The Islamabad Security Dialogue (ISD) was initiated in 2021 after a lot of deliberations by the National Security Division. It is a brainchild of the former National Security Advisor Dr Moeed Yusuf as an effort to create a forum where issues related to Pakistan may be deliberated upon with an open mind. Pakistan’s point of view is not just put across, but factored in through policy statements that demystify both Pakistan’s internal and external security policy thrust. It is geared towards articulating Pakistan’s perspective and getting it factored into global debates. The first Security Dialogue in 2021
was able to achieve all of the above. For the second iteration of ISD, Dr. Moeed Yusuf said, “the purpose of the ISD 2022 forum was to find the missing link between policy makers and intellectuals for informed decision and policymaking.” This is critical for Pakistan.
No such forum existed in the past and it was largely done as a random exercise, making little or no impact. The fact that it is now a practice to have two very high-profile inaugural speeches adds more credibility and value to the dialogue. On day one, it is the Prime Minister of Pakistan and on day two, it is the Chief of Army Staff who addresses the inaugural sessions. The session is attended by invitees only who are high profile policy makers, influencers, academicians, legislators, diplomats, and high-ranking personnel from think tanks.
The annual flagship Islamabad Security Dialogue organized by the National Security Division is aimed at initiating robust debates on “Comprehensive Security”. This year, the Islamabad Security Dialogue was a hybrid event. It hosted 17 international speakers from the U.S, China, UK, Russia, European Union, Japan, Philippines, India, and others. Two Indian journalists Karan Thapar and Pravin Sawhney were also among the speakers at the security dialogue. The flagship event also hosted the first-ever National Security Advisers Forum where serving security advisers from China, the Middle East and Central Asia spoke about the future of Asian security. The sessions centered on the following themes:
· Leveraging geo-economics through growth and connectivity;
· Navigating disinformation and discourse in the information age;
· Challenges to international security;
· Evolving challenges and opportunities in international law; and
· Towards citizen-centric National Security.
Dr Moeed Yusuf had said that the Islamabad Security Dialogue 2022 is aimed at initiating an intellectual debate focusing on international cooperation amid fluid world order. In an introductory video message he said, “The theme of Islamabad Security Dialogue for this year is centred on international cooperation. At a time when the world is going through acute contestation; great power competition is accentuating”. He further added that it was critical for the country to contemplate how its vision of economic security and geo-economics can benefit from international cooperation.
In his address, Prime Minister Imran Khan highlighted the importance of the forum, congratulated the National Security Advisor for successfully pulling it off and further on said that security is much more than just military might, in fact it was “multi-dimensional”.
The main aim of the first ISD was to unveil Pakistan’s comprehensive national security framework which is now a published public document in the form of the National Security of Pakistan 2020-26. The Islamabad Security Dialogue 2022 was also built around the NSP of Pakistan. The policy has been devised through the government’s efforts over the last seven years. The Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa said in his remarks, “Pakistan’s first-ever National Security Policy places the safety, security, dignity, and prosperity of its citizens at the heart of our security policy.” He added, “The NSP recognizes the symbiotic relationship between the economic, human and traditional security, placing economic security at the core.”
This symbiotic relationship is imperative for Pakistan’s long-term development. The crux is to shift the unifocal thrust on traditional security to a more inclusive citizen-centric framework, the two fundamental pivots are ‘peace in the region’ and ‘economic security for the country’. The document contains chapters on national cohesion, economy, defense, internal security, foreign policy, and human security. National security policy places equal emphasis on political, as well as economic diplomacy, besides lasting peace in the region as the top priority.
The members of the National Security Division’s Advisory Board held roundtables on different aspects of the citizen-centric human security that are outlined in the National Security Policy. These were:
1. Population management by IRS
2. Non-traditional security threats by ISSRA
3. National cohesion by CASS
4. National security/geo-economics by ISSI
5. Consensus on National Security beyond political differences by IPRI
Their findings were presented in the dialogue and were deliberated upon.
Another important highlight of the ISD 2022 was a very relevant session on lawfare titled “Evolving Challenges and Opportunities in International Law”. The keynote of the address was delivered by Justice Paul Pangalangan who said, “the theme of the session called upon us to find ways for international law to play its role in challenges faced by all”.
Other experts at the discussion urged Pakistan to build up its indigenous capacity and understanding of international laws to strengthen its endeavours at global foras for justice and equality. The session generated a lot of interest especially in the wake of Reko Diq case and the Indus Water treaty. It was perhaps one of the most informative and educational sessions.
COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa, while addressing the two-day Islamabad Security Dialogue 2022, reiterated that Pakistan does not believe in camp politics. Pakistan wants to strengthen its ties with the U.S; however, not at the risk of its bilateral relations with other countries. The army chief added that Pakistan equally shares a “long history of excellent and strategic relationship” with the United States, which remains our largest export market. “We seek to broaden and expand our ties with both countries without impacting our relations with the other.”
On India, he categorically said that the dialogue remains on the table and he believes in diplomacy to resolve all outstanding issues; if India agrees to do so, it is important that we keep the flames of fire away from our region. He further said, “I believe it is time for the political leadership of the region to rise above their emotional and perceptional biases and break the shackles of history to bring peace and prosperity to almost three billion people of the region”.
The Islamabad Security Dialogue is a budgeted event which is also minuted in the rules of business. Both the Security Dialogues have created positive vibes for Pakistan and have contributed to its image building. It is to be hoped that its continuity is not politicized, because it is a pro Pakistan initiative.