September Special

Pakistan’s Security Challenges in the Next Decade (2015-2025)

Pakistan will have to devise its strategies in consultation with the immediate neighbours of Afghanistan, especially China and Iran. Pakistan's capacity to cope with the security pressures from Afghanistan in the future will depend mainly on the extent of its control over its tribal areas. The on-going security operation in North Waziristan is crucial to strengthening Pakistan's role vis-à-vis the terrorist groups. The success of this operation will demonstrate the military's capacity to assert its commanding position in the tribal area and deter many Taliban and other terrorist groups to use North Waziristan as a safe haven for them. This will discourage terrorism in mainland Pakistan and the tribal areas.  In addition to enforcing the overall security control of the tribal areas, Pakistan needs to strengthen its border security on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Pakistan should not expect much cooperation from Afghanistan but rely on its resources and strategies to secure the border from Pakistani side. These two measures will enable Pakistan to manage effectively the fall-out of the internal strife in Afghanistan in the next five to ten years.   
Pakistan's highest priority for the next ten years should be improvement of internal security, elimination of religious extremism and terrorism, economic renewal and especially addressing the shortages of electricity and gas. As long as Pakistan does not deal with the above issues on a priority basis Pakistan's internal weaknesses will adversely affect its role at the international level.
The improvement of internal security and economic 
revival will make Pakistan positively more relevant to the international system which will increase its diplomatic clout. Such a positive relevance is important for 
Pakistan in order to counter propaganda against Pakistan with reference to transnational terrorism.  If Pakistan wants to mobilize diplomatic support for its problems with India, especially Kashmir and river water, it must be viewed at the international level as a stable and secure country with greater opportunity for foreign investment.
External and internal security has been a major challenge for Pakistan from its inception in 1947. Its dynamics and regional and global environment changed overtime but it continued to be the foremost policy concern. The policy makers had to constantly review and update security and foreign policies to address these concerns. 
The security pressures are not expected to diminish in the next ten years, 2015-2025. The continuity of security issues cannot be described as a security stalemate because there are going to be changes in the nature and dynamics of security challenge. As the new situations arise and the old issues get redefined in the changed regional and global contexts new options and solutions will have to be explored. The most critical factor will be how the policy makers interpret these changes and devise new diplomatic and military strategies.  
The article describes how the existing security issues are expected to be redefined in the next ten years and what will be the nature of new challenges and opportunities for Pakistan's policy makers.  
India: The current pattern of off-again, on-again interaction between Pakistan and India will persist during 2015-2025. Some issues and problems like the Siachen Glacier and the Sir Creek boundary may be resolved and some trade between India and Pakistan will continue. However, there is little chance of India and Pakistan developing a shared view of regional security. Consequently the concept of cooperative security would not develop between India and Pakistan. 
The Kashmir issue will haunt their relations and the water issue will also make it difficult to develop smooth relations. With ups and downs in their relations, India and Pakistan will continue to entertain mutual distrust. They are not expected to go to war because of nuclear deterrence but India will continue to build pressure on Pakistan by violent military activity on the Line of Control in Kashmir. It will also build pressure on Pakistan by attempting to exploit its internal contradictions. The notion of some kind of punitive military or semi-military action against Pakistan that does not trigger a full war will continue to be explored in India in order to keep Pakistan under psychological pressure. 
Afghanistan: Afghanistan is expected to face internal instability and violence in the first couple of years after the withdrawal of most American/NATO troops by the end of 2014.  Its internal problems can increase if the two candidates for the Presidential Elections (2014) cannot reconcile to each other and create a shared governmental system in Kabul. If this conflict is not defused, it will weaken the capacity of the Kabul government to cope with the Taliban challenges.
The general consensus among the Afghanistan watchers is that the Afghan Taliban will pose a credible security challenge to the Kabul government. The U.S. and the NATO have built up a new Army and Police but their professional capacity and reliability are uneven and erratic. Internal conflict is going to escalate and the Afghan Taliban are expected to be especially entrenched in the Afghan territory adjacent to Pakistan. This has several implications for Pakistan.  First, if internal conflict escalates in Afghanistan, Pakistan is expected to get more refugees from the troubled regions of Afghanistan that will generate additional economic and social pressure on the state and society in Pakistan. Second, Pakistani Taliban based in Afghanistan provinces bordering Pakistan will have greater freedom of action against Pakistan. They are expected to cooperate more actively with Afghan Taliban to target Pakistan border security posts and villages closer to the Pakistan-Afghan border.  Third, the relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan are not expected to improve drastically. From time to time the Kabul government is expected to blame Pakistan for internal security problems in order to cover up its security failures. The non-official societal interaction and trade will continue undeterred by political and security problems.
Pakistan will have to devise its strategies in consultation with the immediate neighbours of Afghanistan, especially China and Iran. Pakistan's capacity to cope with the security pressures from Afghanistan in the future will depend mainly on the extent of its control over its tribal areas. The on-going security operation in North Waziristan is crucial to strengthening Pakistan's role vis-à-vis the terrorist groups. The success of this operation will demonstrate the military's capacity to assert its commanding position in the tribal area and deter many Taliban and other terrorist groups to use North Waziristan as a safe haven for them. This will discourage terrorism in mainland Pakistan and the tribal areas.  In addition to enforcing the overall security control of the tribal areas, Pakistan needs to strengthen its border security on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.  Pakistan should not expect much cooperation from Afghanistan but rely on its resources and strategies to secure the border from Pakistani side. These two measures will enable Pakistan to manage effectively the fall-out of the internal strife in Afghanistan in the next five to ten years.   
Pakistan should maintain a clear distance from the internal troubles in Afghanistan. It should focus on controlling the negative fallout of the strife in Afghanistan. It should also maintain a regular interaction with China and Iran on the Afghanistan situation. Periodic diplomatic exchanges with Central Asian States will be useful for dealing with the Afghanistan situation. Pakistan should be watchful of India using the Afghan territory directly or indirectly for supporting militant and dissident elements inside Pakistan.
The Global Approach: At the international level, isolation is not an option for Pakistan in the next ten years and later. It needs to pursue active diplomacy with other states, especially the five permanent members of the United Nations, Germany and other European states, Japan and other East Asian states and the Arab states while staying away from the Middle Eastern regional and bilateral conflicts.
In the present day international system, the role of a country depends to a great extent on its internal political and economic strengths. Pakistan needs to assign the highest priority in the next ten years to promoting internal political and societal harmony and economic development with an emphasis on socio-economic equity.  
Pakistan's highest priority for the next ten years should be improvement of internal security, elimination of religious extremism and terrorism, economic renewal and especially addressing the shortages of electricity and gas. As long as Pakistan does not deal with the above issues on a priority basis, Pakistan's internal weaknesses will adversely affect its role at the international level. 
The improvement of internal security and economic revival will make Pakistan positively more relevant to the international system which will increase its diplomatic clout.  Such a positive relevance is important for Pakistan in order to counter propaganda against Pakistan with reference to transnational terrorism. If Pakistan wants to mobilize diplomatic support for its problems with India, especially Kashmir and river water, it must be viewed at the international level as a stable and secure country with greater opportunity for foreign investment. 
Geography and Economic Corridor: Pakistan should cash on its geographic location because it links three important regions: Central Asia, South Asia and West Asia (Middle East). If Pakistan can stabilize its internal situation and control terrorism, it can serve as an important channel for inter-region trade and transit for energy, services and personnel.  Pakistan needs to work towards completion of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. Similarly, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline is going to be another important economic project that links Pakistan with other states of the region. Pakistan can improve road links with Western China for trade between China and the Middle East. China has also expressed interest to extend the proposed gas pipelines from Iran and Turkmenistan to its Xinjiang region. If the gas pipeline projects are materialized, Pakistan stands to gain economically and its diplomatic clout will also strengthen.  
Pakistan will have to work towards building most modern network of roads, railways and transnational pipelines. This will also require building Gwadar as a modern seaport linked by modern road system with the rest of Pakistan and Afghanistan. This port will provide an easy sea access to Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan which will in turn benefit Pakistan as new economic opportunities become available. 

Conclusion: The next ten years pose important security challenges which Pakistan will have to address keeping in view the ground political and security realities and maintaining close economic and diplomatic interaction with the international community. The future also has important economic opportunities for Pakistan, provided the policy makers are able to fully appreciate its dynamics and take quick steps to avail these opportunities. This requires full attention to addressing internal issues including socio-political consolidation, economic development and distributive justice and serving as the corridor for regional economic activity. This will have to be coupled with peace on the borders through bilateral and multilateral diplomacy and by maintaining the requisite external conventional security and nuclear deterrence.


The writer is an eminent defence analyst who regularly contributor in national/international media     
[email protected]
 

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