December 14, 2023

US desire to limit Pakistan’s military capabilities a point of concern: PICSS Roundtable

Islamabad, December 14, 2023. Speakers and participants at a roundtable discussion argued that despite the shifting of US policy from traditional security to non-traditional security towards Pakistan, the country will remain relevant for the US in the region. It was also highlighted that the US wants to limit Pakistan’s military capabilities which should be a point of concern in the country. The roundtable conference was organized by Islamabad-based think tank Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS) to discuss US country strategy for Pakistan in the context of regional politics. The roundtable was chaired by Dr. Farah Naz, assistant professor at NUST, with guest speakers being Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, director and professor of the School of Politics and International Relations (SPIR) at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, and Amir Jahangir, the founder, and CEO of Mishal Pakistan. Other participants included Ambassador Fouzia M Sana, Muhammad Nadeem Iqbal Managing Director Organic Pakistan, Mr Abdullah Khan Managing Director PICSS, Mr Guldad Director Research PICSS, and Representatives from Different Think tanks and Diplomatic communities were also there. The main focus of this was on the Country Strategy Document of the US for Pakistan. Mr Amir Jehangir presented a comparative analysis between the country documents for 2022 and 2023. Amir Jahangir discussed the various important key points in the new strategy policy which was originally launched in March/April of 2023. The new document has some interesting points to be noted argued Amir. He said that the prime focus of the new country strategy document is on climate change, global health, eco-friendly energy, economic stability, and trade. He said that it gave special emphasis on democracy, human rights, more roles of women, and diversity in working sectors.

Amir Jahangir said that in the traditional security domain, the focus is on countering terrorism and ending cross-border proxy terrorist attacks. It also gives significance to the increase of gender diversity in the field of the justice sector and law enforcement agencies. He said that the document also has the objective to ensure Pakistan’s military capabilities do not pose a threat to the US or its allies. He said that this goal of US country strategy needs to be discussed thoroughly in Pakistan. He said that the US wants to enhance the capabilities of civilian institutions at the expense of diffusing military capabilities. He further discussed that the US no longer sees Pakistan as part of South Asia, rather it is considered as a part of the Middle East and Near Asia (MENA) region as the US policy documents now use the term MENA plus where P stands for Pakistan. He said that the IMF and the World Economic Forum also consider Pakistan as part of the MENA region. Amir Jahangir also said that the US wants the re-engagement of Pakistan with India.

Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal believed that even though the document suggested a change in the US policy of Pakistan towards nontraditional security paradigms, Pakistan is nonetheless relevant more towards traditional security terms. He argued US integrated strategic policy for Pakistan is impractical in practical domains. He believed national interests of the states are determined by traditional security. Dr. Jaspal commented that the relevance of the current US strategic policy will be determined by global trends and said the current US integrated strategic policy is a reflection of the realist paradigm. Dr. Jaspal further stated that the camp politics is back and currently in the American camp Pakistan has no place and Pakistan needs to realize that. Global power appears to be shifting towards allied politics rather than the military significance of individual states. He commented about the document that practically this document needs six more documents in its support. He shifted focus towards how the global dynamics are seen through the prism of the US versus China. Americans are looking for strategic security and it is trying to reestablish itself in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Moreover, his point was that Pakistan should identify where its policies are failing, and where is the gap left between the theory and the practical. In his opinion, Pakistan has weak civilian institutions and is weak in understanding the currencies of other countries and as a result, is unable to move the investments in Pakistan.

Former Pakistani Ambassador to the UN Ms. Fouzia commented that the US no longer needs Pakistan and that Pakistan should more focus on its strengths as foreign policy is driven by national interests. Managing Director PICSS Mr. Abdullah Khan said that the US may be trying to lure Pakistan away from China by engaging in fields other than security and counter-terrorism. He said whatever the country strategy document may be setting out the matter of fact is that most of the goals set for the US ambassador will remain unattainable even after three years as Pakistan may not act as per the desires of the US.

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