Synchronizing National Defense with Economic Security

The relationship between economic policy and national security policy has, in both theory and practice, been complex. Many foreign policy makers, national security officials, economists, and business people who have tried to transcend their parochial perspectives have generally found a dearth of policy work that successfully integrates economics with national security. In the Pakistani context too, it is rather difficult to find any policy debate on the issue. However, a seminar recently conducted by Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) and Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) brought a much welcomed change. The discussion generated provided a base for further research on the subject as well as building a narrative that requires further debate.

There is a strong connection between the country’s prosperity and military power. In fact, economy and security are two sides of the same coin; without political stability and security it is difficult to develop an economy. An economy will only thrive when there is security for the people. Economy needs a secure environment for development while security creates the pre-conditions for sustainable economic growth and integration into regional and global economy. Without security, chaos and confusion will result with violence creating its own economy for its sustenance (smuggling, narcotics trade, land mafia, extortion, ransom etc). In today’s world a strong economy translates into greater military power, weaker the economy, weaker the military power.

Drivers of a Weak Economy

The role of the state in relation to its economy and national security is of paramount importance. If the state is weak for any reason and its institutions are unable to function or are corrupt, both economy and security become compromised and lawlessness raises its ugly head. Some drivers of a weak economy are 1) a large fiscal deficit; 2) tardy growth of economy; 3) increase in expenditures; 4) large-scale borrowing for expenditure requirements; debt starts accumulating; 5) high percentage of resources used for paying off interest on government borrowings; 6) high levels of tax avoidance and tax evasion; 7) high levels of unemployment, inflation; and 8) weak political institutions, etc. Currently, Pakistan’s economy faces fundamental challenges to sustain its growth and hence economic security.

All the indicators have been showing that the economic security of Pakistan is jeopardized due to all the above reasons along with the bad yet inevitable decision of participating in the global war on terror. The development of non-conventional weapons, undoubtedly, has given an unprecedented boost to the national security of Pakistan. However, lessons learnt from modern history of war and Soviet invasion of Afghanistan remind us that mere nuclear capability, without economic security, is not enough for defence of a country. Former Soviet Union had thousands of nuclear weapons, missiles and latest warheads, but it collapsed without firing a single shot despite having all the might of WARSAW pact and latest weaponry in its hands. The Soviet economy collapsed like a house of cards and as a result of which, the world changed from bipolar to the unipolar phenomenon.

Pakistan in an Economic Crisis

In this era of challenges and crises for Pakistan, it may not be in the fitness of event that policymakers and experts may forget the historic lesson learnt from the fateful collapse of one super-power that simply ignored the most critical factor, which was economic stability. The writing on the wall may not be overlooked that living beyond means for an individual as well as for a nation is dangerous and leads towards instability and ultimate failure.

Economic security is an important instrument of national security, which cannot be ignored for a longer time by any sovereign state. The growth rate of economy of Pakistan when compared with other regional countries such as China and India, indicates that our economic security has fallen prey to the vicious circle created by the global war on terror (GWOT) in the post 9/11 era, that has adversely affected the foundation of national security resulting into jeopardizing human security, underdevelopment, increased unemployment ratio and unbridled poverty leading towards an overall depression.

Further, corruption is rampant as large-scale profiteering, hoarding; racketeering etc. is turning the public temperamental. As a result of which intolerance is increasing, damaging the social fabric of the nation. According to studies, corruption has been commonly referred to as one of the numerous evils born of economic underdevelopment. To those who view Third World underdevelopment as a direct result of capitalist exploitation, corruption is one of the many socio-political consequences, along with political authoritarianism. Similarly, liberal economic theory relates the prevalence of corruption with regard to economic underdevelopment. Economic decline and economic crises are common explanations to increases in corruption. Various statistics have been gathered to demonstrate that the level of corruption varies negatively with the level of economic prosperity. In other words, as a country grows richer, the level of corruption decreases. Thus the only solution for Pakistan is to grow economically, for which security is a natural pre-requisite.

In Pursuit of National Security

Since the inception of Pakistan, hegemonic and hostile Indian designs created a sense of insecurity in the minds of Pakistani policy makers, who were constantly looking for the pursuit of defense and a struggle for the survival of Pakistan as a sovereign and independent state. New Delhi always refused to resolve the outstanding issues including the core issue of Kashmir, in line with the principles of equality, justice and fair play. Pakistan had to face the wrath of hegemonic Indian attitude, whether it was the issue of transfer of assets, flow of rivers or the succession of princely states. India tried her best to impose her will to utterly disregard the agreement of partition. Due to the disparity of resources, India created hurdles in resolution of outstanding issues through peaceful manners and never dithered to use force or threat of using force. Indian refusal to honor the solution of Kashmir issue, as per the resolution of the UN Security Council, created a sense of urgency and quest for stability in the minds of Pakistani leadership.

Pakistan remained in quest for security throughout her history. Pakistan has always looked for a balancer against archrival India and succeeded in establishing an all-weather friendship with China. In the search of security, Pakistan started nuclear program in 1970s and went for nuclear tests in May 1998. Pakistan declared to use its nuclear capability as a deterrent. The development of nonconventional weapons, undoubtedly, has given an unprecedented boost to the national security of Pakistan. However, the lesson of modern history reminds us that mere nuclear capability, without economic security, is not enough for defense of a country.

In Need of Economic Security

Participation in global war on terror, on behest of the sole superpower i.e. USA, and frequent drone attacks, serious internal threats by extremists against the security of Pakistan, worsening law and order situation in the country led to a depressing growth rate. Pakistan’s economy, which was already tottering due to numerous constraints like the international economic meltdown, political instability and financial mismanagement, has suffered incalculable damage and is struggling to recover from a deep crisis. According to a survey, terrorism has cost the economy a hefty Rs380 billion in 2008 alone.  Terrorism creates uncertainty, reduces confidence and increases risk perceptions leading to lower rates of investment and lower economic growth. Pakistan has not only lost precious lives and infrastructure, but also has borne a loss of around $35-40 billion since 2001-02. Both the war on terror as well as rehabilitation of internally displaced persons (IDPs) consumed a sizeable portion of the government’s financial resources, thus widening the fiscal deficit and halting economic growth.

In addition, internally the country suffered from the adverse effects of unparalleled calamity of devastating and destructive super floods in 2010. The worst floods ruthlessly damaged the economy to the tune of US $10 billion caused for reduction in the growth rate of already a sluggish economy by another 2%. According to the World Bank and Asian Development Damage and Needs Assessment, 9.6 million people were adversely affected in Sindh and Baluchistan owing to these rains. Total damages to essential sectors amounted to Rs.324.5 billion. Other losses including all the crops at 50,000 Sq. km were abysmally washed away. The worst global oil and financial crisis added insult to injury. During that period, oil prices went up from $70 barrel to $12524 barrel, resulted into serious threat to the macro-economic structure in Pakistan. Both the macro and micro economic stability factors are essential for growth and development that provides economic security to the people but also raise their standard of living.

At this point in time, Pakistan is required to invest in developmental activities that serve as economy boosting schemes for not only the near future but also the distant one. For this purpose, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project has proved as a gift for not only Pakistanis but also people of the entire region. Since security and economic activity are inextricably linked together, therefore, the need of the time is to take steps to integrate both factors.

Security Apparatus for CPEC

It is for this reason that Pakistan’s military is more active and playing a formal role in the administration of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a collection of infrastructure projects in Pakistan supported by $46 billion in Chinese investment. However, the Pakistani civilian government has expressed reservations about the military playing a more direct role in the administration of CPEC, but in order to ensure smooth execution of developmental plans, it is imperative that the army play its role as national law enforcers. The Pakistani army is further looking to set up a CPEC Authority, which would be responsible for the safe and timely execution of CPEC projects. The Pakistani army has already taken a special interest in the China-backed initiative, which was finalized during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan. Due to the general unrest towards the southern side of the Corridor in Baluchistan, the army has set up a force comprising 15,000 troops to provide security for Chinese contractors and projects.

Indeed, given Pakistan’s uncertain domestic security situation and the geography of the CPEC route, China is eager to see the Pakistani military play an expanded role. The CPEC corridor runs from the China-Pakistan border in Azad Kashmir, to the Arabian Sea coast. CPEC’s Western Alignment projects involve upgrading road and transportation infrastructure in Balochistan, including areas near Quetta, a stronghold town for the Taliban. Gwadar, meanwhile, is imbued with exceptional strategic importance for China, given that it allows access to Indian Ocean sea lanes bypassing the crowded South China Sea and its associated navigational choke points, particularly the Straits of Malacca and Tsunda.

Improved Security in FATA

Moreover, Army has become a permanent stakeholder in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas’ development sector as its recommended development projects are executed every year with FATA’s development funds, according to official sources. Development projects worth millions of rupees, including reconstruction of roads, water supply schemes, sewerage and other community welfare schemes etc. are executed every year in FATA on the recommendations of military authorities. Apart from these, the army has also got the Annual Development Program (ADP) funding for some major initiatives, including establishment of a couple of technical institutes and rehabilitation centers for militants in FATA. The rationale behind it is the inability of the civilian authorities due to malpractices leading to fiscal complications, and distortions in the ADP. The Rs185 million project of the establishing a Cadet College at Wana, South Waziristan, had been carried out by army successfully for which the money was extended as ‘grant-in-aid’ to Headquarter 9 division on the governor’s directives. Similarly, the Rs145 million ‘grant-in-aid’ was given to headquarter 40 division for establishing a Cadet College at Sararogha, South Waziristan. Army’s involvement in the development sector however, is not being taken well by the civilian authorities.

Towards an Integrated Approach

There can be no question of the need to include the economic viability of our nation as a major element of national security because without capital, there is no business; without business, there is no profit; without profit, there are no jobs; without jobs there is no happiness! Therefore, this spells for a need to integrate the national apparatus towards building a stronger economy for Pakistan so that it can defend itself from the dangers in both its neighborhood as well as from hegemonic superpowers. For this, further discussions and research is required for raising understanding and developing policies so that every individual should play a role in this uplift and look forward to a better tomorrow.

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About Dr. Lubna Umar 10 Articles
The author is the Editor of Mélange Intl. Magazine and The Asian Telegraph & Research Associate Center of Pakistan & International Relations (COPAIR).