• Globalization has turned security into a complex affair. Economic power has to back and complement military strength.
• To capitalize on opportunities, Pakistan must empower itself internally.
• Pakistan’s menu on the security agenda is very heavy and will need leadership and vision to execute.
Dr Maleeha Lodhi is a political scientist, diplomat, journalist and academician. She had been the High Commissioner of Pakistan to the United Kingdom and prior to that, twice as Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States. She was Resident Fellow at John F. Kennedy School, Harvard University and a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington. She also served as a member of the United Nations Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Disarmament Affairs. She has also been editor of two newspapers in Pakistan. Her exclusive interview about different security related issues affecting Pakistan at national and international horizon was conducted for Hilal’s readers.
Asif Jehangir Raja
Q. How do you describe international security setting in post-Cold War scenario? Does it necessitate any change particularly in small states' security paradigm that often revolved around alliance and reliance on one of the power blocs?
Answer: We have gone past a post-Cold War world. What is this new era and how do we describe it? It is an era of strategic flux where world is in transition. What is it transitioning to? We don't know yet. But what we do know is that the global power is shifting from the West primarily to China, and also, as the expression goes, from West to the Rest. At the same time power is dispersing among states and away from the states. States do not enjoy the authority once they did due to the globalized and borderless world we live in. So if you look at what the international scenario or context is, this is defined by three major features; first, the power shift from the West to China as the economic centre of gravity moves to Asia. The second defining trend is the pace and velocity of technological change, which is transforming everyone's life. This leads me to the third feature. Power is devolving from the state to the individuals who are becoming more empowered thanks to the electronic and social media, the communications revolution and the new networked technology.
So we are looking at a world fundamentally different from what is called the post-Cold War world. That world was fairly predictable and there were many certainties. The world which we live in today has fewer certainties, yet it is a world of great promise and opportunity. It is also a world of great challenges. And when you ask what this world offers to the small or medium sized states and what kind of security arrangements should these states have, we are returning to a bi-polar era where states had to line up with one or the other power, and the world was divided into two camps. Today’s world is moving in a multipolar direction.
This multipolarity is not only among states. The world has many poles of power, where power is not held by states but increasingly shared with large corporations, media or other organisations and non-state actors. So we are witnessing a very different kind of world which actually provides great deal of opportunity for small states if they are competent, efficient and have the capacity to innovate, and if they have what is increasingly the currency of power in the global system economic power. If small and medium states are economically strong, they can aspire to play a more significant role in the international system.
When we look at the world in next 20-25 years, we see two poles on the economic matrix, China and the United States. However, on the other fronts, there will be other poles. Time will tell as to how states will leverage themselves in this new world with two economic poles and other poles based on other indices of power. I think the challenge is great but so is the opportunity. Globalization is offering more and varied possibilities to transform themselves, become internationally relevant and more prosperous.
Q. Today's world is globalized and economically interdependent. What does this mean for international politics? How do you see smaller states exercising political and economic sovereignty in this scenario?
Answer: The assumption that economically interdependence will automatically lead to politically integration is not being borne out. We see two trends existing side by side. The first is economic interdependence that is increasing in a globalized and shrinking world. But alongside that we are also witnessing an assertion of national sovereignty. We are not seeing economic interdependence leading to the nations foregoing national sovereignty. For example, in order to negotiate better trade deals, nations assert themselves and benefit as a result. Also we see the co-existence of strategic competition and economic interdependence. So the assumption that economic interdependence will make strategic competition disappear has not materialized. The best example is the Sino-US relationship, which has elements of economic engagement but also strategic competition, especially after the US announced its policy of rebalancing or pivoting to Asia.
Q. In 1980s in general and particularly at the end of the Cold War in 1991, China appears to be following the policy of engagement and economic cooperation with the US? How does China figure out as a power centre supporting the countries that face estranged relations with the US?
Answer: The fundamental driver of China's international and foreign policy is its unwavering commitment to the goal of economic development and progress, and its objective of becoming a global economic power. That's where the policy of peaceful co-existence and engagement with the West comes from. It stems from the domestic strategic goal of lifting millions of people from poverty, that China has managed to do, and also ensuring that it makes the transition from a developing country, as it still calls itself so, to a developed nation.
And because this strategic goal overrides everything else, China has been following a policy of engagement with the West and it does not want to see any turbulence in global politics as well in its relations with the United States. At the same time China believes the US sees it as a future strategic challenger and therefore believes that the US is following a dual track policy, of engaging and containing China.
The Chinese are responding to this dual track policy but at the same time seeking to maintain a stable relationship with the US to achieve their domestic goals. This is a good example that we, in Pakistan, should closely follow, even emulate. I am saddened when people in our country continue to look to the West for models whereas we have China's example before us. Like every other country, Pakistan must follow its own distinct path, but China shows us how to follow a single goal of domestic strengthening and how to align foreign policy goals with domestic goals so as to achieve both. You strengthen yourself domestically and economically so that you can act more effectively on the international scene. You can't do the reverse. I don't think China will encourage countries to have hostile relations with the US when Beijing itself wants a non-hostile relationship with the West. China will protect its interests and it draws a line at where its vital interests lie when dealing with Western countries. I think China also urges other countries to select and follow their own path to development and not look outside, just like it has done. When the Chinese Premier visited Pakistan, he repeated the advice his predecessors had given to Pakistani leaders: identify the path of development that you wish to follow and then stick to it, and don't allow anybody else to impose or dictate to you from outside. But if you don't choose your path, outsiders will have the ability and means to dictate to you.
Q. How much has globalization affected the state and do you foresee any other manifestation replacing or rendering the state irrelevant in the future? What are the challenges in this regard?
Answer: We are witnessing a trend where the state's monopoly of power is being eroded, both vertically and horizontally, in other words erosion from within and outside as we live in an increasingly borderless world. However the state still remains a formidable source of power, both in the international system and geographical boundaries. The state, in the foreseeable future, will remain the main actor in the international system and I don't think that the rise of other diverse actors, whether non-state or other actors, are going to displace the state. The state will continue to be there, but with its authority eroded. So it will have to find new ways to exercise its power and establish control over its territory, and search for the best possible vehicle to preserve and protect its interests in an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world. A balance will have to be struck between defending and protecting national sovereignty and the imperative of international cooperation, which often requires foregoing a bit of sovereignty. Competent states will strike the right balance. States that are incompetent have a very bleak future; it is not just economic or military power, which determines a country's strength and well being. It is how efficiently a state performs both nationally and in the international system, that determines its fortunes.
If we apply this lesson to Pakistan, we must rebuild state institutions because over a period of time the state's writ has eroded. For example, the core functions of state are the power to tax, the power to maintain law and order and deliver basic services to citizens. All these have been decaying. We must rebuild them if Pakistan is to become a competent state responsive to the needs of its people. And competent so as to deliver to people what they want. People want, as those elsewhere in the world do, security, economic opportunities, provision of basic amenities including education, and a secure, brighter future for their children. To achieve this, Pakistan must strengthen itself internally, raise resources and rebuild state institutions that have lost credibility over a period of time. Our governments must remain responsive to what people want rather than seek narrow political gains.
Q. What is the actual potential of Indo-US Strategic Partnership and how does it affect other states in the region?
Answer: Even before the US announced its policy of pivoting or rebalancing to Asia, it was felt that Washington was moving in a direction where it sought to contain China's rise. This implied that the US would start lining up countries as allies that could be potential counterweights to China. There was a feeling in the region including Pakistan that India might emerge in that US-assigned role of a strategic counterbalance to China. Now much as the US may have wanted to do that, and it struck a civilian nuclear deal with India for that purpose. India's own behaviour in the last several years suggested that while it was happy to leverage America's outreach to Delhi it did not want to play the role of US pawn in any new great game or new cold war.
We, in Pakistan, have to carefully assess the extent of any role that India might play in America's containment of China strategy. India's expansive economic relations with China are important to factor in. The annual trade between India and China is now around one hundred billion dollars. India would not want to jeopardize its economic relationship with China for the sake of acting as a counterweight in the strategy of an extra-regional power. But it might still play off US anxiety about China and seek Western support to build India as a global power. For example it will use US support to try to get a permanent seat in United Nations Security Council (UNSC), if there is ever that body is reformed.
Pakistan is certainly affected by certain aspects of the strategic partnership between India and US. The Civilian Nuclear Deal between the two has had adverse consequences for Pakistan's security and for the strategic equilibrium in the region. We all know that this deal destabilized the nuclear deterrence established between both countries after the nuclear tests of 1998. This disturbed the strategic stability of the region. Later, India emboldened by US support, also began to evolve proactive military doctrines directed against Pakistan, which posed new security challenges for us. Naturally Pakistan had to take steps to respond to that and restore strategic equilibrium.
The Indo-US strategic relationship will have to be watched very carefully and Pakistan will have to respond what it believes will be any adverse consequences for its security. At the same time, Pakistan will have to be careful and not exaggerate the significance of this relationship. Panic is never a good foundation for any policy. And frankly there is nothing to panic about as Pakistan has the strategic means to defend itself against external aggression.
Q. If Central Asia is seen as an 'economic hub' by the West, and India as an 'Investment Destination', then how do you see the West approaching the countries that serve as 'Trade Corridor' from Central Asia to India? How should these states safeguard their legitimate interests?
Answer: We have to recognize that many competing visions have been articulated for future regional economic cooperation. For example, the US has talked about the New Silk Road which they believe should link India with the economies of Central Asia and which also envisages regional economic ties between Afghanistan, Central Asian states and India through transit trade facilities which Pakistan is supposed to provide. But we have to recognize that China opposes this idea, and instead called for promoting the ancient Silk Road as the means for regional cooperation. I agree that you don't have to create a New Silk Road, which is driven by the strategic interests of outsider powers. We have to take into consideration regional aspirations and historic linkages among states of our region and also respect the Shanghai Cooperation Organization's (SCO) vision for regional cooperation. I don't think we should accept that there is only one vision, which will be implemented and will materialize. We have to see how the regional states themselves respond to these competing visions. I believe that regional initiatives that are indigenous will have a chance of success, not those imposed from outside or that have a strategic purpose to contain China. It is too early to say that how states might line up because we simply don't know which vision will muster more support and become a reality.
Q. How do you see Indian and Chinese investment in Afghanistan? Any possible convergence of economic interests by the two in post-2014 Afghanistan?
Answer: Both India and China have played and are going to play very different roles in Afghanistan. But before I answer your question let me say that among almost all states in the region, including Pakistan, China, Iran and India, no country wants to go back to the bad old days of the 1990s when Afghanistan became an arena of proxy conflict between neighbouring states. I don't think that any country wants the revival of a 1990s-type situation because it had such devastating consequences for the entire region, especially Pakistan. After Afghanistan, it was people of Pakistan that suffered the most. It is in that context that we should look for possibilities for regional cooperation to help stabilise Afghanistan. If we start to look at Afghanistan as an arena for strategic competition, I don't think that any country will be a winner. India has sought to build relations with Afghanistan on the basis of traditional ties as well as their assistance to Afghanistan's economic development. I have no issue with if this is what Afghanistan wants, as this is their sovereign decision. It is any military or security role for India in Afghanistan that is of concern to Pakistan. As for pressure on Pakistan, this the country can handle. For example the issue of opening the transit trade route can be settled through negotiations. Nothing is for free.
There is no need to be apprehensive and we need to view regional economics as an opportunity. We need to see how best we can maximize our advantage. Like any other country, we are not a static entity. When the world around us is dynamic and it is changing, we must adapt and adjust to changing realities while protecting our interests. Fear is the worst foundation to base any kind of policy, whether security or foreign. It must be predicated much more on positivity while of course, keeping our security interests in mind. The largest foreign investment in Afghanistan is still represented by projects in which China has a stake. But their two major projects are currently on the hold due to the security situation. Pakistan should look at long-term goals and see how best can we take advantage of the economic interest that China or others may have in Afghanistan. This will help promote regional stability.
Q. How much independent, influential and credible is Russian support in any international power game affecting a smaller state?
Answer: The Syrian crisis has marked the re-assertion of Russian diplomacy. The US, duly backed by the UK and France, was contemplating military action against Syria on the issue of the alleged use of chemical weapons. It was a Russian initiative to find a diplomatic solution that led to an avoidance of military conflict, which to me was a win-win situation for everyone. Although the Syrian crisis is not yet over, it provided an avenue for the Russians to assert themselves and become a more active diplomatic player on the international scene. But in the next 20-25 years, I do not foresee any tripolar system, if I can call it that. I see two economic poles, China and United States, and then I see other countries playing an influential role depending on the particular issue. So when you say that Russia can somehow be a promoter or protector of small countries, it depends which country are you talking about. Some countries, in Russia's near abroad like Ukraine do look to Russia for support but I don't think many others do beyond that.
Q. What are the security challenges for Pakistan in near and distant future?
Answer: Let me start by saying that Pakistan's security calculus, like that of any other country, is not static. It changes in response to the changing environment. The security calculus of any country is the sum total of its goals, the resources it has, and the environment. The goals may not change, but resources often do. And the environment changes, too.
If you look at Pakistan's security environment from that perspective, the country faces formidable challenges. These challenges are diverse and many; non-traditional challenges, traditional challenges, hard threats, soft threats as well as direct and indirect threats to our security. The most pressing and urgent challenge is internal. The internal threat to our security comes from deteriorating law and order and a stagnant and ailing economy. Unless the economy grows the threat to social stability will heighten. Pakistan needs to seriously address this internal challenge to its security and stability. Law and order, as you know, is threatened by the forces of violent extremism that Pakistan must defeat. Whether it defeats them through persuasion and talks or tougher law enforcement or a combination of the two, this is critical for Pakistan's future. While dealing with the domestic challenge, Pakistan cannot ignore the external threats to its security for the east and the west.
Despite Pakistan's efforts to revive broad based dialogue with India and pursue a policy of peace and normalisation, the response from the Indian side has been less than encouraging. India has refused to revive the composite dialogue and says that she will only talk on the two 'Ts' , trade & terrorism, not other issues. That poses a great diplomatic challenge for Pakistan, as it must ensure that normalization efforts also involve the resolution of disputes. From a security perspective, Pakistan has to assess what India's conventional military and strategic build up means for Pakistan and it has to devise appropriate responses.
Pakistan has already taken important steps to ensure its security in response to this build up. Pakistan doesn't have to match missile with missile and tank for tank. But it does need credible conventional and nuclear deterrence to secure itself against any adventure from the east. On the western front, we are in a year of transitions in Afghanistan. This is an uncertain transition and we don't know how this will play out. Therefore the security challenge on the western front might intensify in the next year or two. Pakistan would want to avert to the degree it can, any throwback to the 1990s, when the civil war in Afghanistan engulfed the region and destabilized Pakistan. Pakistan doesn't want 2014 to become other 1989. But it also doesn't want to see 2014 becoming 1996, when the Taliban seized Kabul by force of arms.
Pakistan is opposed to any armed group seizing power by violent means. That is why it has long advocated a political settlement that accommodates all Afghan groups. It has promoted a peace process vigorously during the last 2-3 years. The rationale is very simple; Pakistan wants to see peace in Afghanistan as early as possible, a peace that endures. It wants the war to end before all foreign combat forces leave Afghanistan in December 2014. If the war doesn't end by then, the possibility of a low intensity conflict or even a civil war looms larger with the danger of spilling over into our side of the border. This could entail a fresh influx of refugees and further destabilization of our border regions. Pakistan's menu of issues it needs to deal with on the security front is very heavy. The sources of threats are multiple; both internal and external. Pakistan needs to navigate and negotiate this security situation very carefully. The civilian government must lead but it must also ensure that our security institutions are on board and that there is a national consensus on how best to address these varied security threats.
Q. In the past it has been observed that the Indian leadership is not ready to show any flexibility on Kashmir, Siachin and Sir Creek issues. Often peace rhetoric for international audience is replaced with a belligerent stance keeping in mind domestic audience and momentary political gains. How should the peace process be conducted to achieve stability in the region?
Answer: Pakistan and India both need a peace process that is comprehensive and which addresses the issues and concerns that both countries have with one another. The composite dialogue process that was evolved in 1997 and has continued off and on since then, still offers the best framework for a comprehensive peace process. It involves eight issues that are of priority for both countries. But in the last year or two, India has refused to revive this comprehensive broad based peace process. It wants to cherry pick and select issues, which suits its interests. That is not realistic or sustainable. Even if India is able to get Pakistan to respond to one or two issues of its priority, the dialogue process will not be sustainable. After a while the process will run out of momentum when outstanding issues are not addressed. Common sense dictates that durable peace can be built only when the disputes that divide the two countries are addressed on a fair and just basis. One side cannot dictate the agenda as well as the pace of the talks. There have to be steps from both countries to address each others' concerns and at the same time to resolve the disputes between them.
We have seen in our past history, for example during the 1980s, when Pakistan was preoccupied by the situation created by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, all disputes were frozen while the normalization continued. But that didn't stop the Kashmiri uprising from taking place. So when you have a festering dispute like that, even if you put disputes into deep freeze, they will re-emerge in one form or another. Consider another example: tensions in the past year on the Line of Control (LOC). These tensions or violations that occur are inherent in the unresolved dispute in Kashmir. As the Kashmiris say, this line has been drawn in the heart of Kashmir. We need realism on Delhi's part and a recognition that might does not make right.
Q. How should Pakistan evolve a strategy to address the problems of terrorism and religious extremism in Pakistan?
Answer: The fundamental premise for any approach to counter the forces of violent extremism has to be the Constitution of Pakistan. It is within this framework that we must seek to contain these forces and make sure that they do not challenge the state's writ. Fundamentally also, unless governance is substantially improved, there will always be forces that will seek to fill the vacuum in ungoverned places or spaces. Where people feel they have grievances these are often used as alibis by violent extremists to impose their view or agenda.
To confront a multidimensional threat requires that policy responses are also multifaceted. The appropriate approach should be holistic and comprehensive. This needs a 'whole-of-government’ approach. All elements of national power have to be deployed political, military, economic and law enforcement has to be combined with efforts to defeat the extremists' ideology by an effective counter-narrative. We also need to anchor our anti-terrorism and counter-extremism policy within a comprehensive national security strategy. The country doesn't have one at present. We have defence, foreign and economic policies and a patchwork of internal law and order responses, but this doesn't add up to a national security strategy. That has to integrate these components of policy in disciplined pursuit of clearly articulated goals and priorities. It has to be more than a sum of these parts and provide an overarching, strategic focus to them.
As for the country's anti-militancy campaign, this has made gains but the overall effort has taken the form, more of fire fighting than a coherent strategy. The political and administrative effort too has been weak in the post-military operation phase. These weaknesses have to be corrected to establish a sustainable environment that prevents the return of militants to areas cleared of them. This is a very challenging area, which requires great deal of thought, and of course action. I think Pakistan has gained lot of experience in this battle and this experience has to be put into effect through a comprehensive national security strategy, which must be based on public consensus and strengthened state capacity to deal with it. Building stronger state capacity refers as much to laws and law enforcement, including judicial enforcement, as the ability to provide effective governance and essential services to citizens.