National Security Policy : Some Suggestions

By Brig  (Retired)  Sher Shah nz

This is apropos letter of Air Cdre ® Khayyam Durrani on some suggestions for national security policy, published in Dawn of August 30, where in he has suggested deputing intelligence agencies to formulate National Security Policy. With due respect, I differ to say that these agencies are equipped to provide input but formulation of national security policy is beyond their prowess. However, their role will be pivotal in implementation of physical security by using intelligence services to detect and defeat or avoid threats and espionage, and to protect classified information and the counterintelligence to protect the nation from internal threats.

National Security is much more than “security” as narrowly implied to physical security of life and property (territory). During the recent meeting of Defence Committee of the Cabinet, the Prime Minister had reorganized and renamed the said committee as Cabinet Committee on National Security by excluding the Minister of Information. It reflects better comprehension of the concept by the Chief Executive, notwithstanding the inadequacy of organizational aspect of the new Committee. The concept of national security has evolved since World War II with United States taking a usual lead. The urge to think of security beyond military defence has led to inclusion of multidimensional threats like economic political, diplomatic, social and military. Recently common threats to most of humanity have also emerged  as food, water  and  energy shortage, diseases, cybre warfare, transnational crimes especially Norco trade.  Therefore, the concept, definition and framework of national security must be grasped before undertaking the herculean task. National Defence University has been the only forum where national security as a concept was taught and civil and military senior bureaucracy was trained to formulate national security policy and strategy. Lt Gen Javed Hassan must be saluted for his contribution towards restructuring the syllabi of the National Defence (now Security) Course thereby bringing clarity on the subject. He introduced a condensed form of same curriculum at National Policy School. Later everyone on faculty has contributed towards improvement of the curriculum. I cannot ignore mentioning Air Vice Martial Faaiz Amir, who as first Commandant of National Security School introduced structured exercises to inculcate the methodical thought process in formulation of national security policy and major departmental policies (Foreign, Economic, Interior, Media and Defence). I as a student, contacted Ministry of Interior for any guidelines on interior policy and unfortunately there was nothing like interior policy and none may be there now as well. When on faculty of NDU, being sponsor of “National Security Policy and Strategy Formulation Process” I used to plead for formulation of our indigenous definition of National Security. But unfortunately, not much headway was made because of certain perceptual biases; however, I defined national security in simple terms as “the ability of a nation to preserve itself against all kinds of internal and external threats”.

The process of policy formulation has to start with strategic appraisal of the environment which will lead to understanding of threats. In our case, economic, social, political, diplomatic and military would emerge as main threats. The list may be long to include energy and food shortage, corruption, poverty, illiteracy, terrorism, sectarianism, regionalism, lack of social justice, narcotics, cyber  and so on. But a deeper understanding of the factors mentioned earlier would group all these under one factor or the other. There is no single universally accepted definition of national security. The variety of definitions provide an overview of the many usages of this concept. The concept still remains ambiguous, having originated from simpler definitions which initially emphasised the freedom from military threat and political coercion to later increase in sophistication and include other forms of non-military security as suited the circumstances of the time. A typical dictionary definition, in this case from the Macmillan Dictionary (online version), defines the term as “the protection or the safety of a country’s secrets and its citizens” emphasising the overall security of a nation and a nation state. Arnold Wolfers (1960), while recognizing the need to segregate the subjectivity of the conceptual idea from the objectivity, talks of threats to acquired values.

“National security objectively means the absence of threats to acquired values and subjectively, the absence of fear that such values will be attacked.”  The National Defence College of India defines: “National security is an appropriate and aggressive blend of political resilience and maturity, human resources, economic structure and capacity, technological competence, industrial base and availability of natural resources and finally the military might.” From the aforesaid definitions, it emerges that National Security Policy will have be translated into  measurable capability of nation to overcome the multi-dimensional threats to the  well-being of its people and its survival as a nation, through development and optimum utilization of national elements of national power and balancing all instruments of state policy through good governance. Therefore, the govt needs to organize a wholesome national security policy formulation structure / process by incorporating various think tanks and institutions working on this subject of national importance under the overall guidance  of newly formed National Security Committee. Intelligence agencies may also be involved to provide their assessment of internal and external threats. I believe it is too serious a business to be left to bureaucrats only, in spite of their established capabilities as they are always busy in fire fighting with routine problems. The National Assembly is not qualified enough however, Senate may be providing inputs, provided they can overcome their political biases.  In Musharraf’s days an exercise of that kind was initiated at Joint Staff Headquarters level; a conceptual error that military alone can do it. Let it be understood that National Security is the requirement to maintain the survival of the state using all elements of national power; military is just one of these.

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