Regional Security

Debating Democracy and Terror

On December 7, 2011, the EastWest Institute (EWI), in partnership with the World Policy Institute (WPI), hosted the second annual Ian Cuthbertson Memorial Lecture. Counterterrorism experts Scott Helfstein and Naureen Fink discussed the positive and negative impacts of democratic transitions on the fight against terrorism.

The lecture, held at EWI's New York Center and moderated by EWI's Andrew Nagorski, was named in honor of the distinguished British diplomat and counterterrorism consultant Ian Cuthbertson, who served in senior roles at both EWI and WPI.

The ongoing turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), which many observers at least initially hailed as moves toward democratization, has raised many questions about the potential consequences for international security. Among these concerns is the effect it will have on counterterrorism operations throughout the region, especially in light of the pre-existing relationships between countries undergoing political upheavals and the Western governments most actively targeting terrorist operations. At a fundamental level, there is a sharp divide between many analysts on the question of the relationship between regime type and the prevalence and effectiveness of terrorism. Some argue that the institutions comprising a liberal democracy weaken the potential for terrorist activity and allow for more effective counterterrorism operations, while others maintain that autocratic regimes are more effective at thwarting and minimizing security threats.

Helfstein, who spoke first, is director of research for the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. An advisor to public and private sector organizations, Helfstein has extensively studied the effects of democratic and autocratic transitions from 1970 to 1990. Naureen Chowdhury Fink, who followed Helfstein, is a senior analyst at the Center on Global Counterterrorism Cooperation. Having worked closely with the U.N. Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED) on developing their initiatives in South Asia, Fink offered her expertise on Bangladesh as a case study to understand the impact of regime type on counterterrorism.

The Arab Spring raises the question of whether the security relationships established between Western and MENA autocracies are more effective at combating terrorist activity than new democracies, liberal or not, which come with uncertainty. During the discussion, a consensus quickly arose that reality calls for far more nuance than a simple “yes” or “no” answer.

In the wake of the revolutions, functioning security networks have been thrown out the door and have yet to be replaced. Helfstein noted that the United States has “created a foreign policy in the past based on the notion that democracy actually hinders terrorism, but there are good reasons to question that assumption.” He went on to cite a quantitative analysis of the impact of regime type transitions on terrorism that at least partially discredits the notion that democracy inhibits terrorism.

Speaking about his research on regime transition from 1970–1990, Helfstein pointed out that regimes that transitioned from democracies to autocracies had substantially fewer terrorist acts in the two year period following the transition when compared to the two year period preceding the transition. And in fact, nations that became democracies in that period underwent just the opposite experience: a substantial increase in terrorist attacks in the following two years. Regardless of the optimism generated by images of democratic participation in formerly autocratic regimes, it is clear that the future holds serious challenges for these states.

Fink, a specialist in South Asia, offered her extensive experience as an analyst of counterterrorism in Bangladesh as a case study for the topic. “Democracy has created an inhospitable environment for militancy and terrorism in Bangladesh,” she noted, adding that the majority Muslim nation’s democratic institutions have acted as a “pressure valve” for managing discontent. Bengali democracy, which has been in place since 1972, serves to establish expectations of transparency and accountability from public officials who, should they fail to meet these expectations, can be replaced at the ballot box.

That said, Fink noted that the “violent political culture” found in Bangladesh has threatened the stability of fundamental democratic practices such as the peaceful transition of power, even among members of the same political party.  A major lesson for the Arab Spring is that the abuse of power within democratic institutions can allow alternate narratives of religious extremism and militancy to become more compelling to the populace.

In light of this discussion, the conventional wisdom holding democratic transition as an absolute good proves to be a questionable one. Helfstein said that transitions are usually “jarring events” that “not only impact the political institutions but they impact the social structure of society.” The societal shock produced by regime change can often lead to unpredictable consequences.

Both speakers emphasized the role of culture and social norms. The outcome of a democratic (or autocratic) transition is significantly linked with ingrained social mores that can prove highly resistant to the influence of imposed institutions. The coming months are sure to shed more light on how the current political transitions in the Arab world are influencing the prospects for effective counterterrorism.

Click here to listen to a podcast of the event.

Click here for a gallery of photos from the event on Google+.

Click here to visit the World Policy Institute's website.

Security Measures in Southwest Asia

As foreign forces plan their exit from Afghanistan, one can question whether they achieved what they had set out to do and if not, as is the case, how will the world cope with unresolved mode of political governance and bilateral conflicts, migration and energy security as well as the concerns of nuclear weapons’ proliferation? The challenges involve linking the diverse nations economically and geo-politically, collective and collaborative action being crucial to enhancing security.

The present Afghan leadership is not capable of sustaining the present western model of democracy and governance; this has been imposed by the west in the mistaken belief that this is suited to a society which remains basically tribal and feudal despite technological advances. Former US Green Beret Captain Amerine who, alongwith his team of 10 Green Berets, was ordered in 2001 to protect Hamid Karzai when the original choice for topmost leader Maulvi Abdul Haq was captured and executed by the Taliban, recently disclosed to journalist Christina Lamb that his HQs had ordered him not to enter Afghanistan unless Karzai could guarantee 300 men on the ground. When they ultimately went in, Karzai, the future president of Afghanistan, could only gather 30 people together!

Europe is awash with constitutional monarchies; one must seriously consider the option of restoring the monarchy in Afghanistan while having a powerful PM, as it used to be before Sardar Daud deposed his cousin Zahir Shah, to ensure unity among the diverse ethnic groups.

The Afghan war has cost Pakistan heavily in human terms. While enhancing our defence and security budget we had to increase allocations for diplomatic efforts, and pay exorbitant economic and social cost estimated to be about US$65 billion. How can one begin to assess the cost to the image of Pakistan as a responsible entity in the comity of nations?

The US has incurred huge cost, some estimate Iraq and Afghanistan at US$4 trillion. Can they continue to do in the current economic climate and a rapidly diminishing appetite, with the EU members not willing to share the cost? What rankles is that there is little or no mention made to the direct cost incurred by Pakistan, as well as the virtual destruction of its socio-political and economic infra-structure. Long after the US and EU have abandoned the present leaders of Afghanistan to their fate, Pakistan will continue to pay a very heavy human cost, quite difficult to quantify the additional cost in socio-political and economic terms.

The 8th Worldwide Security Conference in Brussels organised by the EastWest Institute (EWI), one of the world’s leading think tanks, in cooperation with the World Customs Organisation (WCO) and the Financial Times centred around: (1) sharpening appreciation of the existing security dynamics in Southwest Asia (SWA), (2) analysing new means of promoting collective security in the region, (3) and develop consensus for enhancing security.

In the climate of uncertainty and high risk, the western world must prepare themselves to manage more complex emergencies. Notwithstanding the broad consensus about a durable security policy, the western nations are not geared to address some of the challenges that exist and/or are anticipated in the future described is the present situation in a relevant paper as “a sense of disarray and retreat rather than a commitment to continual reassessment and policy innovation”.

The negative factors influencing the situation include (1) weak commitment among the states in the region to cooperate, to prevent, reduce and/or contain imminent violent conflict, (2) economic growth not consistent with required standard of living, (3) governance remaining weak with power shifting to local actors, ie warlords in the sub-regions, (4) with outside commitment weakening, political leaders facing domestic pressures are reluctant to stake their political future on cooperation. Several risk factors are (1) conflicting requirements of modernisation and tradition (especially religious fundamentalism), (2) likelihood of regional and internal conflicts with a potential for nuclear confrontation and (3) increasing dependence of Europe, Japan and China for energy on this region.

With the exit of the coalition forces, (1) power will shift from governments to both previously weak local actors and anti-state actors, (2) strong demand for democracy, respect of individual rights, adequately compensated employment, education and upward social mobility will impact the legitimacy of governments in the region and (3) military expenditures will increase. The policy recommendations include viz (1) increased coordination between the states of this region, (2) increased regional economic integration, (3) mobilisation of private sector investment in trans-border economic projects and (4) promotion of justice and rule of law for improving governance.

Facts about Pakistan’s sacrifices are generally glossed over, viz (1) the direct and indirect cost to Pakistan as well as collateral damage in both terms of blood and money as well as the lasting damage to its socio-political factors need to be quantified, (2) what about the cost of hosting three million plus Afghans in Pakistan for over two decades? and (3) the cost of Pakistan allowing transit trade without fees and (4) the effect of smuggling on Pakistan’s economy and (5) unrelenting hostile propaganda by the coalition-supported government in Afghanistan affecting public opinion in Pakistan.

What is unfortunate is that no mechanism exists for a dialogue to offset and deal with misperceptions and misrepresentations of facts. Accusations and allegations against Pakistan are based on unsubstantiated facts, using two recent examples, viz (1) Adm Mike Mullen’s unfortunate statement, just before retiring, that Pakistan’s ISI was complicit in the recent attacks on the US Embassy in Kabul alongwith the Haqqani network and (2) consequently Karzai accusing Pakistan of assassinating Burhanuddin Rabbani and using that as a convenient excuse to call off the Tripartite Conference.

The White House has distanced itself from Mullen’s assertion while at the same time encouraging Pakistan to “do more” about the Haqqani network. Given the slogans at Rabbani’s funeral accusing him for Rabbani’s death Hamid Karzai’s accusations were right on cue and understandable. Why indeed did Karzai call him back to attend that particular meeting where he was killed? How better to deflect the allegations in the wake of Mullen’s statement to the world’s favourite bugbear of recent times, the ISI?

While we certainly need to address our counter-terrorism efforts within the Pakistani heartland far better, Pakistan has fought insurgents in its border areas to a standstill at great human cost, taking ten times more casualties than all the coalition countries put together. No one wants to mention the three million plus Afghan refugees spread throughout our soil. Most of Al-Qaeda leaders have been killed by our security forces and 80 percent of Al-Qaeda suspects in Guantanamo Bay were captured by Pakistan.

The evolving consensus is to readjust the role of the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) to help the nations find indigenous solutions and encourage countries having credibility in the region, like Turkey, to take a greater role, particularly in enhancing means of livelihood by innovative out-of-the-box thinking.

(Extract from speech given on Oct 3, 2011 at the 8th Worldwide Security Conference organised by the EWI in collaboration with the World Customs Organisation (WCO), Brussels and Financial Times on “Shaping collective security in Southwest Asia, are breakthrough measures possible?”)



Any Hope left for Reconciliation?

In Kabul on September 27, protesters shouted “Death to terrorists” and “Death to Pakistan.”  The spark for their anger: the recent assassination of former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who had led the efforts of President Hamid Karzai’s government to broker a reconciliation deal with the Taliban.  His quest ended when a purported envoy from the Taliban turned out to be a suicide bomber, with a bomb hidden in his turban.  In the aftermath of the killing that shocked their war-weary country, many Afghans were writing off the peace process as no longer viable. Others argued that the assassination only added urgency to the task of embarking on a genuine peace process, even if the challenge appeared more daunting more than ever.

Rabbani was a controversial choice to head the High Peace Council, which was charged with seeking to negotiate with the Taliban. As president of the country from 1992 to 1996 and briefly again in 2001, he had been a fierce opponent of the Taliban.  However, he proved skillful in managing a broad range of contacts and reaching out to regional and ethnic leaders. Since he was a Tajik, his appointment was particularly symbolic and tricky because he had to deal with the Pahtun-dominated Taliban.  So, too, is the aftermath of his assassination since it has only exacerbated ethnic divisions and convinced many Tajiks, in particular, that there is no point in seeking reconciliation with the Taliban. The opponents of reconciliation are convinced that the Taliban has no interest in genuine power-sharing once most of NATO’s troops withdraw by 2014.

If the peace talks are to have a chance, the Taliban and Pakistan will need to make a clear commitment to participate in them. But so far, the Taliban have not even taken an official position on Rabbani’s assassination. They did deny a media report that they had claimed responsibility for the killing, but have remained studiously vague on whether this was indeed their handiwork. Prior to the assassination, the Taliban launched attacks on NATO headquarters and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, and they have continued to target top Afghan officials.

The insurgents may believe that their campaign against other Afghan officials is actually strengthening their hand in negotiations, and Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar offered a conciliatory statement in his August 28 statement in his Eid-ul-Fitr (end of Ramadan) message , when he called on all ethnic groups to participate in any future settlement. But by any measure, the Rabbani assassination undercut the Taliban’s credibility with most Afghans.

Some officials maintain that the Taliban may be genuinely split on some of these issues, and that more militant factions like the Haqqani network are the most probable culprits in the bloodiest attacks. Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently: “The Haqqani network acts as a virtual arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency.”  This has prompted angry recriminations from Pakistan and a growing rift in the Washington-Islamabad relationship. 

The reality of the peace process so far is that contacts with the insurgents a have flowed through a variety of channels, not always through the High Peace Council. The U.S. has led much of this effort, but Rabbani’s assassination will only add to Afghan concerns about protecting their interests in any possible deal. One possible next step: with the backing of Washington, a team of Afghan and international representatives would head to direct talks with the Taliban in Pakistan. In such talks, the divisions within the Taliban would have to be dealt with, as well as the tensions between the U.S., Afghanistan and Pakistan.

But whatever efforts are made now to keep the peace process alive, many Afghans have already decided that it has lost its legitimacy. For them, the Rabbani assassination was a clear signal that the Taliban wants to seize power again instead of sharing it in any way. All of which suggests that even if the West manages to broker a deal with the Taliban for a political settlement, it needs to win the backing of the Afghan people. That is difficult to imagine —unless the Afghan people can help determine its terms so that their growing misgivings can be allayed.

Abu Dhabi Process Parliamentary Dialogue: Joint Declaration

On September 13-14, 2011, Afghan and Pakistani parliamentarians met in Islamabad to discuss relations between their countries as part of the EastWest Institute’s Abu Dhabi Process. The purpose of the dialogue is to seek more parliamentary cooperation between the two countries. With the generous support of the Abu Dhabi government, EWI has facilitated a dialogue between Afghan and Pakistani leaders for the past two years in order to promote trust building between them.

“Good relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan are key to ensuring reconciliation in Afghanistan and successful transition until 2014,” said EWI Vice President and Director of Regional Security Guenter Overfeld. “I am encouraged by the determination of the parliamentarians to work towards that goal. Parliamentary support can help the peace process a lot.”

The parliamentary dialogue was hosted by  the National Assembly of Pakistan. Participants pointed to recent positive developments in the evolving bilateral relationship.  But they also acknowledged that as NATO reduces its troop presence and prepares to hand over responsibility for security to the Afghan government by 2014, there will be a need for further efforts to strengthen the Afghan-Pakistani relationship and build mutual confidence and trust.

Three main recommendations came out of the meetings:

  • Enhance parliamentary oversight over both governments to ensure a commitment to the dialogue and to further all aspects of the developing relationship; 
  • Strengthen border management to facilitate cross-border mobility and to combat militancy and organized crime;
  • Intensify reconciliation processes within both countries and synchronize national efforts for reconciliation with regional countries and with the international community.

Participants agreed to establish regular parliamentary contacts and to set up  Afghan-Pakistani parliamentary friendship caucuses in both parliaments. Based on the solid record of the first bilateral peace Jirga—or assembly—in 2007, all participating parliamentarians urged the convening of a second bilateral Jirga. They suggested to the government of the United Arab Emirates that the Jirga be facilitated by the Abu Dhabi Process.

Click here for the full Joint Declaration

India’s Tryst with Terror

How should we interpret the latest terrorist attack in India?

Because it occurred when the Indian prime minister was in Bangladesh charting a new relationship with that country (which, until Sheikh Hasina came to power, had provided a safe haven for terrorists targeting India), the attack could be construed as a reminder that covering our flank does not lessen India’s vulnerability.

Or, it could be that the terrorists were expressing their anger at the Indian justice system that condemned to death Afzal Guru, the co-conspirator of the terrorist attack against the Indian Parliament in 2001. In their eyes perhaps, India’s constitutional justice had to submit to the vengeful dictates of Islamic justice.

Perhaps the terrorists’ idea is to periodically keep mauling the financial and political capitals of India—Mumbai and Delhi, respectively, to keep India off balance, inflame domestic tensions, deepen its domestic fault lines and distract its attention away from its global ambitions and toward the management of its domestic situation.

India’s rise may be welcomed by those distant from India’s shores as a counterweight to the threatening ascent of China, but some of India’s neighbors obsessed by parity with India would hardly be enthused by this prospect and, lacking state capacity to directly confront India, might want to use nonstate actors to flatten India’s rise as much as possible.

Terrorism in India was earlier an instrument of state policy of its western neighbor: Pakistan. Now that country itself is being bled by terrorism, which makes increasingly difficult its policy of fighting one set of terrorists for internal security reasons and supporting another for external security ones (especially as now the U.S. too, as a victim of Pakistan’s dichotomous policies on terrorism, is keeping a watchful eye on that country’s conduct).

Yet, the plague of terrorism has spread so widely in the region that India cannot insulate itself from it. If aggrieved terrorist groups want to settle scores with Islamic Pakistan, non-Islamic India cannot escape their rancor, particularly as Pakistan has nourished for decades feelings of hatred toward Hindu India. The nonstate actors earlier used by Pakistan against India for terror onslaughts have, with Pakistan losing some control, enough capacity to target India autonomously. Even if every terrorist attack against India cannot be laid at Pakistan’s door today, it needs recalling that it is Pakistan that opened wide the doors to terrorist acts against India in the first place.

India is peculiarly vulnerable to terrorism. Its borders are not secure. It has an open border with Nepal and a porous border with Bangladesh; terrorists can infiltrate these borders as well as the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir into India. Its coast is not adequately defended, as the Mumbai terrorist attack tragically demonstrated. Under scrutiny for its terrorist affiliations, Pakistan has been developing the shield of deniability by creating terrorist cells in India, so that when terrorist attacks occur they are attributed to local terrorists and not Pakistanis. This strategy has worked politically, as India now recognizes that there are indigenous Islamic terrorist groups operating in the country to seek redress for local grievances.

India has been trapped by its soft diplomacy toward Pakistan: a policy that recognized that both India and Pakistan were victims of terrorism, and that terrorists should not be allowed to disrupt the India-Pakistan dialogue. With this position India could no longer blame Pakistan directly for acts of terror, as that would entail derailing this policy. From being on the defensive, Pakistan now claims that instead of knee-jerk reactions against Pakistan, India should deal with its home-grown problem of terrorism. This, of course, obfuscates the reality of Pakistan’s policies and the integrated nature of the terrorist threat, which derives from a shared religion, world views, social mores, madrassah education, mosque-based politics, training, and financing.

India’s governance problem is reflected in its inadequate disposition to deal with terrorist threats even now—despite being perhaps the country most lacerated by terrorism over the years. Decision making is slow, acquisition processes are dilatory, and maintenance of the equipment bought is poor. The police forces are understaffed, insufficiently trained, and ill-equipped. The federal nature of the system obstructs a comprehensive overhaul of the policing system as law and order is the responsibility of the state governments. Besides, political interference in police functioning has damaged its professional caliber and capacity.

India’s public places are generally highly congested. The streets overflow with people and all kinds of vehicular traffic, parking is chaotic, posts for public service are always crowded—and so soft targets are plentiful.

On top of it, in a country wracked constantly by terrorism, there is no consensus on framing a tough antiterror law. Politics distorts the debate. For fear of alienating Muslim voters, tougher laws are resisted for fear that Muslims may feel targeted. More divisive feelings are generated by bringing to the fore “Hindu” terrorism as an equal problem.

The Delhi terror attack is a sad reminder that India’s tryst with terror will not end easily.

Click here to read the text on The Daily Beast.

Economics, Electrons and Existential Threats to America

It is crystal clear: the United States does not believe Iran has a nuclear weapons program. This is unambiguously visible in statements by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), General James Clapper, to the Congress in February and March 2011. He said that the intelligence community believes that Iran is “keeping open the option” for building nuclear weapons while developing some component technologies, like uranium enrichment, needed for making weapons “should it choose to do so”.

North Korea does have nuclear devices, but perhaps not weapons. Clapper says that North Korea would only consider using nuclear weapons in a narrow set of circumstances. He talked of the steady deterioration of North Korea’s conventional military capability over 15 years.

So what are the imminent threats to the United States?  Terrorist attack is the number one threat for the moment, according to Clapper. Here the picture is alarming: “A small but growing number of Americans have become involved in the global jihadist movement”. While Americans would remain a small part of that global movement, they would be disproportionately dangerous, the intelligence chief said. There is, in the United States, a “collective subculture and a common cause that rallies independent extremists to want to attack the Homeland”, Clapper reported.

On China, the mood is in some respects relaxed. There is authoritative evidence, according to the DNI, that China is looking for cooperative behavior not military confrontation. The main American concern with China is unintended conflict and a gradual intensification of the sense of power that it is now feeling.  On Taiwan, the picture looks good, with the main risk factor being a breakdown of the currently good political and economic relations across the strait.

The more existential threats to the United States, in Clapper’s view, now are economic imbalances and electronic intrusions. These have current manifestations and medium to longer term implications. They are regionally or nationally manifested, including in social unrest in the Middle East, economic weakness in Europe, and in electronic spying from China. But they are also global threats.

The characteristics of some of these new threats as characterized by Clapper include high degrees of complexity and relatively recent emergence. There are high degrees of uncertainty about some of them and about the linkages between them. In speaking just about water, Clapper assessed that “fresh water scarcity at local levels will have wide ranging implications for US national security”. But just what these would be, was not yet known. He called for wide-ranging assessment from the whole of the government to “assess the impact on state stability”.

The existential threat though was in the electronic domain. Or more correctly, the existential vulnerability lay there. The United States is facing “new security challenges across a swath of our economy”, he said. New technologies intended to underpin prosperity “are enabling those who would steal, corrupt, harm, or destroy public and private assets vital to our national interest”.

This is linked to international organized crime which, he said, was penetrating governments, degrading the rule of law and enhancing the ability of states to manipulate key commodities markets, such as oil.

The idea of “convergence” was mentioned by Clapper, the proposition that the physical infrastructure is becoming more fully integrated into the production and consumption cycle. He talked of the “far-reaching impact of the cyber threat” that this convergence could produce.

You, the reader, will have to decide whether you think American diplomacy and security policy matches the threat analysis from the Director of National Intelligence. You may also want to reflect on the role that US allies in Europe need to play to address these threats.

Click here to read Austin's column on New Europe's website.


Socio-Political Factors and National Security

National security in the traditional sense is connected with the idea of sovereignty; territorial security means freedom from risk of danger of destruction and annihilation by war, physical violence and/or aggression from outside. Traditional threats emanate from inter-state conflict and cross-border aggression. Since the nation state is supposed to have a monopoly of power for protecting the life and property of the members of the nation, they are deprived of power to defend themselves against aggression. The focus therefore previously being on external threats, state security has dominated the national security agenda.

With progressing globalisation, borders have become increasingly irrelevant, thus reducing the probability of external aggression. Conversely threats to a country’s security emanate internally because of lack of economic development, unemployment, failing internal security because of religious, sectarian and/or ethnic strife, shifting of identities in the wake of globalisation, radicalisation of society and growing terrorism thereof being recent additions. It has not been possible in our relatively new nation state to properly work out the national identity and borders, both traditional (external) and internal security threats have started to overlap. Societal security is the prime responsibility of the state; our rulers have generally cold-shouldered this to our lasting detriment, as we can now see on graphic display. Societal threats undermine national cohesion and identification with the state, the resultant radicalisation and extremism results in law and order situations, rioting, rise of criminal gangs and gang wars, due to money-laundering and easy availability of weapons because of the nexus between corruption, organised crime and terrorism.

A credible accountability system is missing, without proper investigation, effective prosecution and delivery of swift, untainted justice is not possible. Perjury is not only rampant but is the order of the day, credible witnesses are in short supply and even they are susceptible to influence, by use of money and/or the force of public office. Our Supreme Court (SC) has become captive to endless bureaucratic manoeuvring, fighting a losing battle against a virtual bag of administrative tricks to defy and/or frustrate their judgments and instructions. Both the NICL and Haj cases are likely to enter the “Guinness Book of Records’, sophisticated filibustering making them into an endless exercise without a likely outcome. Failure to fulfil the main function of maintaining law and order to protect lives and properties of its citizens and ensure impartial, even-handed justice hastens the deterioration of the state and its institutions. The failing identification with the state impacts negatively on the connection between citizen, the government and the army. This dissolution of the Pakistani identity results in growing influence of foreign interests, this spawns intervention and support for secessionist movements like in Balochistan.

Duly fanned by a well-meaning but immature media, paying little attention to core national interests, the vacuum provides a robust platform for promoting radical ideas, readymade for religious exploitation by extreme elements, making an alternative form of a purely Islamic state with all its ramifications resonating with the public. The spread of terrorism is detrimental to economic growth, the bad investment climate and the lack of development is extremely detrimental to the economy. The diminishing value of individual lives makes killing condonable and justifiable (Karachi killing, collateral damage). Despite the so-called truce between the warring political parties within the coalition government, hundreds of people have died during the past month alone. The consequent ugly cycle of unemployment and high inflation leads to stagflation. There is flight of both capital and manpower from the country, weakening the economy further. The failing economy destroys jobs and incomes, creates more poverty and destabilises society leading to fuel riots, electricity riots, water riots, food riots, etc, desperation in the mass psyche of citizens, suicides, destruction of families, etc. This creates favourable conditions for criminals and terrorists, further impacting negatively on the overall security. This diverts the right amount of attention and the material support necessary for external security. A whole process of cataclysmic changes is taking place in the political, economic and social transformation in South Asia. The structures of governance being diversified and differentiated, only lip-service is given to poverty reduction and improving governance. In such conditions corruption is rampant.

The Anna Hazare backlash we are seeing in India was waiting to happen, the more violent form being manifest in the four decades-old Maoist Naxalite movement. With an economic transition in the region, the majority of countries have inculcated globalisation to address their economic crisis. This has accelerated the process of growth but the impact of globalisation has not been accompanied by the reduction in poverty or improvement in human development through the formation of social capital. Increases in population growth is by itself a time-bomb. Pakistan’s security interests can be best served if elements having disruptive potential to our socio-political profile are contained, thereby giving no excuse or opportunity to our detractors and enemies to take undue and adverse advantage. Factors responsible for the declining social and human security and strengthening of extremism have to be identified. The human element remains the biggest resource for Pakistan, the government must utilise this to promote safety of the population and counter the threat of extremism engulfing this nation. The political leadership and all other stakeholders (who have a vital role to play) must agree to cooperate and formulate a national strategy to eradicate this menace. To cope with external threats, Pakistan has to keep up both conventional and nuclear deterrence necessary but should at the same time aim at socio-political solutions for long-term sustainable alleviation of our problems. The army has had increasingly to deal with internal strife instead of securing the borders. Other than drawing crucial reserves away from countering the aggressive defence postures of the Indians, they are forced to devote time and effort to burgeoning internal problems of different dimensions. Fighting against ones own population can put stress on any army in the world, raising adverse perceptions among the populace, extremely dangerous for a country that thrives on glorifying its armed forces.

The international media is fully mobilised against Pakistan’s critical national security assets, but of more serious concern is not only the erosion of local media support, but rather an antagonistic view from some motivated sections. The compromise of the media’s integrity is extremely detrimental to the national aims and objectives. The concerted campaign against the ISI, and by extension the army, is deliberately motivated despite our sacrifices not being matched in the war against terror by all the coalition partners in Afghanistan put together. The unfortunate irony is that an instrument of war – the armed forces – is also the ultimate guarantor of internal peace. One can understand it not being part of the decision-making process where democracy is institutionalised, in less developed countries this is a paradox. This leaves absolute power, at least in democratic theory, in the hands of a pre-modern feudal and agrarian mindset elected through a tainted process on fraudulent votes, as the ultimate arbiters of nation security and societal society, and by default, the destiny of the nation. Who will make the change? (Extracts from Part-II of the Talk on ‘Linkages between Socio-Political Factors and National Security” given recently at the National Defence University (NDU), Islamabad).

Click here to read Sehgal's piece in The News


Subscribe to RSS - Regional Security