Pakistan is a part of a sub-region, a region, Asia and the international community. It is bound to be subjected to the vagaries of geopolitics at all these levels, simultaneously. Of necessity, it must follow a comprehensive, cumulative and well measured policy that principally always secures its national interests. A top-down approach is warranted.

A veritable cold war is ensuing between the US and China with South Asia coming into focus quite emphatically. This geopolitical tussle tends to further accentuate the already tenuous relations between Pakistan and India and perceptively places them in opposite camps. The US is already employing coercive diplomacy and strongarm tactics to moderate or mould Pakistan’s relationship with China. It needs to wean it away from China, distance it from the Chinese BRI-CPEC initiatives and use it to upset their time and space matrix. Pakistan’s military has the Indian military hopelessly fixed along the LOC and the working boundary (WB). The US would like Pakistan to make the LOC peaceful and essentially free India up militarily so that it can single-mindedly confront China. China, on the other hand, has always been a very dependable friend of Pakistan and has very strong and flourishing multidimensional ties with it. The BRI-CPEC not only helps Pakistan revive its economy but gives enormous geopolitical, strategic and economic benefits to China as well. Thus, Pakistan moves into the crosshairs of great power rivalry in this region. It cannot stay oblivious to this dire geopolitical environment enveloping it and the crosscurrents that run through it. Its foreign, economic, defence and security policies must perforce respond to these ground realities.

At the regional level too, Pakistan must consider the prevailing and emerging geopolitical environments before making any irreversible paradigm shifts in its national security policy. It will have to remain cognisant of the influence of the US-led West on the Arabs in the GMER, Russia in the CARs and Chinese inroads in the region at large. The impactful Abraham Accords have introduced a new but defining factor in the geopolitics of the GMER. The BRI is scheduled to move into Iran very soon and then logically jump across the Persian Gulf onto the Arabian Peninsula. The US will resist it and continue to sanction Iran denying it trade links within the region and beyond. A possible US-Israel inspired conflict between the US-Israel-Arab combined and Iran cannot be discounted. Afghanistan remains scorned, destabilised and in turmoil while the CARs remain as distant as ever for the want of meaningful regional interconnectivity. The scourge of Afghanistan-based and India sponsored terrorism persists. The BRI-CPEC are attempting to promote regional connectivity within the GMER-SCAR Complex but face resistance from the US and its allies. Thus, the emerging geopolitical environment is least conducive for intra-regional trade or geo-economics to flourish. Pakistan cannot remain unaffected by these developments. Its foreign, economic, defence and security policies must recognise these ground realities and respond accordingly.

A very hostile geopolitical environment prevails in the sub-regional level for Pakistan. Spiteful India, writhes in helplessness as despite all its efforts, it has failed to subdue or dominate Pakistan. Their interstate disputes over IIOJK, Siachen, Sir Creek, water, terrorism persist relentlessly. They both deny their considerable markets to one another. Much to India’s detriment Pakistan denies it a land access to the bountiful fossil fuel and mineral resources and markets of Afghanistan, the CARs, GMER and further on to Europe. There has been no let in the multidimensional existentialist threats that India generates against Pakistan or in its efforts to demonise it at all international fora. No significant economic activity can thus take place in such enervating and intimidating circumstances.

Any paradigm shift in our National Security Policy (NSP) must therefore remain relevant to all these diverse ground realities at all levels.

Pakistan has just announced its “citizen-centric” NSP which proclaims that henceforth geoeconomics will be its defining leitmotif. The rationale for this far-reaching paradigm shift begs clarity. What has forced the GOP’s hand to announce this change in focus at this particular point in time? Does it have relevance to our own economic woes only or has obtaining the geopolitical environment forced it upon it? There has been no perceptible change in the geopolitical environment, at all levels, to warrant such a drastic change in the strategic direction of our NSP. Has the regional environment improved so much that geo-economics has a realistic chance of flourishing? Has there been any perceptible change, a reduction in the multidimensional threats that emanate from the East and West? Are grounds being prepared for the resolution of all outstanding issues with India? Has Afghanistan stabilised; has the threat of terrorism really subsided or been eliminated; have the CARs suddenly come within reach and has bilateral trade with Iran been “allowed”? Have the conditions for regional interconnectivity and economic interdependence suddenly improved to justify this paradigm shift?

Clearly a comprehensive NSP includes the security and the well-being of all its citizens in all dimensions. However, the wellbeing of the citizens should primarily be a focus of a state’s internal policies. It ought to be essentially a function of good and effective governance. It must ensure a genuinely democratic dispensation, guarantee personal freedoms and civil liberties, safeguard a rules-and-law based internal order which promises social justice and fair-play, provide equal opportunities, education, health, food, clothing, shelter, employment and business opportunities for everyone. The state must create conditions for the common citizen to thrive and prosper. The BRI-CPEC portends a revival of our economy, promises industrialisation and much better prospects for our citizens’ welfare.

Regardless, of where this GOP now lays its emphasis it simply cannot afford to lower its guard, weaken our full spectrum deterrence capability or compromise our vital national interests in any manner

Geo-economics may have become the prevailing paradigm of our NSP. The litmus test for the GOP will be to demonstratively secure Pakistan’s vital interests in letter, spirit and deed.