It is not a common sight to see five Foreign Office mandarins seated on a podium, emphasising the need for Pakistan to get its act going for the country’s economic development in order to have a credible foreign policy. But there they were, frequently citing China’s historic decision to place economic development before all else to ensure a secure future. All five had served as Pakistan’s envoys to China.
The occasion for this extraordinary huddle was the launch of Ambassador Javid Husain’s book Pakistan and a World in Disorder – A Grand Strategy for the Twenty-First Century published a few months ago by Palgrave Macmillan from New York.
The author tries to explain in the very first chapter of the book that his concept of a grand strategy is much broader than foreign policy.
The grand strategy should aim at bringing the political, economic, diplomatic and security policies of a nation into a coherent whole to serve the best interests of a country.
Was the writer prescient in so far that his description of a world in disorder sounded more relevant after Trump’s election as the US president? With hindsight, it can be said that the 21st century began unscathed from the much hyped millennium bug. But since then the disorder has just kept growing – beginning with the 9/11 attacks on American homeland and followed by the US-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Both countries remain devastated and fragmented. The Arab Spring swept away perennial dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt followed by Libya and Yemen, both degenerating into civil wars. But all that pales in comparison to the butchery going on in Syria, sustained by foreign backing. North Korea continues to be an enfant terrible while the US builds a circle of allies around China.
Former foreign secretary Riaz Khokhar highlighted the author’s emphasis on a grand national strategy which is not merely security-oriented but based on larger national objectives. A strong political will would be required to keep the balance between economic and security goals. The country’s foreign policy was dictated by military imperatives, taking Pakistan into the US-led Western orbit.
Khokhar referred to Javid Husain’s analysis that cooperation with Iran was constrained. Pakistan could have benefited from greater commitment to the Economic Cooperation Organisation rather than placing hope in Saarc. Riaz Mohammad Khan who succeeded Khokhar as foreign secretary expressed the view that the author had made thoughtful and bold observations in his book. The international disorder seen by him was precipitated by Brexit in Europe and Trump’s election in the US. He also mentioned that Pakistan’s total support to the Taliban had led to the alienation of half of the Afghan population.
The book draws attention to the domination of the military over the foreign ministry – the latter’s thinking guided by advice rendered by the former. Again, the author observes that Pakistan should have worked with Iran on the Afghan crisis. Both former secretaries took note of the author’s view that relations with India should be handled with confidence and on the basis of reciprocity. Dialogue with India should not be based on appeasement.
Former secretary general foreign affairs and ex-senator Akram Zaki was of the view that the idea of a grand strategy in Pakistan’s foreign policy sounded ambitious as it suited the big powers more. He acknowledged the prevailing instability and disorder in the world, tracing it to the American quest for global domination. Among others, it had led to the pre-eminence of military power over diplomacy. The so-called rebalancing towards Asia had added to the existing tensions.
The author clarified that his idea of a grand strategy was in fact a call to a comprehensive approach to national security and prosperity and was aimed at replacing the one-dimensional security-dominated thinking. He said it could only be realised if the country rose above narrow departmental agendas. The economic ministries, the GHQ and the foreign office should work together to devise a grand strategy to deal with regional and global security environment effectively. The goals should be within the reach of resources to avoid an overstretch.
Javid Hussain said that the flawed policies could be rectified by identifying the country’s long-term economic goals to ensure long-term security. Pakistan had no choice but to accelerate its economic development like China. Unless economic development is made the supreme national objective as done by China, Pakistan would be unable to meet its security challenges.
The chairperson of the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad and host of the book launch, Khalid Mahmood, said that Pakistan’s foreign policy was not a catalogue of flaws as it had maintained an honourable profile in the comity of nations. He added that Pakistan’s foreign policy was not only tied to the West.
A common refrain throughout the session was about the fear of Pakistan losing its nerve in the face of India’s hegemonic designs and the possibility – however small – of the government taking measures which would be perceived as appeasement. What would constitute appeasement was not explained. We may be on a safer wicket by clearly identifying India’s goals with regard to Pakistan.
By virtue of its size and population, India already considers itself a member of the big league and thinks that it is a matter of time before the world comes around to that realisation. Washington’s policy to induct India as a member of US-led containment of China has only increased India’s hubris towards its smaller neighbours including Pakistan. Indian representatives in Track II meetings have, as a result, become more dismissive of Pakistan.
Javid Husain is of the view, “The linchpin of Pakistan’s grand strategy, taking into account the national situation and the security environment at the regional and global levels, should be assigning the top priority to the goal of rapid economic growth and subordinating everything else to this supreme national objective. This would require a low-risk and non-adventurist foreign policy so that the risk of a major armed conflict is avoided and we are able to devote our resources to economic development while maintaining a credible deterrent at the lowest level of forces and armaments.”
Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgM Saeed Khalid, "Grand national strategy," The News. 2017-01-31.
Keywords: Political science , Political aspects , Political system , Political crisis , Political stability , Political issues , Foreign policy , Economic Cooperation , Security policies , Dictatorship , Taliban , Terrorism , Javid Husain , President Trump , United States , China , GHQ