The titanic forces unleashed by the end of the Cold War and the process of globalisation have radically transformed the world. The process of transformation continues apace posing serious challenges to policy makers who have to shoulder the responsibility of safeguarding the national security and promoting the economic prosperity of their respective countries. While surveying the current global scene and its likely trends in the 21st century, I offered the following comments in my book, “Pakistan and a World in Disorder—-A Grand Strategy for the Twenty-First Century” published by Palgrave Macmillan in June this year:

“Pakistan is faced with an anarchic and extremely competitive global security environment marked by the domination of power politics over international law, diminished authority of the UN on strategic issues of war and peace, civilisational fault-lines, primacy of economic power, importance of science and technology in determining the power of states and its growth, the rise of new powers demanding the accommodation of their interests in the international system, and shifting alliances. It is this ‘world in disorder’ with an unpredictable and inhospitable international environment, in which Pakistan has to operate to safeguard its security and attain the goal of economic prosperity so that its people may realise their full potential.” (Chapter 2, p. 28)

In the current global security environment, power is the ultimate arbiter of strategic issues of war and peace. It would be a mistake to place reliance merely on international law and morality in quest of a satisfactory settlement of such issues. For the same reason and because of the growing tendency of major powers to resort to unilateralism in dealing with such issues (e.g. US invasion of Iraq of 2003), the capacity of the UN Security Council to perform its primary responsibility of maintaining international peace and security has greatly diminished. Of course, it would be a mistake to ignore the UN altogether because it can occasionally play a useful role in encouraging major powers to reach an understanding on security issues. Further, in the calculus of power, economic strength acts as a major determinant of a country’s position in the international ranking. A country which is losing ground to its opponent in the economic field cannot hope to safeguard its national interests effectively in the long run. It is also worth emphasising that in the modern knowledge-based world, advancement in science and technology plays a critically important role in determining the relative strength of a country vis-à-vis its opponents or competitors.

Pakistan is confronted by an extremely threatening regional security environment because of the enduring hostility of India which entertains hegemonic designs in South Asia, the Kashmir dispute, and the continuing armed conflict and political instability in Afghanistan. In this regional scenario, it is vitally important for Pakistan to build up its economic and military power, strengthen its political stability, and pursue a pro-active rather than a reactive foreign policy in order to be able to safeguard its national security and promote its economic prosperity. Unfortunately, the situation in Pakistan is far from satisfactory, particularly in the economic and political fields.

Economically, Pakistan is increasingly falling far behind India, which poses an existential threat to Pakistan as an independent and a sovereign country. As against India’s current annual GDP growth rate of about 7.5%, Pakistan’s GDP growth rate over the past decade or so has never exceeded 5% per annum. The situation becomes even more alarming when one takes into account the fact that India is about seven times bigger than Pakistan in terms of population. Ideally, Pakistan should be growing at an even faster pace than India economically to face successfully the challenges posed by the latter. Pakistan’s current economic situation, therefore, reflects a huge failure on the part of the country’s economic planners and managers. The same is true as far as the advancement in science and technology is concerned. Pakistan’s literacy percentage remains extremely low. We still do not have universal primary education coverage. There is hardly any world class university in Pakistan. Further, there is woefully inadequate attention to the advancement of science and technology and to vocational and technical training in our educational curricula. Unless, we take energetic steps to accelerate our economic growth and advancement in science and technology, the country’s internal and external problems will aggravate posing a serious threat to our national security.

Internally, Pakistan’s democracy is still fragile because of the history of military regimes which did not allow the democratic institutions and practices to take root, inadequacies and the immaturity of politicians and political parties, and the incompetence and corruption of our bureaucracy and the judiciary. We, therefore, continue to suffer from political instability and uncertainty. Unsurprisingly, India has not missed any opportunity to exploit our political weaknesses to its advantage. It played the key role in the dismemberment of Pakistan in 1971. More recently, it has been engaged in sponsoring and fomenting terrorism in Pakistan. Its secret agencies may even be involved in other schemes for spreading political instability and widening political divisions in the country. In the management of our national affairs, our politicians and the various state institutions must beware of India’s machinations.

A distinctive feature of the current global security environment is the trend towards the shifting of alliances because of the radical transformation caused by the end of the Cold War, globalisation and the emergence of new major powers which are jockeying for the accommodation of their interests in the international system. In the triangular relationship among the US, China, and Russia, the strategic cooperation between the US and China of 1970’s and 1980’s has been replaced by growing strategic partnership between Moscow and Beijing. The driving force behind this trend is the pursuit of the goal of global hegemony by the US which is seen as a serious security threat by Moscow and Beijing.

China’s rapid rise as an economic giant and a potential super power of the future is another important factor causing the shifting of alliances. The US, in pursuance of its policy of containment of China, is strengthening strategic partnership with India in the hope that India would block the expansion of the China’s influence and power in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region. One should contrast this development with the situation during the Cold War when India was non-aligned. On the other hand, the US is gradually distancing itself from Pakistan, its erstwhile ally during the Cold War, because of the latter’s unwillingness to be a party to the US policy of containment of China. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which aims at strengthening strategic and economic cooperation between the two countries, is the right answer to the rapidly developing US-India axis.

These developments call for greater care and wisdom in the handling of our relations with India and the US than has been exhibited so far. While working for a tension-free relationship with India, we should recognise that friendship with India will remain an elusive goal in the foreseeable future. Consequently, SAARC must be downgraded as a vehicle for regional cooperation. Instead, ECO must be built up by us as an organisation for regional economic integration. We must also adopt a long-term approach to the Kashmir dispute keeping in view the national, regional, and global ground realities. We need to lower our expectations from the US while maintaining and, where possible, strengthening our friendly relations with it. Finally, we should develop bridges of understanding and cooperation with Russia while deepening our strategic links with Iran.