Kaleidoscopic Array of Debates at Islamabad Security Dialogue


Pakistan has never had a period of complete political stability in its 75 years of independence. While military coups have happened, no prime minister has ever served a full five-year tenure. As of recent, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan faced a parliamentary no-confidence motion from the opposition, which again threw the country into chaos.

However, amidst the political turmoil and chaos, the country managed to pull off its biggest conference known as the “Islamabad Security Dialogue.” The second edition of the Islamabad Security Dialogue (ISD) revolved around the motto of “Comprehensive Security: Reimagining International Cooperation.”

In the contemporary era, traditional security risks, such as WMD proliferation, regional violence, and global wars, still exist. Some countries are still dealing with the issue of sovereignty separation. Nonetheless, the risk of a crisis escalating into a full-fledged war between powers has decreased.

Non-traditional security dangers are, however, on the rise, ranging from terrorism to economic crises, climate change, and food shortages. Despite the death of Bin Laden, the threat of international terrorism persists, and the fight against global terrorism will continue in the long run. People all across the world are still deeply aware of the economic downturn, and financial security is becoming increasingly critical in the national economic landscape, as well as in overall national security.

To tackle all these issues, earlier this year Pakistan came up with its first-ever National Security Policy (NSP). Keeping the agendas of the policy in mind, ISD turned into a platform that gathered National Security Advisers along with some of the world’s prominent academia, practitioners of international law, and members of the Federal Cabinet. The Prime Minister and Chief of Army Staff delivered opening addresses on the first and second day respectively.

This year’s ISD consisted of eight sessions that were Leveraging Geo-Economics through Growth and Connectivity, National Security Advisers Forum on Asian Security in a Fluid World Order, Discussion with Pakistan’s National Security Advisers, 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.

The dialogue got recognition from renowned figures from all around the world, mainly because it touched upon every aspect that is relevant in bringing peace and prosperity globally. In recent times, the world has grown more dangerous and complex for plenty of reasons. Despite the multiple comments and discussions of major headlines, all of the speakers appeared to agree on the significance of confronting the issues that all countries face, regardless of their geographical distance or the differences in their direct theatres of operations.

Geopolitical rivalry is altering the global economy, dismantling global power structures and governance. As great power rivalries escalate, global corporations that once considered themselves masters of the globe increasingly see themselves as pawns in a game over which they have little influence. This is one of the biggest challenges that is causing complexities in the world today.

As for Pakistan, the former National Security Adviser, Dr. Mooed W. Yusuf believes that “Pakistan has to look at economic diplomacy as a way forward.” Hence, under its National Security Policy, Pakistan is focusing on a geo-economic strategy in the wider region, emphasizing connectivity, trade, investment, and development partnerships with regional countries and the world at large.

The seasoned speakers at ISD explored the history of connectivity, the role of geo-economics in expanding regional and global cooperation, and the challenges facing globalization and economic connectivity. The intellectual debate at the forum proved that geo-economics is a way of thinking about the relationship between geopolitics and the policy concerns that occur when international economics and international security collide.

Another challenge that our world encounters today is battling the spread of disinformation that results in chaos and intolerance. Amidst the ongoing tensions in Europe, ISD happened at the right time to discuss how modern communications and information tools can be optimally utilized to foster social harmony, understanding, and substantive discourse on domestic and global issues. As Liu Xin from China Global Television Network aptly puts that “Disinformation is being used to manipulate cultures and ethnicities towards conflict.”

Furthermore, it needs an hour to have a platform that talks about new entities and networks that don’t fit into the traditional Westphalian system and are posing a threat to international law. Similarly, economic, health, and environmental challenges, which can affect people’s daily lives and transcend state borders, are increasingly jeopardizing security. According to Edith Brown Weiss, this is the kaleidoscopic universe. The notion of ‘human security’ has been proposed as a way to inform bottom-up decision-making on risks to security in the interests of persons.

ISD took the initiative of triggering debates in identifying the role of International Law in providing updated solutions for global security challenges,  including cyber operations and warfare, international investment arbitration and economic security of developing states, changing nature of armed conflict,  evolving maritime challenges, the role of international institutions, etc.

All in all, ISD couldn’t have happened at a better time. The comprehensive debates sent a strong message that in this spirit of diplomacy, solidarity, and dialogue, we can sincerely hope that the Islamabad Security Dialogue will contribute to the world’s need for stability and solutions at this critical time. Recognizing and resolving the multiple interconnected root causes of violence and conflict is critical for global security, and Pakistan’s New Security Policy places equal emphasis on economic and human security as traditional security.

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