Economic Security: The Frontline of Defense

Author Name: M Mubashir Ehsan      07 Sep 2021     Defense

As we celebrate Defense Day, it is an important occasion to consider all pillars of national security. Economic security is the epicenter of Pakistan’s national security. According to Dr Moeed Yousaf, Pakistan’s National Security Advisor, ‘Pakistan's narrative is of economic security and the world has not seen that.’ Economic security not only involves domestic concerns but also influences and strengthens a country’s international position. Due to its geostrategic positioning, Pakistan is influential in shaping the future of the region, but to become a true power center in the region, the government needs to prioritize overcoming the country’s economic challenges.

Pakistan needs to address structural issues related to macroeconomic stability. Economic stability can only be achieved if there is coherence, continuity, discipline, and inclusiveness in the development of economic policies. China’s economic progression is an example of how effectively prioritizing economic planning led to its development and growth.

In this context, Pakistan’s economic security objectives should primarily incorporate three factors: human resource development, poverty reduction and political stability. According to the latest UNDP Human Development Index, Pakistan is ranked at 154th out of 189 countries. Moreover, the most recent Global Competitiveness Index report illustrated a decline in Pakistan’s ranking by three positions (from 107th out of 140 in 2018 to 110th position out of 141 countries in 2019). Two influential factors in this decline were human development indicators related to the level of skill set and quality of health. Policymakers must understand the dire need to capitalize on Pakistan's youth bulge by providing skill enhancement platforms. Although programs such as Kamiyab Jawan are providing opportunities related to skill development and promotion of entrepreneurship, there is a persistent requirement for capacity-building in institutions to have sustainable long-run impact.

Poverty is a crucial economic challenge with a direct impact on peace and harmony, especially for communities that are vulnerable to violent extremism. The most recent World Bank estimates show that there has been an increase in poverty from 4.4 percent to 5.4 percent in 2020 - more than 2 million people have fallen below the poverty line. During the pandemic, many people have lost their jobs and their source of income has been affected by this. The current government through the Ehsaas emergency cash program has made an effort to facilitate those who have faced economic hardship during the pandemic.

Over the past five decades, Pakistan has gone through a series of external and internal challenges including the partition of East Pakistan, the Afghan war, and the US inflicted war on terror; and this all created political and ideological divisions within the country. For these reasons, Pakistan’s internal security and political stability are essential for progress. Unstable political environments and economic growth are interconnected. In case of internal political instability, politically facilitated mafias have a strong influence over commodity prices which threatens food security. These volatilities in price create questions about the government’s credibility to control prices in the public eye. Furthermore, external tactics adopted by some political parties and social groups include manipulating the political discourse by creating false advocacy campaigns which damage the image of Pakistan in the international community.

Over time, the dynamics of state security have been transformed by a shift from purely conventional military spending towards technology-driven and knowledge-based enhancements. The provision of this is connected to economic stability and sovereignty, which provides the industrial base and financial capital to drive such a transformation. In the present changing global environment, economic security is the frontline of defense as it assists military efforts at the strategic level. Recently, due to the remarkable efforts of Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and government diplomacy, Pakistan has been able to open its export market for JF-17 Thunder. Nigeria is the first African country to receive JF-17 Thunders from Pakistan. The Ministry of Defence production’s strategy is commendable as it has been indicated to be self-reliant and self-sustainable with the use of technological enhancement.

Pakistan has also broadened its security strategy to include geoeconomics, and it is high time that the significance of economic security is also recognized during the Defence Day commemorations. This day has historical significance as it symbolizes the courage and sacrifices of our brave soldiers, sailors and airmen who resiliently defended our country. The 1965 War also illustrates the manifestation of Quaid-i-Azam’s quote regarding Unity, Faith, Discipline, as the whole nation stood by our Armed Forces as a strong united unit to defend our homeland against India. Today as academics, policymakers, politicians, journalists, activists and artists, we must follow Quaid’s teachings and unite by playing our roles to defend our homeland.

 

The author is a researcher at Centre for Aerospace & Security Studies, Islamabad, Pakistan. He can be contacted at: cass.thinkers@gmail.com