Pakistan’s changing security doctrine
Last week, the chief of Pakistan’s Army, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, delivered a speech at the passing out parade at Pakistan’s Naval Academy in Karachi. The speech was very important, for it helps in contextualizing the recent changes in and around Pakistan, shedding light on various doctrinal changes in the Army’s thinking.
During his speech, General Bajwa talked about security threats which Pakistan faces externally and internally and also shared his views on Pakistan’s position on various security-related developments taking place in the region.
Addressing the cadets, General Bajwa said that “We want you to emerge from a security perspective to a development perspective; therefore, join hands to take Pakistan forward.” It’s apparent that Pakistan’s top leadership is more focused on bringing out Pakistan’s image of a state whose only focus is not just to guarantee means to fight against external threats but also a country that is poised to become an economic giant. Moreover, the statement also shows that the country’s leadership now believes that if Pakistan is to ensure or perhaps manage resources for its security, its economy needs to do much better than how it’s performing now. Undoubtedly, like other major state institutions, Pakistan’s defense expenditures are going to face the strain of Pakistan’s badly-performing economy. The habit of obtaining loans from friendly states or other private lenders is not a permanent solution for Pakistan’s economy: Pakistan is here to stay and it’s up to the leadership of the country if they want to see a country which only exists on the map or is an economic power.
The domain of social media is an altogether different challenge which cannot be tackled with guns. Rather, smart and better deployment of narratives is the only solution if one is to win against forces which stand to gain by creating instability.
It’s this view on Pakistan’s economy which is having an impact on the way Pakistan conducts its foreign policy. “Our new government has extended a hand of peace and friendship towards India with utmost sincerity but it should not be taken as our weakness, peace benefits everybody. It is time to fight against hunger, disease, and illiteracy, than to fight against each other,” said Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. This is a very important statement which perhaps reflects some key changes in the country’s approach toward its foreign policy. It’s very seldom that Pakistan’s top security brass discusses economic issues impacting millions of lives in the region and how reconciliation and better regional connectivity can help address some of these issues. And when Pakistan’s top security brass says that India and Pakistan need to fight hunger and poverty rather than each other, then there is a very good chance that a sustained and comprehensive reconciliation process actually has the potential to bring the two countries closer economically. The government in India needs to pay heed to what is happening in the neighborhood as an approach of sustaining confrontation to appease domestic audience with Pakistan is not going to serve the former’s interests.
Another issue which is now considered a threat in Pakistan is the domain of internet and social media. It’s important that states are in control of narratives which emanate in their national discourse as the age of the internet is not limited to any singly country. For instance, a hundred planted accounts discussing issues that are sensitive in a country’s national discourse can undermine one country’s position internationally or create violence domestically. “You have to prepare and enable yourself to read the environment, gauge the enemies’ latest moves and be ready to respond, even when a surgical strike exists only in cognitive domain or media or even when the attack comes, not in the battlefield but in cyberspace, or against the country’s ideological frontiers,” said General Bajwa. “The response to such onslaughts or threats cannot always be kinetic in nature. You will have to deal with them in the cognitive domain by producing or propagating a superior narrative, but this can only happen if you have developed the ability to handle unwarranted criticism with patience and possess better intellectual skills to respond to such threats with logic and reasoning,” noted General Bajwa in his address.
It’s not a one-off statement rather an apprehension which is being watched closely. We have already seen how groups like TLP can create instability by mobilizing people through its widespread social media presence. The domain of social media is an altogether different challenge which cannot be tackled with guns. Rather, smart and better deployment of narratives is the only solution if one is to win against forces which stand to gain by creating instability. “Like the terrorists before; the protagonists of the new threats are at times, our own people. Mostly misguided by ambitions, blinded by hate, ethnicity or religion or simply overawed by social media onslaught, some of our own boys and girls readily fall victim to such dangerous or hostile narratives, noted General Bajwa during his address.