terrorism 13Md. Mizanur Rahman, MA ( IR), South Asian University.

Although security studies means usually traditional state-centric security, the discourse has changed drastically from post-cold war era when the notion of human security emerged, particularly with the publication of UNDP MehbubulHaq report. But, as far as security challenges of South Asian region concern, questions arise, like, which security should be prioritized in the region, traditional or non-traditional? The two books Four Crisis and a peace process and Understanding Security Practices in South Asia, while former discusses about the rationality of traditional security in the region, latter analyzes the importance of non-traditional security for the securitization of the region. The easy, on the basis of the books arguments, analyzes the security discourse of South Asia in context of traditional and non-traditional security challenges.

Map New d

Traditional security challenges in South Asia

While narrating security discourses in the world, the security content of South Asia hardly came to table until the self-declaration of nuclearization of two dominating countries of the region, India and Pakistan, although security predicament between them initiated with the inception of the countries. Bone of contention of the region is basically border issues, particularly on princely state Kashmir, that spread over the region in certain points of history as President Bill Clinton rightly commented, “the Indian subcontinent and the Line of Control on Kashmir” might be “the most dangerous place in the world today,”, among which four are the most talked such as the “Brasstacks crisis” of 1986-1987 that followed from Indian military maneuvers; the “compound crisis” of 1990 that came about as result of turmoil in Kashmir; the limited war that took place around Kargil in 1999, as a result of Pakistani incursions; and the border confrontation of 2001-2002 that followed a terrorist attack on the Indian parliament which has been precisely narrated on the mass read book “ Four Crisis and a Peace Process”, a well thought mingle of three independently published books written by P R Chari, PervaizIqbalCheema, and Stephen P. Cohen.

Discussion on four crises in South Asia points out the basic causes of the crisis, the media coverage, and the intervention of United States to settle down the crisis. The writers, while digging out causes of the crisis, first, stressed on the misconceptions of both states on the motives of each other that basically emerged due to lack of direct communication among the leaders. Then, border dispute as the Line of Control in Kashmir that is not properly demarcated, ignited the tension off and on, along with the insurgency of militant groups in Kashmir valley, of whom accused to be clandestinely aided by Pakistan government, often Indian authority claims. Finally, apart from many other ambiguous reasons, desperate for being nuclear powered of both countries intensified the tension as during Brasstacks crisis India was accused of attempting to obstruct Pakistan to go for nuclearization, Kagril crisis and 2001-2002 border crisis quivered the world with the fear of nuclear proliferation.

As during first two crisis Gulf war, Afghan war, and civil war of Yugoslavia occupied the space of world Medias, South Asian crisis was rarely got light. But later two crises as US increasingly became involved with the crisis, World Media started to cover issues, but scant depth and less regularly, of course they featured some articles when Secretary of State Collin Powel visited the region and after 9/11 when “war on terror” project broached, core of which South Asian countries lied.

Being in US block just after getting independence, Pakistan urged US intervention in every crisis as it did before, particularly during 1971 war, while India, a core proponent of non–alignment movement disliked outsiders’ intervention in regional crisis. During Brasstacks and 1990’s border crisis, USA never took seriously. During first crisis, US treated it as the misunderstanding between two friends, while in 1990, the first Bush administration sent a personal emissary to deal with the problem- its team arrived just after the crisis had passed. The Clinton administration did get deeply engaged in the Kagril crisis, but again personal diplomacy was the instrument of choice, beginning with the Zinni visit and ending with Clinton’s own meeting with Nawaz sharif. Finally, in 2001-2002 George W. Bush choose a strategy to cope with India’s threat of escalation, a strategy that consisted of a mixture of threats and promises to both Islamabad and New Delhi.

However, USA’s intervention strategies in South Asian crisis were carefully chosen as it intended to maintain a balanced rapport with both the states. In one side, it did not want to jeopardize its longtime alliance with Islamabad; on the other hand, it deeply desired to build a strong strategic relationship with New Delhi due to its geo-political and economic prospects in 21st century.

The authors did not attempt to justify win-loss calculations of the crises as they thought there are no pellucid winning- losing scenarios of the crises. But three of them have conceded that absences of violence is not peace, although there is no such overt violence between two states, it might escalate any time that might jeopardize the security of the whole region. The essential conclusion is that “strategically, the Kargil crisis and the border confrontation crisis have taught both countries that they cannot gain their political objectives—including a resolution of the long-enduring Kashmir dispute—by force of arms.


Non-traditional security challenges in South Asia

Although security of South Asia primarily, in the eyes of many, the traditional state- centric security, Monika Barthwal- Datta in her recent book “Understanding Security practices in South Asia” challenges the notion, arguing that South Asia is vulnerable in terms ofnon-traditional security, rather than traditional one. She extensively discusses how Non State Actors (NSAs) are involved in securitizing non- traditional security challenges in the region. She claims that despite tension is still there regarding traditional security in the region, chances of being engaged in war are little.

However, for the mass people living in the region life is riddled with insecurities emerging from several NSAs which are completely separate from the state security. Rather than wars and conflicts between the states, insecurity emerged by misgovernance, terrorism, forced migration, human trafficking, and climate change has ripen to explode. The book analyzes extensively the causes of these insecurity and proceeds with some set of recommendations with separate issue based case study in different states of South Asia.

Misgovernance reportedly prevalent in South Asian states includes poor representation, lack of accountability, and lack of ethos of public service, poor standard of policing, above all injustice, and human rights violation that appeared as the threat for the security of the region. The case study on misgovernance in Bangladesh substantiates the broader scenario of the region and the threats associated with it emanate usually from those in position of political influence and authority themselves.

In the decade of following 9/11, South Asia has felt the repercussions of the terrorists’ attacks on the World Trade Center perhaps more than any other regions in the world. It emerges as the epicenter of the US ‘War on Terror’ immediately after, and continues to be the primary threat where the US led- coalition battles with al Qaeda forces and Taliban. Moreover, the region itself was struggling with internal terrorist attacks in India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh, particularly activity of insurgence groups like LTTE in Sri Lanka, Taliban’s in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Jamatul Mujahidin in Bangladesh, Maoist’ in Nepal, and Naxalbari in India. The issue has a substantial presence in various parts of South Asia is an essential consideration when mapping security dynamics in theregion.

Forced migration, refugees and IDPs, is another emerging security concern in the region. In the last 65 years, more than 35 million South Asian have moved across the border in search of security, running from threats of life, honor and property, or in search of protection from religious and other kinds of percussion, or to avoid strife and wars, or for work and food, or just by drives towards ethnic, racial, ideological or religious homogenization. The severe refugee crisis can be trace back during the struggle of Bangladesh’s Independence struggle when about 10 million refugees fled to Indian bordering states;Nepal’s being home to hundreds of Tibetians and Bhutanese refugees since as early 1959 and 1990 respectively, and during armed conflicts approximately 280000 IDPs being homeless in Sri Lanka. However, with the growth of population, the crisis seeks immediate securitization approaches.

A palpable example of NSAs dealing with a non-traditional threat successfully is the book’s case study on human trafficking in Nepal, which is a source of insecurity for women and children in particular. In February 1996, Indian law enforcement agencies in Maharashatra rescued 500 women and children, including approximately 200 Nepalese nationals, from Mumbai brothels. The Nepalese government rejected to oust them given that their proof of citizenship cannot be submitted. Consequently, these trafficking survivors suffered in public sector rehabilitation centers in India for five months. At that time, a group of Kathmandu-based NGOs resolved and chalked out a plan to repatriate and rehabilitate the Nepalese victims. They appealed to the High Court for their release, and, subsequently, 124 of the victims were returned to Kathmandu in July 1996, where NGOs helped them move into seven different rehabilitation centres. Thus, it could be argued that these NGOs effectively performed the role of security actors in the absence of political will and action by the Nepalese state.

The more crucial insecuresegment in South Asia is climate change where the countries like Bangladesh, Maldwip and some parts of Sri Lanka are situated in lower coastal areas which are vulnerable due to climate change as there is possibility that these areas might go under water in coming decades because of massive melting of ice in two poles of the world on account of waxing world temperature gradually, climatologists claim.


Traditional verses Non-traditional security challenges in South Asia

Hence, the debate between traditional and non-traditional security challenges in South Asia, although hard to comment which should be prioritized, has reached to its zenith as scholars of security studies put multifarious opinions on both sides of the issue. But the extensive historical analysis of the crises of South Asia especially 1980s and onward, some obvious conclusions can be made about the traditional state- centric security in the region. First, although two core countries, India and Pakistan, involved in crises several times, these in most of the cases were purposeful, especially Pakistan’s side to achieve the world consent that they are insecure, and there were hardly any plea to walk on each other. Second, lack of communication between both countries, the intensity of crises escalated as misconceptions and sort of paranoia were formed in both sides. As it is observed that after the official communication since 2002, no massive threat has been emerged. Third, domestic politics of both countries was a crucial factor of tension intensification, basically the military regime in Pakistan was seen more war prone than present democratic government. Finally, as both countries are nuclear powered, according to nuclear deterrence theory, the possibility of war is very less as the probable destruction from both parts is well known to them. Therefore, the traditional security challenge in the region is not that much worrisome as it seems.

In contrast, non-traditional security and therole of non-state actors in securitization in South Asia are crucial. South Asia is the seed- bed of terrorism as almost all countries are affected by it and outsiders’ intervention in the region happens basically because of terrorism. Misgovernance is prevalent in the region that obstructs the securing basic human needs and violates the human rights of commoners. Human trafficking pushes thousands of human being under threats, especially women and children across the region. Furthermore, millions of refugees and IDPs are wondering here and there being deprived of fundamental human needs. It is increasingly emerging as a great threat with immense population growth that becomes a bone of contention in bi-lateral relationships of the states. Lastly, clutch of climate change might wipe out some parts of the region, leaving South Asia vulnerable in almost all perspectives.

Thus, although the significance of traditional security and threats associated to it can hardly be undermined, the non-traditional security threats emerged in such an endemic way that it requires more concerns to combat the widespread crises the region facing to obtain an integrated South Asia.


NOVEMBER 29, 2014, 2014



About Ehsan Abdullah

An aware citizen..

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