Understanding the national interest

By Farman Nawaz (unpublished article)


The concept of national interest comprises a set of objectives, which a nation considers necessary for the growth of its economy and intellectual development of the society. National interest is never based upon a utopian phenomenon, fiction or an ideal situation. It is always derived from the ground realities faced by a nation. In the past, the national interests of one nation might collide with the others but in the modern world, the national interest is kind of agenda that is set in accordance with the requirements of the region and compulsions of international politics and economics.

The agenda of national interest is set in accordance with the wishes of the nation too. First of all people ought to be educated enough to express their views about the national interests during the general elections. Secondly, on complicated issues the political parties guide the nation. That is the reason we see that western nations are united regarding their foreign policy and issues related with per capita income. Surely there are differences within western nations but these differences do not affect the key issues of their national interests. That is why whoever represent the western nation their foreign policy and economic policies remain same. But it does not mean that the common people do not understand the complications of national interest. Any utopian perception about national interest that can affect their economy is readily pointed out and discarded. Even before elections western nations start campaigning in a systematic way to pressurize their governments to change the agenda.

However, these campaigns are also well thought-out and the government policy is targeted with arguments and proofs. The effects of the government policies are presented in a logical way. Masses are not just gathered to show their strength and to induce the people against government but rather these processions are kind of enlightening rallies where people are educated about the consequences of the government policies.

Setting the national interest on erroneous or utopian perception will not only put the nation and state on the way to devastation but rather the nation will become victim of hopelessness. In research there is the principle of setting SMART goals. Such goals or objectives are chosen which are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Reachable, and Tangible. Setting objectives for research in this way help in achieving the goals. Similarly the national interest of state must be SMART. National interest must first concentrate on national issues mainly related with economics. After these priorities, the international issues with regional approach can be accommodated in the sphere of national interest.

Unfortunately, in Pakistan from the beginning the concept of national interest is not based on ground realities. The concept of national interest was based on the fear from external factors. From the very start the idea of a welfare state was kept hidden from the general masses. After two nation theory the idea of ‘how to run the state?’ was fed to the nation. And for nine years the nation was kept busy in the preparation of methodology for running the state and making of constitution. Still students are taught to learn by rote the process of constitutional development in Pakistan. But there is no chapter about national interests of Pakistan in our syllabus. Still student are asked to rote the goals of Pakistan in these words “it’s our duty to create such an environment in Pakistan where we could individually and collectively live our lives according to the principles of Islam”. Now it raises a question that who will create this environment; Judiciary, parliament, bureaucracy, establishment, Mollas or extremists? “To develop unity among Muslim states and to work to solve all the problems faced by the Muslim countries” but we have forgotten that this ideology of Pan –Islamism is discarded since long by other Muslim states. “In national goals of Pakistan national identity is of great importance” but those elements of our society who have destroyed the image and identity of Pakistan are still on the rampage.

Pakistani Establishment has diverted its tilt from US towards China but still the nation is uncertain whether to stick to the old International Jihadi policy against USSR or to adopt liberal and secular approach like Chinese. Only Chinese investment in various sectors can not change the destiny of Pakistan. Though Chinese investment is must better than the World Bank and IMF loans but It is also only a short-term solution. Strong industrial base under the auspices of democratic, liberal, tolerant, non-interventionist, secular and progressive culture can change our destiny.

It is a fact that the agenda of Pakistani state is always defense and security of the state and propagation of fundamentalism. And we have only progressed in these fields. Today instead of democratic institutions establishments is much stronger. Religious fundamentalism and fanaticism are today the main threats to our security and society. Only war against terror will not uproot these evils. We will have to revise the basis and priorities of our national interest. The liberal and secular sections of Pakistani society will have to come out to guide the general masses and to pressurize the government, establishment, and judiciary to find a way out of these crises.


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