SOUTH ASIA MUST IMPROVE ITS NON-TRADITIONAL SECURITY PROFILE
Note : This piece was originally featured in the third issue of our magazine. To read the issue visit https://www.ytharth.com/post/south-asia-state-of-affairs-vol-1-issue-3
The terrorist bombing inside the Mosque in Pakistan is an event that should not be seen in isolation. An act of terrorism of this scale amidst other human life threatening events point at something. They indicate at the changed nature of security architecture. If change is the only constant in the world, then this change is equally applicable to all walks of life including security itself. The security threats that bothered humankind back in the days have changed. Earlier, a state was constantly trying to secure its land and people from foreign army and occupation. However, with time, this traditional understanding of Security has undergone a significant change. With the advent of life changing technology, mass scale industrialization, globalization and human understanding, the security bracket has widened. Citizens are equally exposed to insecurities within the state, as they are from outside the state.
Source : The Jakarta Post/Seto Wardhana
These Non-Traditional Security (NTS) challenges have been the basis of contemporary times security structures and is deeply rooted in the idea that ‘nobody is safe until we all are safe’ largely because these NTS doesn’t operate in silos, they are interlinked within and outside the state territorial boundaries, and have a domino effect. This article traces the NTS profile in the South Asian region, and what plausible solution we have in store. South Asia as a region has a fascinating geographical location, it has a rich reserve of natural resources along with traditionally flourishing agriculture fields, spices and other valuable assets. However, the region faces severe traditional and non-traditional threats, one overriding the other. The region is home to two aspiring great powers, India and China, along with several potential middle and small powers. Majority of these countries are yet to fully embrace the status of a developed state, and hence, falter at many levels to provide for the human development aspects, especially the one related to non-traditional security. Majority of the budget still goes into maintaining the defence architecture of the country and they are largely concerned about protecting the geographical entity called the state first, and then its people. This results in lack of funds and concerns over the mounting challenges like hunger, poverty, economic inequality, refugee crisis, extremism, climate crisis, health care issues along with challenges coming from new age sources like the internet. In the last few decades, the region has been stripped owing to challenges from the NTS. For instance, Sri Lanka suffered economic crisis that unleashed catastrophic events for its citizens. The country was set on fire, food shortages, rampant corruption and loot made it worse than war.
Likewise, Pakistan is deep neck in inflation and the leading economic unrest is putting the country at the risk of another military takeover coupled with constant terrorism activities both inside and outside the country. Whereas, Afghanistan, under the Taliban regime has taken the situation from bad to worse. It has undone the years of progress in terms of human development and continues to strip its citizens of a dignified life. Similarly, China with its strict media policies has tried to cover the post covid effects on the country but has failed to do so. It continues to suffer and subjugate the human rights of its citizen. In addition, India surpassed China in terms of population, this comes with its own share of problems. A growing and young population requires amenities and growth opportunities which becomes difficult in the face of limited resources. Amidst these threats, the overlapping issue of Climate crisis engulfs the entire region. People are forced to migrate in the face of unprecedented climate crisis that has surfaced. Bangladesh, India, Pakistan all the countries face it at various levels. The fact that none of these NTS threats operate in a vacuum makes it difficult for the states to deal with them. Any economic unrest leads to inflation, this in turn weakens the state machinery and it stands exposed to civil war. This civil war over basic amenities clubbed with the climate crisis fuels heavy rate migration. Both internal and external migration in a region like South Asia, which is home to more than half of the world population, further complicates the situation. In addition, the new age technology and offensive cyber fronts by states like China adds to the destabilization of the region. Persistent cyber attacks on important state sources in sync with the use of Artificial Intelligence puts the human life at risk. Moreover, three countries in the region China, India and Pakistan are nuclear powers but are constantly at loggerheads with each other over border disputes. This rules out the scope for mutual cooperation and collaboration to resolve the NTS challenges.
A continuous neglect of the NTS challenges by the state actors would only allow these threats to grow further. Despite them being omnipresent and overpowering the mainstream security assessment of the states, the actors in the region are still making heavy investments in the traditional security architecture. The average defence budget of the region has only gone up. The states are desperately seeking to protect the borders, without trying to protect the people within it. India’s defence budget has increased by 13%, while China has continued to mark a nominal 7.1% increase every year, and Pakistan despite being in deep economic crisis has had a 6% increase. These numbers indicate the priorities that the states in the region continue to have. The states in the region are in bad shape when it comes to their NTS profile. They need to redirect themselves, and their resources. For this, there should be an active involvement of other stakeholders, non-state actors, environment groups, and civil society. Majority of NTS like environment, migration, cyber attacks are transborder issues, therefore, to deal with them successful cooperation from all the parties in the region is required. For instance, the flood situation in Pakistan was similar to that of India, and hence had a lot of space for engagement. Likewise, melting of glaciers in Bhutan to rampant droughts in Nepal, all requires better collaboration in terms of technology, finances and resource management. This is only feasible if the states stop turning a blind eye to these mounting threats, and securitize these issues at par with the traditional threats. In the wake of current trends, these NTS issues have surpassed the impact caused by traditional or military attacks, and would continue to undermine the human life if not given timely attention.
The Author is a Research Associate at the Centre for Air Power Studies, New Delhi.