UNVEILING WHAT it calls its “first-ever” National Security Policy (NSP), the Pakistan Army-backed government of Prime Minister Imran Khan has acknowledged that the “employment of terrorism has become a preferred policy choice for hostile actors”.
In remarks that echo India’s position on the issue, the document states: “The most acute form of efforts to undermine stability and national harmony of a society is terrorism.”
However, in a claim that has repeatedly been contested by India, which blames Pakistan for exporting terror across the border, the NSP states: “Pakistan pursues a policy of zero tolerance for any groups involved in terrorist activities on its soil.”
The document states: “The employment of terrorism has become a preferred policy choice for hostile actors in addition to soft intrusion through various non-kinetic means. Terrorism is also being used to disrupt and delay development initiatives.”
India is mentioned at least 16 times, more than any other nation, in the 62-page NSP for 2022-2026 with Jammu and Kashmir at the “core”. “A just and peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute remains at the core of our bilateral relationship,” the NSP states.
Pakistan National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf, a former analyst at a US-based think tank, has helmed the preparation of the document, which will be reviewed every year as well as whenever a new government is formed.
The policy, which is said to have been prepared after seven years of “strategic thought”, was adopted in December last week, with a shorter public version released on Friday.
On bilateral ties, the NSP says that Pakistan, under its “policy of peace” at home and abroad, “wishes to improve its relationship with India”.
But it flags issues that it has previously underscored: “The rise of Hindutva-driven politics in India is deeply concerning and impacts Pakistan’s immediate security. The political exploitation of a policy of belligerence towards Pakistan by India’s leadership has led to the threat of military adventurism and non-contact warfare to our immediate east.”
A window to Pak
Pakistan’s first-ever National Security Policy provides a window to the thinking within its civilian-military establishment. Framed on expected lines, it identifies India as a key pre-occupation. Beijing, meanwhile, is clearly the strategic partner of choice.
Accusing India of “hegemonic designs”, the NSP states that “towards the immediate east” bilateral ties have also “been stymied as a consequence of the unresolved Kashmir dispute”. And contrary to Delhi’s assertions, the document blames India for “ceasefire violations” along the LoC.
There is a separate section on J&K, which reiterates the country’s position: “Pakistan remains steadfast in its moral, diplomatic, political, and legal support to the people of Kashmir until they achieve their right to self-determination guaranteed by the international community as per United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions.”
From India’s perspective, the document has a section on “terrorism”, “extremism” and “sectarianism” in a chapter on “Internal Security”.
At a time when Pakistan continues to be on the “grey list” of the global Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the NSP lists several priorities “for continued improvement in our internal security environment”.
They include: “strengthening police forces and associated counter-terrorism agencies, undertaking intelligence-based operations against all terrorist groups, preventing any use of financial sources for terrorism, addressing structural deficiencies and sense of deprivation in recruitment areas, and promoting a pluralistic anti-terror narrative”.
Underlining that “extremism and radicalisation” on the basis of ethnicity or religion “pose a challenge to our society”, it states that the “exploitation and manipulation of ethnic, religious, and sectarian lines through violent extremist ideologies” cannot be allowed.
China occupies a relatively smaller section in the NSP. “Pakistan’s deep-rooted historic ties with China are driven by shared interests and mutual understanding,” it says. The document states that bilateral relations with Beijing continue to expand based on “trust and strategic convergence” — something that Delhi is keeping a close watch on.
The NSP marks out the China Pakistan Economic Corridor as a “project of national importance”, which “enjoys national consensus” and is “redefining regional connectivity and providing impetus to Pakistan’s economy”.
About the US, it states that the two countries share a “long history of bilateral cooperation”, and that “our continued cooperation…will remain critical for regional peace and stability”.
“Pakistan does not subscribe to ‘camp politics’,” it states, in an apparent reference to strained US-China ties. “Communicating Pakistan’s concerns to policy makers in Washington while seeking to broaden our partnership beyond a narrow counter-terrorism focus will be a priority,” it states.
The NSP, however, doesn’t devote much space to West Asia and Pakistan’s partners in the Gulf, and Turkey and Saudi Arabia have one-line mentions.