Home > Harbinger of peace — or conflict?

Harbinger of peace — or conflict?

Unlike any milita­ry berets he wore with great distin­ction, NSA hat will be a diffic­ult one to wear for Genera­l Janjua­

The writer is a retired lieutenant colonel of the Pakistan Army and is currently pursuing PhD in 
civil-military relations from the University of Karachi

The writer is a retired lieutenant colonel of the Pakistan Army and is currently pursuing PhD in
civil-military relations from the University of Karachi

Lieutenant General Naseer Khan Janjua, who hung up his military boots recently, has now been appointed the new National Security Adviser (NSA). Unlike any military berets/hats (denoting the regiment, service or rank) that he wore with great distinction during his military service, the NSA hat will be a difficult one to wear. The former NSA, Sartaj Aziz, is an experienced politician, a respected and competitive diplomat, an aged statesman, a renowned economist and someone who served on some very key government appointments, including serving as the foreign minister and lately as the NSA. Although General Janjua brings with him a distinguished record of military service to the office, is distinguished military service alone a sufficient and adequate criterion for appointment as NSA? If thus far we had a ‘not-so-assertive’ political dove occupying the office of NSA, we may now have a very assertive military hawk wearing the NSA hat. What factors are necessitating this change? Was Mr Aziz not a good choice considering the functions, responsibilities and role an NSA is required to perform or is it the fast-changing regional/international security environment that is necessitating bringing in a recently retired general to advise the prime minister on national security matters? Obviously, an adviser too close to the military’s line of thinking is only too likely to push the military’s views on the prime minister who in turn will gradually risk losing whatever little say he and parliament have on matters of national security.

Perhaps, the biggest reason for the change is the dissimilar positions that Mr Aziz and the military had taken in advising the prime minister regarding peace talks with India. The military position on the subject was clear and consistent right from the outset — peace overtures by us will head nowhere as the hostile Indian government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi will continue to pivot away from peace. Despite the military advice, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif proceeded to please the Indian prime minister first by attending his inauguration ceremony in New Delhi and later meeting him on the sidelines of the SCO Summit in Ufa and agreeing to issue a joint statement that failed to forcefully express Pakistan’s interests.

If it comes down to foreign policy decision-making, there is hardly anything to distinguish between the prime minister’s and Mr Aziz’s views. More than an NSA who can be relied upon to create a noticeable difference in foreign policy, Mr Aziz is seen by the military as a member of the prime minister’s political team, whose only job is to use his political and diplomatic influence to execute an agreed-upon foreign policy/national security agenda. Not viewed by the military as a person who could advise the prime minister with a range of viable options on national security matters (including the military proffered ones), it would be fair to say that Mr Aziz was not fitting into the military scheme of things.

Interestingly, India has never had an NSA from the military. Brajesh Mishra, J N Dixit and Shivshankar Menon had all been career diplomats before their appointment as NSAs, and M K Narayanan and Ajit Doval had careers in the police. It is appropriate to look at the position of an NSA and determine whether the role is best performed if it is purely a military position or an ambassadorship or a diplomatic equivalent. Even when former president General (retd) Musharraf created this office in Pakistan, he appointed Tariq Aziz, a civilian bureaucrat, as the NSA. Later, Major General (retired) Mahmud Ali Durrani, who replaced him in 2008, had a military background, but had previously served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US. Termed “General Shanti” by an Indian newspaper, the general was always a great supporter of peace with India, something he loudly advocated in his books, India and Pakistan: The Cost of Conflict and Benefits of Peace and Pakistan’s Security Imperatives: Year 2000 and Beyond. Seen in this context, General Janjua’s appointment is the first in which a general officer with no political/diplomatic experience has taken up this assignment. Speaking of background, Ashton Carter, the US Secretary of Defence, who assumed the top military post this year, studied medieval history and has a PhD in physics. A physicist and an academic of sorts, he now heads the American Defence Department. My fear is that General Janjua’s appointment may be a reaction to the tougher Indian foreign policy towards Pakistan and India’s language that has turned very vocal and muscular. Ideally, all our responses should be mature and developed with due consideration.

The National Security Council (NSC) Secretariat is no more active in Pakistan. The Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) has taken over its role and responsibilities. However, if national security is ever to be institutionalised, there is no better forum than the dysfunctional NSC to debate and discuss national security matters. The NSA, in such a case, could act as the secretary of the NSC, responsible for the follow-ups and the implementation of decisions. Ideally, in a parliamentary democracy, such an adviser should report to a national security minister who would head a National Security Council Secretariat occupied by a pool of professionally competent men and women drawn from the civil services or various departments. It is from such institutions that women like Condoleezza Rice (PhD in military policy and politics) eventually rise to become not only advisers to presidents, but also secretaries of state.

Sartaj Aziz has done nothing wrong. As an economist he may believe in Dale C Copeland who, in Economic Interdependence and War, writes that “interdependence makes states more peaceful” and that the lack of it “could create vulnerabilities that could lead to war”. Nawaz Sharif’s government, advised by his last NSA, considered repairing and rebuilding bridges with India important. If the present Indian leadership is not looking at that benefit of peacekeeping, it does not mean that we too should stop making efforts, become less willing to compromise and seek conflict and confrontation. If we are fighting an existential battle for the safety and survival of our state, then we need people like Sartaj Aziz to continue advising the prime minister to follow the path of peace and reconciliation, regardless of the Indian response.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 27th, 2015.

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