A new book, entitled “Pakistan’s Strategic Frontiers” was launched at a ceremony at the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad (ISSI). This was the third edited volume put together by ISSI’s Centre for Afghanistan, Middle East, and Africa (CAMEA).
The Chief Guest on the occasion was the Foreign Secretary of Pakistan, Ambassador Syrus Sajjad Qazi, and the Keynote address was delivered by Ambassador Asif Durrani, Pakistan’s Special Representative on Afghanistan. Other speakers included: Director General ISSI, Ambassador Sohail Mahmood; Director CAMEA, Ms. Amina Khan; Mr. Martin Mader, Head of the Asia Pacific Department, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES); Prof. Muresan Liviu, President EuroDefense Romania; Ambassador (R) Riffat Masood, former Pakistan Ambassador to Iran; and Mr. Michael Kugelman, Director and South Asia Senior Associate, Woodrow Wilson Center. The contributors to the book also spoke.
Ambassador Syrus Sajjad Qazi, in his address, stated that Pakistan, a country situated at the crossroads of South Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East, occupies a unique and strategically vital position in the global geopolitical landscape. The term “strategic frontiers” encompasses the geographical, political, economic, and security dimensions that define Pakistan’s role and significance in shaping regional dynamics and global interactions. It is, therefore, important to explore the multifaceted aspects of Pakistan’s strategic frontiers, delving into its historical context, the contemporary challenges and opportunities this entails, and its potential to influence the regional environment and global outcomes. The Foreign Secretary underlined that the region surrounding Pakistan is driven by complex and often volatile dynamics. He added that the book “Pakistan’s Strategic Frontiers” provides valuable insights into these varied dimensions, offering a comprehensive understanding of the challenges and opportunities that Pakistan faces in navigating the evolving global landscape. “It [the book] underscores the need for strategic foresight, diplomacy, actualization of pivot to geo-economics, and practical cooperation to ensure Pakistan’s continued relevance and prosperity in an ever-changing world,” he concluded.
DG ISSI Ambassador Sohail Mahmood, speaking on the occasion, said that the book “Pakistan’s Strategic Frontiers” is an important addition to the existing literature on Pakistan’s place and role in an evolving region and a transforming world. In the rapidly changing milieu, developing better understanding of Pakistan’s strategic frontiers and outlook is of crucial importance for the academic and policy communities alike. It is a gratifying that both these communities are sufficiently represented here today. Ambassador Sohail Mahmood added that the world finds itself at a pivotal juncture, today, marked by unparalleled flux and uncertainty. We are indeed at an inflection point — an era has ended; while the contours of a new era have yet to take a definite shape. Moreover, he said that we would do well to recall that assertions of the “end of history” in the aftermath of the Cold War were clearly premature, as historical and geopolitical dynamics re-surged almost with a vengeance. Also, the much-debated thesis of ‘Clash of Civilizations’, propounded in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War, acquired wide currency in the post-9/11 era and could well have become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Thankfully, that has not happened thus far. The world, nonetheless, has become mired in a plethora of traditional and non-traditional security threats and challenges – with neither a clear conception of how to navigate these troubled waters, nor a global leadership that could steer the ship towards safer harbors.
The DG ISSI pointed out that the book delves into the various dimensions of the complex dynamics and processes, particularly those associated with Pakistan’s extended western neighborhood. He dilated on Pakistan’s interactions with Afghanistan, relations with Iran and Gulf States, and ties with other adjoining regions and stressed the significance of constructive engagement, the imperative of addressing shared security concerns, and the promotion of economic cooperation for common good. He concluded that Pakistan’s potential role as a key influencer in shaping the regional milieu and ensuring desirable outcomes was contingent upon Pakistan’s stable and economically-strong trajectory, which enhances its diplomatic space and allows it to play its rightful role.
Director Amina Khan, in her remarks, said that in today’s rapidly changing global environment, having a profound comprehension of Pakistan’s strategic frontiers is essential for academics, researchers, professionals, and anyone with an interest in matters related to peace, security, and development in the area. The book “Pakistan’s Strategic Frontiers” is exactly that – an all-encompassing and informative manual, delving into the intricate dynamics, challenges, and potential advantages that influence Pakistan’s role in the region and on the global stage. She further said that CAMEA at ISSI has undertaken this initiative, which exposes the readers to the multifaceted dynamics that shape Pakistan’s geopolitical landscape.
Ambassador Asif Durrani, while expressing his views, stated that ‘Pakistan’s Strategic Frontier’ is a subject about which many analyses have been made during various stages of our history. From the strategic point of view, Pakistan has been facing a two-front situation for decades. While India has been an adversary since Pakistan’s independence, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan created a destabilizing situation for Pakistan. He was of the view that scholars and subject specialists deserve appreciation for delving on regional connectivity, economic integration and cooperation, which Pakistan offers to its immediate and extended neighbourhood. He stressed the need to foster greater cooperation for enhanced trade between the neighbours as regional cooperation has become a success story in many regions, especially the EU and ASEAN. South Asia has all the potential to emerge as a formidable economic block; same is true for Central Asia and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, he concluded.
Mr. Martin Mader described the book as a valuable addition to the existing literature. He said that the shifting global dynamics bring forth a dual landscape of challenges and prospects for both Pakistan and the wider region. These challenges encompass issues such as transnational terrorism, illicit drug trafficking, smuggling, human security concerns, the impact of climate change, cross-border movements, conflicts, and energy crises, all of which signify the emergence of a new global paradigm.
Professor Muresan Liviu opined that in a fast changing international environment, it is important to understand the complexities of the relations between countries and the profound changes that are taking place. He further said that the happenings in Afghanistan have a deep impact on the surrounding countries. The Middle East is also a very dynamic region and has a deep impact on South Asia; similarly, Central Asia holds immense importance for the adjoining regions. The book gives a wide-ranging overview of Pakistan’s strategic frontiers, presenting the challenges and opportunities in a holistic manner.
In her remarks as a discussant, Ambassador Riffat Masood said that the region is experiencing rapid developments, making this book exceptionally timely and the aspects covered within the book hold immense significance. Furthermore, she pointed out that perspectives are evolving, with non-traditional threats gaining increasing importance. Regarding Pakistan, she was of the view that it should look beyond its current challenges. It is essential to work diligently in resolving the problems that Pakistan is currently grappling with, thereby fostering progress and development.
Michael Kugelman, described the book as a valuable addition, which has come out at an opportune time as the geopolitics of South Asia and beyond is undergoing profound changes and these shifts have been particularly been seen since the last three years. This has made it more challenging for Pakistan to figure out how it can manage this geopolitical flux.
The launch was attended by academics, practitioners, former and serving Pakistani diplomats and officials, experts from think tanks, students, and members of the diplomatic corps in Islamabad.