Non-Traditional Security Issues in Asia

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A Planning and Co-ordination Conference related to the above theme was jointly organised by the RCSS and Bangladesh Institute for International and Strategic Studies (BIISS), in Rajendrapur, Bangladesh on October 11-12, 1999.

Commencing October 1999, the RCSS is implementing a two-year project on non-traditional security issues in South Asia with the generous support of the Ford Foundation. The project aims at exploring non-traditional issues of security in the context of profound international changes. Changes that are taking place at such remarkable speed making it difficult for us to imagine their impact and consequences. Yet, they are transforming ways in which we need to look at security in today’s world. For, threats to security now arise less from military confrontations and conflict and perhaps more from issues that did not find a prominent place in our consciousness in the past. These have been often described as non-traditional security issues involving a host of factors.
In this backdrop of emerging developments the project will focus on non-traditional security issues that have special relevance to South Asia today.

A planning and co-ordinating workshop for the project was jointly organized by the RCSS and Bangladesh Institute for International and Strategic Studies (BIISS), Dhaka in Rajendrapur, Bangladesh. The workshop brought together 20 experts representing leading research institutions from six countries of SAARC.

The Conference agreed that the project would address the following three themes:
• Governance in Plural Societies and Security
• Globalisation and its Impact on Security
• Environment and Security

Research will be conducted on each of these areas on a sub-region-wise collaborative basis for two years and will lead to a published work. A non-traditional security, training cum discussion workshop will be conducted in the first half of 2001.

The project Directors for the three separate projects in South Asia will be as follows: –
• Prof. P. R. Chari, Director, Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS), New Delhi, India, for the project on “Governance in Plural Societies and Security”;
• Dr. Abdur Rob Khan, Research Director, Bangladesh Institute for International and Strategic Studies (BIISS), for the project on “Globalisation and its Impact on Security”;
• Mr. Adil Najam, of Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Pakistan, for the project on “Environment and Security”.

The project Directors made brief presentations on their perception of the respective study themes and focus, which were followed by detailed discussions and useful contributions from other participants. Some of the issues that came under consideration were:

• The extent of overlap and difference between the terms “sustainable development” and “security”. A view was expressed that these concepts were more in harmony and complemented one another;
• It was accepted that the term security encompasses a broad spectrum of issues, such as good governance, democracy, greater people to people contact, exchange of ideas etc. “Sustainable development” becomes then an essential part of “comprehensive security.”
• Expanding security agenda can be viewed as an attempt to “wean away security from its traditional domain and helping it preside over its own demise” – hence a subversive exercise, while the need to bring forth non-traditional issues that affect the coping capacities of the state cannot be underestimated.
• Arguably, the possibility of addressing the whole range of non-traditional security issues is remote and looks impracticable, hence there is a need to be selective and prioritise;
• The role of the State and what informs the security perception of the State, especially as compared to the perspective of non-State actors deserved close attention and analysis. Equally important were the issues of governance, particularly institutional aspects of democracy. At the same time, challenges of development as long as they affect the capacity of the state and society, also could be within the purview of the security debate.
• There was a widely held view that it would be useful to develop a conceptual framework and understanding of security within the context of which the new agenda could be located. A separate workshop for this should be considered.
• The question of right to information and the extent to which it empowers the citizens to hold those in policy & decision making positions accountable and transparent was stressed.
• The need to accommodate and recognise ethnic minorities and various marginalized groups produced by the democratisation process itself was reiterated. Here again the question of good governance was critical.
• With regard to impact of globalisation, in view of its multidimensional nature, there is a need to focus on certain basic issue areas and accordingly identify the contours of coverage. Question was raised also as to the need to be conscious of both positive and negative aspects of the impact of globalisation on the state and society.
• Finally, the need to be aware of the overlap and contradiction between the threats to the security of the state and that of the individual and vice versa.

List of Participants
Maj Gen (Retd) Dipankar Banerjee, Executive Director, RCSS
Prof Lok Raj Baral, Dept of Political Science, Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu.
Dr Navnita Chadha Behera, Assistant Director, Women in Security, Conflict Management and Peace (WISCOMP), New Delhi.
Dr Kaiser Bengali, Visiting Fellow, Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Islamabad.

Seventh Summer Workshop (First Conference for Alumni) on South Asia Facing the New Millennium 1999
Trip to Pakistan by the RCSS New Delhi Chapter (Nayana Bose)