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Pakistan’s new security policy seeks ‘peace’ with India: Report

Islamabad, January 12

Pakistan is willing to make peace with immediate neighbours, including India, under its first-ever National Security Policy which leaves doors open for trade with New Delhi even without the settlement of the Kashmir issue provided there is headway in bilateral talks, according to a media report.

The National Security Policy, separately endorsed by the National Security Committee and the Cabinet last month, is scheduled to be formally unveiled by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday.

Peace with immediate neighbours and economic diplomacy will be the central theme of Pakistan’s foreign policy in the new National Security Policy, the Express Tribune newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The five-year-policy document covering a period between 2022-26, is being propped up by the Pakistan government as the country’s first-ever strategy paper of its kind that spells out the national security vision and guidelines for the attainment of those goals.

The original 100-page policy, which would be kept under wraps, leaves the door open for trade and business ties with India without the final settlement of the longstanding Kashmir dispute provided there is progress in the talks between the two nuclear-armed neighbours, an official was quoted as saying by the paper.

“We are not seeking hostility with India for the next 100 years. The new policy seeks peace with immediate neighbours,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

If there is a dialogue and progress, there would be a possibility of normalising trade and commercial ties with India as it had happened in the past, the official added.

Ties between India and Pakistan nose-dived after a terror attack on the Pathankot Air Force base in 2016 by terror groups based in the neighbouring country. Subsequent attacks, including one on an Indian Army camp in Uri, further deteriorated the relationship.

The relationship dipped further after India’s war planes pounded a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist training camp deep inside Pakistan on February 26, 2019 in response to the Pulwama terror attack in which 40 CRPF jawans were killed.

The relations deteriorated after India announced withdrawing the special powers of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcation of the state into two union territories in August, 2019.

India has told Pakistan that it desires normal neighbourly relations with Islamabad in an environment free of terror, hostility and violence.

As the new national security policy seeks a shift in Pakistan’s approach from geo-strategic to geo-economics, there is a renewed optimism of a possible thaw with India, the report said.

“Economic security will be the central theme of the new national security policy,” the official disclosed.

“But geo-economics does not necessarily mean we overlook our geo-strategic and geo-political interests,” the official said, adding the long-standing Kashmir dispute with India has been identified as a ‘vital national policy’ issue for Pakistan.

The official, however, clarified that there were no prospects of rapprochement with India under the current government in New Delhi.

The official said this would be the first-ever codified national security policy that would cover both internal security as well as foreign policy.

“Only a part of the national security policy will be made public,” the official clarified, saying in the rest of the world such policies often remained classified.

The official said though Pakistan did have defence, foreign and internal policies, the new policy would act as an “umbrella document” providing direction for the future.

It took seven years to prepare this policy, which was started by then-national security adviser Sartaj Aziz in 2014.

“Inputs were taken from all the federal, provincial institutions as well as military and other departments,” the official said.

The official said the Opposition was not taken on board since policy making was the domain of the executive but for a consensus, “we are ready to sit with the Opposition.” However, the Opposition had boycotted the session when National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf briefed the parliamentary committee on national security a few weeks ago.

When asked to comment on the implementation of the policy, the official said the classified document lays out a complete implementation mechanism and the prime minister will review the progress on a monthly basis.

The policy will be reviewed every year and at the time of change of government, the official said, adding the issue of political stability was also taken care of in it.

Pakistan has a chequered history with no elected prime minister ever having been able to complete his/her five-year term.

The new policy also deals with the issue of militant and dissident groups and advocates dialogue with ‘reconcilable elements.’ On the internal front, the new policy identifies five key areas of population/migration, health, climate and water, food security and gender mainstreaming, according to the report.

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