Pakistan’s Security Concerns | In the Wake of Changing Geo-strategic Environment

Feelings of animosity and friendship have existed among the human groups and societies since the inception of this world. In the primitive period, the people, living either in an organized group or as individual, had the feelings to minimize the threats and maximize the benefits of peace and cooperation. In other words, from old days to modern world, individuals and their organized groups have made their utmost efforts to minimize the threats, while using different means like interaction among the societies and enhancing mutual concerns with regard to peace and security.

In today’s modern societies, which have stable and developed governments and where states have become institutions, security or defence is an important segment of their domestic and foreign policies. The concept of security is not only important for a state but it has serious implications regionally as well as globally. Keeping in view the significance of security, states and their governments use different tactics, and devise numerous strategies in their national interests.

The recent global changes have introduced a paradigm shift in the power equation in the world, particularly the region where Pakistan is situated, giving new shape and dimension to our national security environment. These dimensions have both external and internal security parameters, producing a spectrum of multi-directional threat to our national security. Such threats are identifiable not only in the form of armed aggression, but also in other forms threatening our national cohesion.

Before discussing the geostrategic location and security concerns of Pakistan, it is imperative to discuss security, and national security.

What is Security?

In the words of Charles W. Kegley, ‘Security means freedom from fear, risk and danger. Security, basically, is a rational phenomenon. It involves the capabilities, desires and fears of individual as well as the other states with which they interact.

What is National Security?

National Security is the condition of freedom from external physical threat. It is not only concerned with defending the territorial integrity of a nation but is also concerned with political and economic stability, and ethno-centric harmony and social integration. It can be said that national security means to secure threat internally as well as externally, maintain internal cohesion, economic security, economic self-reliance, and attaining a stage of self-sustaining growth.

Security Concerns of Nations

Basic desire of the origin of society and state has been the security. They accepted authority in order to better cope with a hostile environment. It indicates that concerns for the security of the nations are as old as nation-state itself. However, a serious awareness on the security problems of nations and academic interest in national security studies began only in the aftermath of World War-II. After decolonization ‘a major outcome of WW-II’ a lot of new nations emerged in Asia, Africa and Latin America. They needed the awareness on the security problems of modern nation-state.

Security is the utmost need of every nation. Their primary goal is to protect and secure adequate defence for its homeland. One state’s security concerns vary from other states due to their geographic locations. But all the states require to have territorial integrity, protection and preservation of security and prosperity, having friendly relations with other states, freedom for commerce and trade and opposition to and condemnation of hostilities.

Geostrategic Location of Pakistan and Its Security Concerns

It is believed that geography controls the political environment of a country. There is no escape from a country’s geography and its impact on its policies. Geographically, South Asia can be defined as a sub-region of the Indian Ocean; the base of the mountain wall that extends from Kirthar range of Balochistan to the Khyber Pass, the East along the foothills of Himalayas until it runs sharply South at the Arakana Yama, defines the North-west, Northern and Eastern boundaries of South Asia. Whereas the Bay of Bengal in the East, the main body Indian Ocean in the South, the Arabian Sea in the west, complete the demarcation of South Asia’s cultural zone. In this South Asian zone, Pakistan occupies a very important position. It is situated in a region described as the ‘Fulcrum of Asia’ because states from three important regions i.e. South Asia, Central Asia and Southeast Asia, meet here.

Since independence in 1947 Pakistan’s foreign policy has reflected permanent feelings of insecurity which, ultimately, are due to the geostrategic location of Pakistan.

Pakistan’s Feelings Heightened by Experience

Because of the feelings of insecurity during Cold War, Pakistan joined US military umbrella and in the decade of 80’s Pakistan fought a proxy war in Afghanistan against the Russian invasion; but in favour of USA. After Cold War, when the concept of security changed altogether and was reorganized in the form of collective and comprehensive security, Pakistan’s position remained insecure due to the presence of hostile elements on its eastern and western borders.

More serious questions about the security situation of Pakistan came in sight in the wake of 9/11. Since this fateful event, Pakistan has the status of a frontline state in the global efforts against terrorism.

In this new phase of security and threat perception, Pakistan’s foreign policy about its immediate neighbours like, India, Afghanistan and Iran made some serious impacts on its domestic politics. Here is a brief analysis of security concerns of Pakistan and its foreign policy with India, Iran and Afghanistan and their impact on domestic politics as well.

Security Concerns with India

The deep-rooted historical and cultural conflicts between India and Pakistan clearly indicate that why India-Pakistan relations have been marred by armed conflicts and tensions. There is a long list of events that created animosity and security problems for Pakistan. But the core issue is the Kashmir dispute. The problematic Kashmir issue is the root cause of all confrontations between both countries, which also caused the wars of 1948, 1965 and the Kargil Crisis 1999.

The present government in Pakistan has embarked on efforts to normalize the situation and to minimize the confrontations with India as early as possible. It has introduced a very flexible foreign policy towards India that is based on the principle of cooperation and adjustment. But the concerned circles have still some doubts about Indian intentions and policies because of its attitude about Kashmir and water reservoirs.

Many analysts believe that internal disorder in Pakistan is due to the Indian intervention in Balochistan and other parts of the country. It is argued that during the process of normalization both the states have to use certain parameters which strengthen the efforts of peacekeeping.

But, it seems that India is not only increasing its defence budget every year but it has also started an arms race in the region, and Pakistan is compelled to pursue it because of the feelings of insecurity. Pakistan’s foreign policy towards India is being criticized in domestic circles. People view this foreign policy as very flexible. Pakistan wants to solve all the problems including the Kashmir issue, but this is not being reciprocated. India’s Modi-led government is making huge efforts to secure their national interests while Pakistan is content with a policy of ‘wait and see’. At this stage, unilateral flexibility and adjustments won’t work. Only something accepted and acknowledged by both sides can help create an environment that is free of animosity and mistrust.

Security Concerns vis-à-vis Afghanistan

Despite shared geography, ethnicity and faith, relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have never been smooth except for a short period of the Taliban rule. Due to geographical adjacency, Afghanistan is not only important for Pakistan for its relations with other states but it also has serious repercussions on its own security and even integrity.

Pakistan’s foreign policy about Afghanistan has always been based on the principle of Muslim brethren. But successive governments in Afghanistan remained pro-India hence making Pakistan believe that its eastern and western borders are insecure. Pakistan’s recognition of Taliban regime in Afghanistan on May 25, 1997 was due to its security perception. Although the Pro-Taliban policy was criticized by the world, yet Pakistan’s security strategy with Afghanistan was to support them.

After the incident of 9/11, when Afghanistan was thrown into the hell of war, Pakistan was compelled to change its policy in favour of the US.

Apart from the stress that the then Government of Pakistan faced, there were certain other factors which compelled Pakistan to change its pro-Taliban policy. First, Pakistan wanted to save itself from being declared a ‘terrorist state, because in 1990’s Bush administration actively considered declaring Pakistan a ‘terrorist’ state for its support to ‘terrorist’ activities in Kashmir.

Recently Ashraf Ghani took over as the new President of Afghanistan. Though Pakistan has been supporting Karzai, yet this goodwill gesture was never reciprocated. Despite the fact that Pakistan has welcomed the new administration in Afghanistan, the history of our bilateral relations is so fraught and so complex that the start of Mr Ghani’s Presidency cannot immediately be seen as a new beginning in ties between both countries. President Ghani is considered a pragmatist, and is aware that the peace and stability in the region depends on strong Pak-Afghan relations. Much depends now on how domestic politics between Ghani and Abdullah camps shapes Afghan policy towards Pakistan.

The immediate priority for both Pakistani and Afghan sides should be to reduce the acute tensions along the border between eastern Afghanistan and Fata where security forces on both sides have targeted sites across the border.

Pakistan Iran Strategic and Security Ties

Apart from the borders, common faith and common culture also facilitate ties between Iran and Pakistan. Some permanent and non-permanent things become a base in the relationship of states. In the Pak-Iran relationship, the permanent things are geographical proximity and common culture and faith while, the non-permanent ones are the changing security environment, economic or ideological policies.

For Pakistan, Iran is another source to provide the country with the natural depth and support in the eventuality of an outbreak of hostilities on the eastern borders. The Iranians also have the approach that a weak Pakistan would seriously threaten Iran’s Southwestern frontier region. For Iran, Pakistan also serves as a vital link to West Asia and a trade route to South and Southeast Asia.

In spite of these factors, Pakistan has some security problems with Iran, in which, Iran’s growing relationship with India is a serious threat to Pakistan’s security. Sectarian conflict in Pakistan is another main issue that could cloud their relations.

Under the changing geostrategic realities both the countries are under US pressure regarding various issues. If Pakistan pursues the pro-US Policy, domestic pressure would damage the government’s interests. Anti-government lobbies would be activated and a civil disorder would be observed in the state while considering the other options Pakistan has to absorb the global pressure.


In this type of geopolitical and geostrategic environment, our country’s policymakers have to judge the global and domestic environment and make robust and pragmatic policies thereupon. Following can be the basis for a sound policy:

(1) The policy should provide safeguard to Pakistan’s national interests.

(2) Foreign policy makers must keep in mind the proportion of flexibility and the level of adjustment to maintain in their policies.

(3) Foreign Policy must show the strength of the government that the people and the government have the same wavelength to deal the issues.

(4) A pattern of stable and friendly working relationship with neighbouring states should be established.

(5) National interests must be ensured and no undue or unfair space should be given to any state.

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