George Friedman had predicted in The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century that “The twenty-ﬁrst century will see even more war than the twentieth century, but the wars will be much less catastrophic, because of both technological changes and the nature of the geopolitical challenge.” In the 21st century, there has been a shift in the character of conflict, and changing aspects of globalisation have increased the dangers of a variety of transnational threats revolving around the national, regional and global dynamics from terrorism, weapons proliferation, energy insecurity, cyberattacks, environmental degradation, and the spread of infectious diseases. Although the complexities prevalent in the current security milieu pose a multitude of challenges, it also presents various opportunities.
Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah once said, “The weak and defenseless, in this imperfect world, invite aggression from others. The best way in which we can serve the cause of peace is by removing the temptation from the path of those who think that we are weak and, therefore, they can bully or attack us.” If we look at the traditional threats, since its very inception, Pakistan has faced myriad challenges and threats to its territorial integrity and independence. Geographically located next to India and Afghanistan, the country’s security perceptions have largely been influenced by the perennial threats emanating from the changing situation across the border. Moreover, the undesired effects of terrorism resulted in a number of challenges, and Pakistan has paid an enormous cost to control the spread and eliminate terrorism since the beginning of war against terrorism.
For Pakistan, peace resulting from the stability in Afghanistan is desirable for myriad reasons, therefore Pakistan has always continued to make efforts along these lines. In December, during the 17th OIC Council of Foreign Ministers meeting held in Islamabad to discuss solutions for the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, it was decided to set up a humanitarian trust fund to address the deepening humanitarian and economic catastrophe in Afghanistan where millions face hunger.
However, on the eastern front, in the pursuit of hegemony, the foreign policy behavior of our eastern neighbor has demonstrated a clear shift from defensive to offensive realism – a classic shift from Nehruvian framework of nonalignment and strategic autonomy. India’s attacks on Pakistan were met with conventional preparedness which deterred its aggression time and again, therefore it had to employ a broad range of subversive devices of hybrid warfare in an attempt to destabilize Pakistan. It has been operating below the threshold of conventional warfare, using a mix of military tools, which includes proxy forces, ethnic separatists, cyber and information warfare.
Due to the advancement in technology, warfare has become information centric and digitalized. The malicious propaganda is now centered on trying to create ethnic and religious division. Nevertheless, the entire nation collectively responded to the aggression and defeated it successfully.
Recently, in Pakistan’s first-ever national security policy draft presented by the National Security Adviser, the economic and military security was placed at the core of Pakistan’s policy, which outlined the challenges and opportunities facing Pakistan in the coming years. The draft will provide policy guidelines for mitigation and actualising opportunities through a whole-of-government approach.
In the non-traditional domain, one of the largest threats faced by the world is environmental degradation. Pakistan has made efforts to ameliorate the situation through a clear directional shift in the form of significant ecosystem restoration efforts. Its Nationally Determined Contributions were updated and presented at the COP26, committing to cut 50% of the projected emissions and achieve the target of 60% renewable energy by 2030.
Moreover, the COVID-19 crisis has affected societies and the global economies and is reshaping the world as it continues to unfold. The fallout from the pandemic is creating new risks and creating openings for managing systemic challenges and affords an opportunity to build back better. Pakistan’s government implemented micro-lockdowns that successfully limited the spread while managing to continue the economic activity, thus saving it from an economic fallout.
Pakistan’s important strategic endowments, its development potentiality and the demographic dividend present challenges as well as opportunities. In conclusion, the new year shall serve as an inspiration to leverage such opportunities with an eye to seek improvement.
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