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Pakistan’s National Security Policy


Author: Air Marshal Anil Chopra PVSM AVSM VSM VM (Retd) Director General, CAPS

Keywords: Pakistan, NSP, Security, Economy, NSA.

Pakistan’s federal cabinet approved the countries first-ever National Security Policy (NSP) on 28th December. The same was announced by the National Security Adviser (NSA) Moeed Yusuf[1]. Just a day earlier, the NSP had been approved by the National Security Committee, after years of deliberations. It is supposedly a comprehensive, citizen-centric, policy and was applauded by the Pakistan establishment as a historic achievement. The document draws out a five-year plan between now and 2026. It will act as a guidance for nation’s foreign, defence and economic policies and overall decision-making. The economic security is considered the core. There are guidelines for various sectors. The achievement of economic security, in turn, will help achieve the national security objectives.

National Security Policy Evolves

National Security Committee is Pakistan’s top security coordination and decision-making body. It is headed by the Prime Minister. The meeting to clear the NSP was reportedly attended by federal ministers for foreign affairs, defence, information and broadcasting, interior, finance and human rights, the national security adviser, services chiefs, and some other key officials.

In an Army dominated country, the NSA was quick to acknowledge, and thank, the military leadership, and others, for supporting the exercise through valuable inputs and suggestions. He also thanked Prime Minister Imran Khan for leadership and guidance. The policy currently remains closed-door, and is for access by key functionaries of the Pakistan government only. An open-to-public version, perhaps an abridged one, would be released in due course. Meanwhile, the military spokesman confirmed the Army’s stamp of approval, and said that the armed forces would fully cooperate and participate in achieving the vision and path enumerated in the policy.

The policy had taken seven years to evolve and was reportedly based on inputs and discussions with people from various walks of life and strata. It is supposed to have factored the changing times, and implementation will be monitored at the highest level on regular basis.[2]

 Pakistan’s Economic Challenges– a Policy Driver  

As per World Bank report[3], Pakistan’s economy is currently under serious stress. The consumer price inflation is still at nearly 9 percent. Food prices are sky-rocketing, and disproportionately affecting the poor. And, even at 7.0 percent, the interest rates effectively give a negative return to the ordinary saver. Pakistan Rupee is nearing the all-time low of 180 to a US Dollar. Foreign direct investment has been decreasing, and the country is surviving mostly on remittances. Foreign exchange reserves at US$18.7 billion are just equivalent to 3.4 months of total imports. As of October 2021, Pakistan remains of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) grey-list[4] for not acting sufficiently to investigate and prosecute senior leaders and commanders of UN-designated terror groups involved in terror financing.

Pakistan’s Security Concerns

Pakistan is simultaneously facing many security challenges. After U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the security situation on Pakistan’s Western border has become very complex. No country has “recognised” the Taliban as Afghanistan’s new government since it took power in August 2021[5]. The flow of drugs and illicit arms are the immediate worry. Pakistan is facing internal strife and very active separatist movements. Many internationally recognised terrorists and extremist groups are seeking political concessions, and the government has had to bend to accommodate them. The National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) that was meant to devise and implement a counter-terrorism strategy, had become defunct and victim to turf-wars and sectional pulls and pressures. Pakistan’s relations with India continue to be strained. Clearly Pakistan is facing multiple national security challenges.

Pakistan Military On-board

The NSP is also meant to gives hope to the otherwise demoralised public. Centrality of economic issues is an important feature as the military power and the standards of living, and in turn, national security flow from there. A critical aspect will be human resource development which will be crucial for economic development. It is also hoped that the policy would improve coordination between various agencies and stake holders. More importantly it is meant to overtly signal that Pakistan military is willing to work towards nation building under the purported civil lead. Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar said that the policy was an important milestone in strengthening Pakistan’s national security.

It encompasses both traditional and non-traditional internal and external security threats, challenges and opportunities. NSP will be an umbrella document to guide formulation policies and approach for other sectors. The document also suggests a cautious foreign approach to avoid getting pulled into global geostrategic alignments that are still evolving. The NSP is expected to be dynamic enough and will be subjected to annual reviews that will allow to factor changing regional and global environment.

Human Prosperity Linkage

The policy that has been drafted by the National Security Division, tries to generate formal linkages among human prosperity and safety, and nation’s economic and military security. Views of several federal institutions and all the provisional governments were reportedly ascertained through repeated discussions. The figures released by the NSA suggested that over 600 academics, analysts, civil society members and students had been consulted to make the policy all inclusive. The policy also takes into account Pakistan’s cultural and ethnic diversity and brings in policy framework to promote cohesion. The Policy is also meant to give direction to social and legal approach which are both critical for security. Of course, the basic tenants of Islam will remain the basis of all decisions. Many in Pakistan were happy that in a complex country like theirs, where it is fairly difficult to devise policies, they were finally able to release the NSP with reasonable broad consensus. The draft policy had earlier been shared with the Parliamentary Committee on National Security, but the opposition parties had boycotted the same.

The policy has been cleared by the cabinet. The document will now have to be tabled in both Houses of parliament. The real challenge would be the threadbare debate and discussion among a fractured polity. Legislators and political parties may find some provisions that could curb opposition or dissent. Senators belonging to the Opposition parties in Pakistan have already begun protests over the government’s decision to bypass the Parliament in the making of the NSP[6]. Will the Army arrange to get the opposition on-board?

Impact and Implications for India

The policy hints at peace with other countries, especially in the neighbourhood. Strategic establishment in India would need to look at the policy with a fine-tooth comb. How will the policy impact Pakistan’s approach to India is an open-ended subject. Would the economic pressures and primacy in the policy make Pakistan review its trade policy towards India and take advantage of better economic dynamics? Will they be able to make a distinction between geo-politics and geo-economics? The policy is unlikely to bring any change in Pakistan’s active support to cross-border terrorism and position on Kashmir.  Surely all this and more would need to be understood and assessed.

India’s National Security Strategy

India too has not had a clearly articulated and defined National Security Strategy (NSS). Many governments had ventured to define the same, but apparently not sufficient push had been given to it. A fresh move had been initiated by the Modi government. A Defence Planning Committee[7] (DPC) was created in April 2018 under the chairmanship of the National Security Adviser (NSA). Foreign Secretary, Defence Secretary, Chief of Defence Staff, the three Service Chiefs, and expenditure secretary were the members. The Chief of the Integrated Defence Staff (CIDS) was the member-secretary. In the initial meeting, the broad mandate was discussed.

The mandate[8] of DPC was to look at the entire gambit of defence planning, including national defence and security priorities, foreign policy imperatives, and operational directives and associated requirements, relevant strategic and security-related doctrines, defence acquisition and infrastructure development plans, including the 15-year Long-Term Integrated Perspective Plan (LTIPP), defence technology and development of the Indian defence industry and global technological advancement. In addition, the DPC had been asked to prepare the National Security Strategy[9] (NSS) and the Strategic Defence Review (SDR). Perhaps the future operational directives of the Defence Minister would have emerged from the doctrine and strategy worked out by the committee. It would also evolve the roadmap to build defence manufacturing eco-system[10]. Four sub-committees were formed for covering policy and strategy, plans and capability development, defence diplomacy and defence manufacturing ecosystem.

India’s first Chief of Defence Staff, General Bipin Rawat too was making a fledgling attempt to evolve military aspects of the NSS and was trying to take further, with upgrades, the 2007 draft NSS prepared by the Integrated Defence Staff, that had not been approved by the Cabinet Committee of Security. The Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020[11] does make reference to the “National Security Strategy/Guidelines, as and when promulgated. It is imperative that India have its own all-encompassing National Security Strategy.



[1] ‘Historic achievement’: NSA announces cabinet’s approval of Pakistan’s first National Security Policy, Dawn News, December 28, 2021, Accessed on 30 December 2021.

[2] Pakistan Economic update and outlook, Accessed on 30 December 2021.

[3] Pakistan Economic update and outlook, Accessed on 30 December 2021.

[4] Rezaul H Laskar, FATF retains Pak on its ‘grey list’, Hindustan Times, October 22, 2021, Accessed on 30 December 2021.

[5] Ben Saul, “Recognition” and the Taliban’s International Legal Status, International Centre for Counter Terrorism, December 15, 2021. Accessed on 30 December 2021.

[6] Sentinel Digital Desk, Pakistan Opposition protests government bypassing Parliament on security policy, The Sentinel, December 30, 2021.  Accessed on 31 December 2021.

[7] Laxman Kumar Behera, Creation of Defence Planning Committee: A Step towards Credible Defence Preparedness, Manohar Parikkar-IDSA, April 19, 2018, Accessed on 30 December 2021.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Manoj Joshi, Scraping the bottom of the barrel: Budgets, organisation and leadership in the Indian defence system, ORF, August 22, 2018, Accessed on 30 December 2021.

[10] Shishir Gupta, India to create super-committee for defence planning, Hindustan Times, Apr 19, 2018, Accessed on 30 December 2021.

[11] Laxman Kumar Behera, Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020: Imperatives for Further Reforms, ORF, February 04, 2021. Accessed on 30 December 2021.

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