A Growing number of countries are rolling out their national security policies. Pakistan joined the list last year, a step ahead of India.
While this document breaks the mould of Pakistan’s usual security roadmaps in many ways, one of the most interesting things about it is what it says about the Indian Ocean— specifically its name.
But first, let’s understand the crucial role of national security doctrines, where India currently stands on this front, and some of the most remarkable features of Pakistan’s document.
Why national security policies matter
All five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC)— the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, and France— have published their national security doctrines or policies and follow-up strategic papers. In the last two years, Germany, Japan, and Pakistan have also made their strategic frameworks public.
These documents provide useful insights into the security priorities and objectives of these nations. They go beyond traditional concerns about territorial integrity and encompass a broader range of security challenges, including human security, cybersecurity, energy security, and environmental security— all of which have a major impact on lives, livelihoods, and supply chain logistics in an increasingly interdependent world.
The institutional arrangements behind the preparation of national security doctrines vary across countries. In the case of China, the Chinese Communist Party is responsible, while in the UK, the Cabinet takes charge. In the US, the task mandate is with the State Department, while in Russia and France, the initiative is driven by the President’s office. In Pakistan, the defence ministry has taken the lead.
A slow process for India
In India, the National Security Advisor (NSA) and the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) have been part of the Prime Minister’s Office, starting from the tenure of Brajesh Mishra who concurrently held the positions of principal secretary to the PM as well as national security adviser from 1998 to 2004.
It has taken two decades of deliberations within the military and strategic community to initiate the process of bringing in a National Security Strategy (NSS).
It was only in the first week of November this year that the NSCS was formally directed to collate inputs from central ministries and departments to stitch together the strategic doctrine outlining India’s internal and external challenges.
This will serve as the foundational document for guiding principles in security, foreign policy, trade and investment, science and technology policy, and other areas. It will also provide conceptual clarity on threats to national security in a world where everything is becoming securitised.
Such clarity is particularly crucial for a democracy like India, as it will help ensure that the state does not overreach in the name of security. Furthermore, it is also in the state’s interest to ensure that it does not waste its scarce resources by over-securitising, which in turn can hurt India’s developmental imperatives. The NSS can also provide an impetus for implementing regulatory and military reforms that can help India effectively address its security challenges.
However, as this document is still under process, I will examine the National Security Policy (NSP) of Pakistan, which was released in January last year.
Whether or not Pakistan’s NSP is credible will depend on if the Army ‘allows’ the civilian leadership to prevail. But having said this, the existence of a well-crafted 64-page publicly announced policy represents a positive step forward for Pakistan’s security governance.
‘Bold visions and big ideas’
Pakistan’s National Security Policy starts with an ambitious and sweeping statement attributed to Imran Khan, who was prime minister at the time of its release.
“Bold visions and big ideas lie at the heart of human progress and prosperity. Policies that encapsulate these contribute towards galvanising national sentiments in line with the vision and goals a nation sets for itself,” it says.
In keeping with this, the document covers not just territorial security, but also various aspects of human security and economic development, recognising the interconnectedness of these issues.
Rabia Akhtar of the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Centre was all praise for the “comprehensive approach” of the NSP in her detailed analysis of the document.
“This is the first time any NSP in Pakistan has taken a comprehensive approach to security, anchoring its drift in human security to achieve economic security. Whether it is about securing a citizen’s constitutional privileges, or about protecting a regular Pakistani from all forms of extremism, crime, terrorism, and violence—including war—the new NSP covers it all,” wrote Akhtar, who is also director of the Centre for Security, Strategy, and Policy Research at the University of Lahore.
Akhtar also noted that this was the first time that “gender security”, encompassing structural violence to workplace inequality, found mention in the NSP.
“These are not minor successes for a country which has been focused for the past seven decades on defining national security primarily in terms of territorial security and through the lens of traditional security battling internal and external threats. This is the comprehensive approach which had been missing previously from all NSPs and should be celebrated,” she added.
Of course, the NSP also plays to the gallery.
It talks about the benefits of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Pakistan’s commitment to Kashmir, and the perceived threat from Hindutva forces. However, the India obsession does not dominate the document. It also dwells on Pakistan’s aim to expand its ties with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and Islamic nations like Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf states.
But arguably the most important point in the NSP is the grudging acceptance of the name of the Indian Ocean.
An ocean by any other name…
In the 1960s and 1970s, Pakistan sought global support to rename the Indian Ocean as Afro-Asian Ocean, Eastern Ocean, or Muslim Ocean.
Notably, the first objection to the ‘Indian Ocean’ came not from Pakistan, but Indonesia. In July 1963, the Times of India reported the startling news that Indonesia’s President Sukarno wanted his navy to refer to the Indian Ocean the Indonesian Ocean. His navy chief of staff Eddy Martadinata even issued an order to this effect.
Martadinata later became Indonesia’s ambassador to Pakistan, but there is no evidence on record that the Pakistan navy ever used this term.
The debate, however, continued well into the 1980s. For instance, in a 1988 piece, the now-defunct government-owned Pakistan Times railed against the unfairness of the name Indian Ocean.
“By calling itself India, the country seemed to have become heir to the entire history of the subcontinent,” ran the complaint.
The paper also argued that India was dismembered in August 1947 and after that “what remained outside Pakistan and Bangladesh should be called Bharat”.
Pakistani strategists also had other ideas about what the ocean should be named instead.
For instance, at a 1971 seminar at Georgetown University Latif Ahmed Sherwani of the Pakistani Institution of International Affairs advocated for the name Afro Asian Ocean.
To buttress his argument, he drew a parallel with the Mediterranean Sea, stating that it is not called the Italian Sea despite Italy’s prominent position along its coast. Similarly, he contended, the ocean should not be named after India.
However, the issue seems to have been firmly settled in favour of India, thereby making it the only country in the world to have an ocean named after it.
Source : The Print