General Qassem Soleimani’s assassination by the US under the direct authorization of President Trump was the latest reminder of the growing international anarchy and ineffectiveness of the UN in the consideration of major issues of international peace and security. UN Security Council, which carries the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security under the UN Charter, was prevented to perform effectively during the Cold War because of the intense rivalry between the US and the Soviet Union as well as between NATO and the Warsaw bloc. The end of the Cold War initially engendered hopes for a New World Order based on respect for international law and the UN. However, these hopes proved short-lived.

The US took advantage of its supremacy in a unipolar world to pursue its hegemonic ambitions in different regions of the world instead of strengthening the UN and the rule of international law. An important Pentagon planning document, which was leaked to the press in 1992, laid down the following as the US overarching strategic goal in the post-Cold War global scenario: “Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival……that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union……Our strategy must now refocus on precluding the emergence of any potential future global competitor.” This strategic goal has remained the most important guiding principle of the US foreign and security policies since then. Consequently, instead of a New World Order based on international law, the international community was confronted with the spectacle of a world in disorder marked by the domination of power politics over international law, unilateralism and the diminished authority of the UN on the strategic issues of war and peace.

In pursuit of the goal of global hegemony, the US has openly defied the UN and blatantly violated the principles of international law. The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 under President Bush was perhaps the most telling example of the disregard of its obligations under the UN Charter and international law while pursuing its hegemonic agenda and its inclination towards unilateralism in dealing with international issues of peace and security. President Trump has carried the US unilateralism and defiance of the UN to an extreme as reflected by his decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, which had been negotiated with Washington’s full participation, the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem, its declaration that Israeli settlements in the West Bank do not violate international law, and its blatant interference in the internal affairs of other countries. Soleimani’s assassination, which violated Iraqi sovereignty and delivered another blow to the UN Charter, was just the latest example of this dangerous trend. To be fair, several other major powers have been equally guilty of defiance of the UN and disregard of the principles of international law in dealing with world affairs since the end of the Cold War. The net result, however, is the diminished authority of the UN and its resultant inability to deal effectively with the burning international issues of peace and security.

This trend towards the diminution of the authority of the UN and the growing sway of realpolitik has serious implications for Pakistan’s security, which its leaders and policy makers can ignore at their own peril. These developments lead one to the inevitable conclusion that national power comprising political stability, economic and technological strength, military prowess and pro-active diplomacy, rather than international law or morality is the ultimate guarantee of a county’s security. Undoubtedly, international law is the first line of defense of small and medium-size nations like Pakistan. Strengthening of international law and abiding by its provisions helps these nations in defending themselves against threats to their security from powerful states. But it would be a mistake to rely on international law or the UN alone to ensure their security. When it comes to a crunch, powerful states are likely to trample on international law and violate the UN Charter in pursuit of their vital interests. In such situations it is the power of a nation combined with that of its allies which will be of critical importance in defending it against threats to its security from aggressive powerful states.

Pakistan, therefore, must focus on building up its power in the interest of ensuring its security and acquiring a position of respect and dignity in the comity of nations besides building up credible alliances with friendly countries which can come to its rescue in times of need. However, it should not err by relying too heavily on others in the current era of growing international anarchy because of the current trend towards disregard of international law and shifting alliances. Ultimately, a nation will have to rely on its own power for defending its security and interests.

Obviously a credible security deterrent is the most important ingredient of a nation’s security architecture for defense against external threats. Too often, however, the importance of economic power and technological strength is ignored in a country’s security calculations. In the modern world, a country’s economic power, financial autonomy, scientific advancement and technological strength are critically important pillars of its security structure. A nation bereft of these ingredients of national power and with a begging bowl in its hands for its economic survival has little chance of defending itself against external threats effectively or taking decisions successfully in support of its national interests. Pakistan unfortunately falls in this category of nations. Its economic backwardness and financial dependence on foreign sources of economic assistance have critically narrowed down its foreign policy and national security options as evidenced by recent developments. The possibility of unfriendly powers taking advantage of these weaknesses cannot be ignored.

While economic and technological strength is critically important for a country’s security even in the short-term, it is the determining factor in the effectiveness of a country’s security policy in the long run. As Paul Kennedy conclusively established in his seminal work, “The Rise and Fall of Great Powers”, shifts in economic power have caused changes in the position occupied by major powers in the international system. The US assumed the supreme position in the comity of nations after it became the most powerful nation economically. Further, as shown by the collapse of the Soviet Union, a large military establishment resting upon weak economic foundations may look imposing but runs the risk of collapse in the long run. Pakistan’s leaders and policy makers need to ponder whether we are gradually sliding into that position.

In conclusion, Pakistan’s ability to defend itself and promote its national interests successfully will depend ultimately on its national power covering political stability, economic and technological strength, military power, and pro-active diplomacy. Currently, political instability and economic backwardness are the weakest links in its security structure. Unless Pakistan overcomes these weaknesses, its security will remain under a serious threat and its prosperity will remain an unfulfilled dream. These negative factors combined with UN’s growing ineffectiveness will also severely limit Pakistan’s ability to achieve a satisfactory resolution of the Kashmir dispute as manifested by the tepid response of the international community to the Modi-led government’s decisions virtually to annex IOK in violation of UN Security Council resolutions and the unwillingness of the UNSC so far to hold even a single formal meeting to consider the illegal Indian actions. It needs to be underscored that informal consultations are not an adequate substitute for formal meetings of UNSC.