The national security paradigm

NATIONAL

By Raza Muhammad Khan

The core
concepts of defence and security matters have not spawned a serious political
debate in Pakistan so far, probably because of their complexity. However,
evinced from the scores of the National Security Committee (NSC) and the
National Command Authority (NCA) meetings in the recent past, successive
governments, appear to be seeking to put national defence back in its box and
substituting it with national security.

This is the
right approach, whether by design or default, as national defence mainly
relates to the military domain and sometimes exudes a passive attitude, which
usually benefits the aggressors, besides being asynchronous with the obtaining
sub-continental environment. In comparison, national security is a flexible and
expansive alternative, encompassing a broad range of external and internal
risks, challenges and concerns, that Pakistan faces and the employment of all
elements of national power, to respond to these.

This policy
flows from the vital national interests, to be protected or promoted and
ensures safeguarding of national sovereignty and territorial integrity, through
balancing of the available means and indicating the ways, to do so. It is
gratifying that today; Pakistan is more secure than before, despite some imperfections
and constraints of our existing security structure and politico-military
decisions. However, a heavy and unprecedented price, in terms of blood and
treasure was paid, for these flaws. In the foreseeable future, numerous threats
like terrorism, economic coercion and strangulation, extremism, hybrid warfare,
sub-conventional aggression and other forms of conflict, are inevitable as
well; demanding even greater sacrifices and synergy of efforts. Thus, an
appraisal of two areas, for further optimization of our national security
paradigm is warranted.

One is to
bring about a major shift in the security apparatus and structure; the other is
to improve and formalize the process, functioning and framing of our security
strategies and doctrine. The former can be achieved through a collective
refinement of the existing, five tiers of the security organization; comprising
the NSC; NCA; Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC); Defence Council (DC) and
the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC).

Among
these, the first four components include key federal ministers, the three
services chiefs and the chairman JCSC, while the last is primarily a military
forum. The NSC and NCA are headed by the PM and the DCC and DC by the Defence
Minister. Presently, the NSC at the top resembles a consultative forum on
geopolitical and strategic environment and some policy matters with security
overtones, due to the absence of a well-considered and defined catalogue of
national interests and objectives, and an official security policy that is
premised on them.

Due to this
inadequacy, economic, energy, cyber, space, human and food security appears
outside the NSC’s ambit. Further, within the security hierarchy, the National
Security Adviser’s (NSA) role appears ambiguous and sometimes redundant.
Besides, the NSC Secretariat, comprising a few bureaucrats and an academician,
is unable to perform efficiently. At the second layer, since the NCA is
appropriately configured, it can effectively develop and employ the nuclear
forces, under its constitutional ‘authority’.

The DCC, at
the third level, approves the defence policy but is dormant, possibly since it
is based on a committee system. At tier four, the DC is responsible for
oversight and development of the military, budget allocations and acting as a
filter between itself and the DCC; however it is also inactive. Finally, though
the Chairman JCSC performs a crucial role at the NCA, but in the conventional
sphere, besides coordination on major tri-services matters, he does not wield
executive authority over the forces.

As the
committee system prevails at the JCSC forum, its decisions are wasteful in time
and the one suggestion that makes absolute sense can be lost in efforts to
build consensus. From a military standpoint, this system is particularly
un-conducive to produce efficient and urgent decisions during war or to
harmonize the structural growth, evolution of doctrines and standardization of
military system during peacetime. Unity of purpose, joint preparedness, and
interoperability in the military is lacking, integrated employment is
challenging and optimum utilization of the security budget is tough.

Finally,
the present system allows direct access by the heads of the armed forces to the
PM, which is most helpful for single service interests, but not for
inter-services harmonization. So here are some recommendations to eradicate the
snags: First; despite some organizational defects, the DCC and DC are valuable
mechanisms and they must therefore be revived. Second; most countries, including
India, have vested the command and control of all or parts of military assets,
in a single authority from the dominant service, called the CDS (also other
names), who reports directly to the government, ensuring a robust chain of
military command and control.

Though the
CDS usually acts as the principal advisor to the government on military
matters, but within this framework, the services chiefs have considerable
autonomy. Adoption of this model by Pakistan is imperative to ensure force
multiplication to overcome multiple security challenges, eliminating duplicity
and bringing fiscal efficiency. Meanwhile, the role of the NSA must be
redefined, the capacity of the NSC Secretariat enhanced and the existing Joint
Staff Headquarters, that is the Secretariat of the JCSC, (and later the CDS),
must be reinforced.

Finally, a
more daunting, but vital transformation is to enact laws that compel the
federal government to periodically determine national interests and formulate
comprehensive security policies. This top down approach will guarantee that the
defence, internal security and other associated policies flow out logically and
coherently from guidance at the uppermost level; which shall certainly swing
the onus of security in the political domain, where it rightly belongs.

Besides
enhancing national resilience, these reforms will simplify and streamline
military management and oversight, while enhancing the rather hyped, ‘civilian
control of military authorities’. A forceful civilian intervention is necessary
for this reorganization and it should therefore be collectively sponsored by
the government and the two parliamentary committees on defence.

The writer,
a retired Lt Gen, is former President of National Defence University,
Islamabad.

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