Following the 26/11 airstrike in Salala the government is engaged in a comprehensive foreign policy review of relations with the US and NATO countries. These relations and any changes thereof have implications not only for Pakistan’s foreign policy with respect to its neighbours (Afghanistan, India, Iran, Russia and China) but also other dimensions of national policy: national security, human security and the economy. Accordingly if the current US/NATO focused policy review is to have the necessary rigour, its scope needs to be broadened to consider a ‘grand strategy’ for building a better future for the country. This would include a fundamental re-examination of the prevailing policy paradigms in the military, economic and social fields as well as the interactions between them.
Two features of the contemporary world form the backdrop of a ‘grand strategy’ for Pakistan: (1) A globalized economy which provides to a relatively small sized country, if appropriately positioned, unprecedented prospects of rapid material progress. This can happen through international flows of capital, goods, services, technology and knowledge. Until the onset of the present recession, three trillion dollars were crossing international borders every 24 hours in pursuit of investment opportunities. Exports of goods, IT services and import of technologies and knowledge have rapidly transformed the economies of China, India and the ASEAN countries in recent years. (2) In the post war period individual countries have benefited through global economic intercourse on the basis of regional blocks such as in North America, Europe, Africa, and South East Asia. Individual countries achieve efficiency gains through specialization in larger regional markets and reduced transaction costs made possible through integrated regional institutions. This not only stimulates growth at the regional level but also gives to member countries the leverage to deal on better terms with the rest of the world.
The material welfare and indeed security of a people in any one country is based on using reason rather than ideology in the conduct of foreign relations. Similarly preserving sovereignty involves rational negotiation with the international community to win space for independent policy in core areas of national concern. These negotiations have to be conducted with the recognition of relative economic strength, competent advocacy on the basis of international law and building diplomatic leverage through issue specific alliances with countries in the region and abroad.
Within this perspective some of the parameters of Pakistan’s grand strategy are: (1) Build close economic and political relations with the countries of South Asia, West Asia, and Central Asia, and have an open and co-operative relationship with the rest of the world on the basis of core concerns of the country. (2) National security is undermined by a strategy of deceit whereby claims of cooperation are combined with nurturing extremist militant groups as strategic assets for intervention in neighboring countries. As we have seen these extremist groups are not entirely controllable as foreign policy tools and worse develop domestic extremist political agendas that threaten the state. (3) Pakistan’s future lies in strengthening democracy so that the military becomes subordinate to elected civil authority. It is the democratic government that has the mandate for national policy making and not the military. (4) Unleash the creative and productive potential of the people by providing access to high quality education, health, judicial services and the protection of life, property and democratic freedoms. These are the entitlements that will actualize the human capabilities thereby giving meaning and purpose to the state. National security cannot be predicated on economic deprivation, bigotry and the resultant internecine violence in society. (5) Economic policy must aim to build a new institutional structure and new priorities of public sector resource allocation whereby all of the people rather than a few have access over productive resources, basic services and the opportunities to invest, produce and innovate.
The national policy paradigm needs to integrate foreign policy, military strategy and economic policy with the central aim to provide to the people of Pakistan the opportunities to actualize their human potential. They must have security of life, livelihood, justice and the opportunity to live in freedom and without fear.