Op-ed

Economy and National Security

 

Azhar Hashmi

Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor recently talking to media said that national security and economy are strongly linked with each other. National economy could be affected if the circumstances of the country worsened. National economy is not bad then it is also not in a very good condition. Earlier Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa showed his concerns regarding the falling economy of Pakistan. It is common perception that worsening condition of economy and ever growing of foreign and local debts will ultimately affect the national security of Pakistan especially nuclear program of the country.

This is expected to enhance internal security, assure political stability and boost external security. To achieve this, Pakistan’s economy needs to become more competitive and more globally engaged. Indeed, unless the economic well-being of all Pakistanis is assured, unless the financial health of the government improves, Pakistan will not be able to sustain itself as a secure state, in what has now become an increasingly interdependent globalized world.

Improved economic performance has been seen to have strategic consequences, enabling a country, whether developed or developing, to better engage the world economically, building new relationships of economic inter-dependence that would replace mutually agreed destructive tendencies between nuclear powers with mutually agreed development bias, strengthening regional and global peace. Further, it will reduce social and economic tensions on the domestic front as governments find resources to invest in social, economic and physical infrastructure, boosting more equitable and efficient growth processes.

It has been observed over the past several decades that the long-term efficacy of military power of a country depends greatly on its ability to sustain it through an ever-growing economy. Indeed, economic power of a country guarantees its national security. Strategic thinkers believe security is achieved, not by military means alone but by the whole of the economy.  A booming economy serves as an enabler of national security while an economy in tailspin serves as a constraint to national security. Soviets had armed themselves to their teeth but they are said to have lost the cold war in the market place.

Currently, economic relations between countries help define the overall nature of their relationship rather than anything else such as race, color, religion or ideology. Take for instance Britain’s decision to join China’s new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). This is a glaring example of one of the key realities of the new international economic order. Not only are geopolitics and geo-economics intimately linked, but the latter, it is said, will increasingly trump the former in the absence of outright war.

British enthusiasm about joining the AIIB is said to be motivated by the opportunity for the UK and Asia to invest and grow together. By signing up as a member of the AIIB, Britain is also becoming a player in a wider geopolitical and geo-economic game.

Geo-economics is said to be the principal focus of inter-state competition. China clearly sees the creation of the AIIB as one way of employing its growing economic leverage to achieve long-term geopolitical goals. It is believed that the creation of a new “Silk Road”, linking Beijinsg to its immediate neighbors is not expected just to increase regional productivity and trade, but also serve as a concrete manifestation of China’s strategy to develop economic links with Asia and the globe, reducing, in the process, the chances of regional and international conflicts.

The time is not on our side. The sooner we realize the gravity of challenges the better. The ongoing military operations in Waziristan and the Rangers’ Operation in Karachi have considerably improved the country’s security environment. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has improved the country’s perception abroad and low international price of oil has reduced pressure on the balance of payments. The government should consider these developments as a window of opportunity, bring good economic team, pursue good policies, introduce wide-ranging structural reforms and improve governance to capitalize on these positive developments. This will be good for the economy and national security.