The Economy and National Security | M Ziauddin

Very rarely have we seen economy being given much importance while formulating our defence and foreign policies. On the other hand, our economists have very rarely discussed in their debates the economic costs and benefits of Pakistan’s strategic and foreign policy choices. For countries like Pakistan, the prospect of an unsustainable debt burden, unprecedented budget deficits, huge imbalances in international trade and capital flows, and high unemployment, have brought economics more into play in considerations of national security.

China and other Asian emerging economies are being seen enhancing their national security by using their growing economic prowess and their budding commercial links with the West as strategic instruments of development and foreign policy. Under the emerging new world economic order, Asia is being seen assuming greater importance as Europe is fast slipping down the pecking order.

Those who keep a close watch on global economy believe China had used trade to lock the US middle class into a mutually beneficial relationship that has acquired a political dimension and has shaped US-China relations over the past several years, reducing in the process, their mutual tensions. Power in the modern world is said to be based as much on economic competitiveness and political resilience of a country as it is on military capability. Therefore, Pakistan must ensure faster paced economic growth and generate the revenue incomes required to sustain equitable growth that is a growth that ensures affordable universal education, affordable health cover, affordable housing and affordable rail, road and air transport.

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 globalised 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, colour, 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 Beijing to its immediate neighbours 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.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 5th, 2016.

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