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Food security, climate change among new national security challenges, says Pakistan

Published 17 Mar,2021 via Dawn - Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said that food security and climate change were new challenges to national security.

The premier expressed the views at the Islamabad Security Dialogue where he launched the National Security Division’s (NSD) advisory portal connecting over 100 think-tanks and university departments with policy makers.

During his address, the prime minister said that Pakistan needed to have a debate on the concept of national security, adding that it encompassed more than just matters and affairs related to strengthening the country's security forces.

"We are slowly realising that national security relates to areas which no one thinks about. National security today includes many aspects that have been ignored in previous decades, including climate change, food security and economic prosperity,”

Highlighting the issue of climate change, the premier said that it was also an area concerning national security. He said the issue was one which no one had paid attention to before, when it was a very "frightening thing" which had the potential to overshadow everything else for upcoming generations.

"Pakistan is among those countries taking steps to tackle climate change," he said, adding that the PTI government had been internationally recognised for its '10 Billion Tree Tsunami' initiative.

PM Imran stated that food security was another issue, adding that the government will launch a comprehensive programme regarding this in the coming weeks.

The prime minister said that the economy also played a key role in national security. "National security cannot be [envisaged] in a country where there are some rich people and a sea of poor people."

He said secure nations were those where every citizen felt they had a stake in the government and cited the example of China as a model to follow for poverty eradication.

He mentioned initiatives taken by the incumbent government to tackle poverty in this regard such as the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme and targeted subsidies for the poor.

Regional peace

Commenting on regional peace, PM Imran said that economic prosperity cannot be sustained without peace in the neighborhood. “That is why my vision for the region is peace,” he said.

Good relations with countries and neighbours in the region were also paramount for national security, according to the premier. "We will not be able to take full advantage of our geo-strategic location until we have regional peace, until our relations with our neighbours and our trade ties do not improve."

The prime minister also addressed India and said it was "unfortunate" that it had rebuffed the PTI government's efforts for peace.

He said if India gave the people of occupied Kashmir their rights according to the United Nations Security Council resolutions then "the whole region will change and both the countries will benefit".

He lauded Pakistan's role in the Afghan peace process and said Pakistan had the "second biggest stake" in the country's peace.

The prime minister said that Pakistan wished for a political settlement to the Afghan conflict which can lead to sustainable peace. He said that “peace in Afghanistan is the key to unlocking the connectivity potential of the region”.

Important to connect varsities, intellectuals

The premier stressed that it was important for the NSD to connect and coordinate with universities, think tanks and intellectuals so their input could be received on the concept of national security.

"When you start this dialogue then this coordination will bring a lot of benefit for inclusivity, nation building and national security in Pakistan," he said.

The members of the advisory portal will also be able to share policy recommendations directly with the national leadership, according to Radio Pakistan.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Security Dr Moeed Yusuf, while addressing the conference, said the idea of more inclusive policy approaches was very important. He lamented that the public sector had not been able to effectively utilise the "immense talent" that Pakistan had.

"The NSD created a council of experts where the best minds on security have been brought to advise the government," he said, adding that Pakistan should have a platform for exchange of ideas and the NSD's goal was to make the conference an annual event.

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