks and resistances hence enabling themselves to move on and actualize endless possibilities. Clarity comes through managing grievances in a manner which results in resolution of the conflict. When more people feel resolved they gear up towards creating the opportunities which bring prosperity.

We need to invest in our nation’s health holistically. Where there is respect and acceptance for physical health problems, mental / psychological health requires same treatment and attention. It is the deficit of psychological health in individuals which has contributed to the constantly deteriorating state of security and safety. Our health ministry and private sector should invest and encourage facilities where tolerance and self-containment is taught. Personality growth programmes and trainings can also be offered besides other forms of therapeutic support. On a larger scale, our objective should to be to address the issues of national security and safety at the primary, secondary and tertiary level employing both proactive and reactive interventions.

According to Humanistic School of Psychology, humans have an innate capacity to grow. When the environment is conducive, people feel safe and their sense of security is enhanced. Secure people are able to incorporate ideas, find novel, creative practical solutions, have a purpose in life, contribute socially, look after themselves, can regulate emotions and work towards personal autonomy. The sooner we invest in the psychological world of human resource the quicker we would observe change.

The writer is a consultant psychologist, counsellor and psychotherapist who also worked as a stress therapist, relaxation advisor and meditation consultant in clinical setting, Chicago Illinois, U.S.A. www.growingedge.com.pk

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