Strategic pacifism, defiance and image makeover
By Dr. Nsungbemo Ezung
Pakistan, under a civilian government, started the year 2022 by projecting a positive light to the world in the form of unveiling its first-ever National Security Policy (hereafter NSP). The NSP’s document, released in January 2022 by the National Security Division, Government of Pakistan, is a 48-page document containing a comprehensive national policy framework that would define the country’s domestic as well as foreign policy for the next four years (2022-2026). With this first of its kind “well-defined” national policy in the nation’s more than seven decades’ history, the NSP is expected to present Pakistan to the world as a nation transformed from the decades of domestic turmoil and instability and constant political and military conflicts with its neighbors to a new era of peace, stability and rule of law.
Among the significant features of the NSP is the new and unique approach of extending an olive branch to one of its closest and ideologically and strategically most crucial neighbor – India. Pakistan, through NSP, declared its “wishes to improve its relationship with India” which, according to the NSP, was in accord with the country’s policy of “peace at home and abroad”. And to achieve that end, the country on its part declared a cessation of all forms of hostilities with India for the next period of one hundred years. This “no hostility [with India] for the next 100 years” policy is a concession on the part of the government of Pakistan on the devastating impact on the country as a result of an unending cycle of conflicts with India during the last seven decades. The two South Asian neighbors had fought already four regular wars since their bloody and bitter parting in 1947 apart from the endless proxy wars that the two nations have been engaging in the form of combating terrorism which itself has emerged from the ashes of the very conflict that had plagued the two nations during the last seven decades costing countless human lives belonging to both the countries. It is an acknowledgment that constant conflicts with India will not going to do anything good for Pakistan, nay for India, and that a peaceful and prosperous Pakistan is inextricably linked with peaceful co-existence with India and the need for peaceful means and dialogue for resolving all outstanding issues with India.
Pakistan’s “no war policy with India for the next 100 years” however did not alter its position of defiance in rejecting India’s assertion of Kashmir as an integral part of the latter. The NSP declared that “a just and peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) dispute remains at the core of our bilateral relationship”. This should mean that if India at all desires to have a peaceful and normal relationship with Pakistan in the future, then it is incumbent on the part of India to renounce its claim over the disputed territory of Kashmir in its entirety. After a disastrous and humiliating defeat at the hand of India in the 1971 Bangladesh War of Independence, Kashmir became an issue/dispute for Pakistan to exploit and helped them to remain in defiance while seeking to settle a score with its neighbor for openly aiding the Bengal uprising against the Pakistani authority in the then East Pakistan in 1971. Pakistan’s position on Kashmir had already attained its due share of legitimacy following the United Nations Security Council Resolution of August 1948 calling for a plebiscite for the resolution of the Kashmir disputes. This 1948 UNSC Resolution had given political impetus to Pakistan to convert Kashmir disputes as a bilateral issue to be resolved between India and Pakistan, and reject India’s assertion of disturbances in Kashmir as an internal problem within India. By acknowledging disturbances in Kashmir as part of bilateral disputes over the Kashmir issue between the two countries, Pakistan toed in line with the open and plain assertion of Gen. Pervez Musharraf who on many occasions called elements considered “terrorists” by Indian authority as Kashmir freedom fighters. Through the NSP, the Pakistani authority reaffirmed its commitment to extend its “moral, diplomatic, political, and legal support to the people of Kashmir” in their quest for “self-determination”. From the two-nation theory that lead to the partition of India in 1947 to the fall of East Pakistan in 1971 and the present unresolved Kashmir disputes, the relation and conflict between India and Pakistan remain a story of one nation and sharing the same history only to be torn apart by deep ideological and communal divide and historical tragedy leaving entire South Asia permanently wounded. India would need a new strategic outlook to “confront” this Pakistan’s strategic gesture of peace coupled with defiance over its position on the status of Kashmir.
The unique aspect of Pakistan’s NSP is that it is the policy doctrine of the civilian government released at the time when the country is going through its longest phase of civilian rule in its history. This August, the country will complete an unprecedented 14 years of uninterrupted civilian rule since the ouster of the last military ruler/dictatorship Gen. Pervez Musharraf in August 2008. Although the military influence and presence in the country’s politics remain paramount, this current longevity of civilian rule is rare of its kind by Pakistani standards. Three army coups with the military ruling the country for 33 years, non-consecutive but at regular intervals, had defined the past 75 years of history of Pakistan marked by a period of instability, internal crisis and the power struggle between civilian and military leadership. The NSP’s is expected to mend this dubious image of the country of being a military state, with democracy just in form, and transform Pakistan into an “Islamic welfare state” and “aligned with universal principles of justice, equality, and tolerance”.
If peace with India remains a vital aspect towards creating a peaceful and stable Pakistan, then stability in Pakistan is an equally important aspect for overall peace and stability in South Asia. It remains to be seen how far Pakistan’s NSP would live up to its promise of providing “safety, security, dignity, and prosperity” to its citizens and help Pakistan assume a new role as an ambassador of peace in South Asia in conformity with the slogan of “seeking a peaceful neighbourhood” which was perhaps the most distinctive feature of its NSP.
(The writer is the author of the book Indo-Naga Political Conflict: Rewriting the Post-Colonial Idea of Nation, Whetstone Publication 2021: Email. [email protected])