Quest for Equilibrium

A peace accord has been reached between the Taliban and the United States after 19 years of futile war. This requires neighbouring Pakistan to realign its policies in the region and participate actively in Afghanistan’s reconstruction.

By Dr. Bilal Munshi | April 2020

The global system today must be examined in at least three differing and yet inter-related realms: sub-regional, regional and global. From a policymaking perspective, the navigation of these interconnected realms is a task of such herculean complexity that the adoption of sub-optimal policy choices becomes the norm more often than not.

In Pakistan’s case, its geopolitical contextual specifics are underpinned with variables that only add to its feelings of profound existential angst. Its security managers have a multitude of factors to consider when it comes to sustainably formulating and implementing optimal policy options so that some of this existential angst can be mitigated or managed. In many instances, not only are Pakistani policymakers hampered with the related issues highlighted here but also with the negativities associated with the intricate links that prevail between external and internal systemic dynamics. In other words, Pakistan’s geopolitical contextual specifics are so profoundly problematic and complex that its security managers often struggle to find an acceptable equilibrium between management and prescriptive approaches. The purpose of this piece is to critically examine how one geopolitical variable, Afghanistan, is affecting the nature and scope of Pakistan’s prescriptive response to its overall security environment.

Afghanistan is a variable that does little to alleviate the feelings of existential angst that permeate the Pakistani policymaking process. Intricately situated points of intersection exist between external and internal dynamics on the one hand and the realms-based perspective to be adopted to underpin the overall basket of Afghan- related policies on the other. How then is Pakistan’s policymaking community to navigate these ensuing fluidic complexities regarding its Afghan conundrum?

The inextricable links that prevail between internal and external variables in this instance ensure that Afghan policy will remain subservient to the concept of optimized equilibrium. Pakistan’s security managers must constantly strive to account for both internal political compulsions (Pashtunistan issue) and South Asian security dynamics while still keeping in mind prevailing linkages between sub-regional and regional (Asiatic) dynamics. The complex interplay between these various realms will continue to add an even greater “haze” to the conceptualization and implementation of Afghan policy which requires constant and consistent calibration on part of Pakistan’s security managers. Alleviating stress in one area of policy will undoubtedly lead to mostly unforeseeable negative consequences in other areas which even the most optimally efficient procedural mechanisms will not be able to mitigate. Afghan policy then is a perfect case in point of the dynamics highlighted earlier i.e. increasing complexity will lead to a greater chance of sub-optimal policy options being adopted.

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The writer is a security studies specialist. His primary area of focus is geostrategy/geopolitics with a particular emphasis on systemic dynamics. He has taught at the National Defence University in Islamabad and is currently serving as an assistant professor at the Institute of Business Administration in Karachi. He can be reached at munshibilal@gmail.com

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