Avoid nurturing another set of unrealistic notions
It was highly embarrassing when two federal ministers took a contradictory stand on the Xiamen declaration. It speaks volumes about the weakness of the system that the President of the country, its parliament, cabinet ministers and most of the National Security Committee members are being kept ignorant of the ‘most serious dangers facing the country,’ with the information avowedly confined to Nawaz Sharif, Chaudhary Nisar, the COAS and the DG ISI only. While this can happen in a totalitarian state, it is inconceivable in a democracy.
After the threats extended by President Trump attempts were afoot to hurriedly put together a policy to cope with the unfolding situation. As notions formed on the basis of wishful thinking were blown up in the face of the policy makers there was confusion and consternation among the establishment and government. Soon after came another shock when the BRICS summit resolution, to which China was also a signatory, included the names of LeT and JeM as terrorist groups which according to the signatories were a regional security concern. The resolution called for their patrons to be held accountable. Following the discredited policy of permanent denial the Defence Minister rejected the Xiamen declaration out of hand. The Foreign Minister however called for a stronger stance against banned groups in the country.
The National Security Committee is leading a policy review process. The Parliamentary committee for National Security wants a well thought out foreign-cum-security policy after taking all stake holders into confidence. Both have problems. The army looks at things solely from the angle of the strategic concerns defined solely by itself. For the lawmakers social and economic issues enjoy priority. There is a need to balance both sides. There should be no place for whims, sentimentality and secretiveness. The best way is for the government to prepare a policy with inputs from all stake holders that also include defence and security institutions. A committee of the Senate should be assigned the task to finalise the policy document which should then be sent to parliament’s approval after debate and discussion.