|The Sixth RCSS Winter Workshop was held at Godavari Village Resort, Kathmandu, Nepal, from 1 to 10 October 2004. This residential workshop was devoted to nontraditional sources of conflict in South Asia. The themes included:
The objectives of the workshop were to train young scholars in South Asia to evolve alternate approaches to prevention, management, and resolution of conflicts in the region. Continued interaction and communication among the network of professionals and scholars is a sine qua non for future peace in the region, to which RCSS is committed.
Prof. Sridhar Khatri, Executive Director, RCSS, explained the structure, design, and content of the workshop. He said that the themes for this year were derived from grants given by Ford Foundation to five different institutions in South Asia under Phase II of its project on Non-Traditional Security Issues. The other organizations collaborating with RCSS in the workshop and their areas of study include: Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies, Dhaka (Human Security); Women in Security, Conflict Management and Peace, New Delhi (Gender and Security); Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi (Governance, Democracy and Human Development); and Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit, Dhaka (Migration).
The keynote address was made by Ambassador I. P. Khosla, while the themes were discussed by the faculty members along with their presentations. Ambassador Khosla mentioned that most human security issues can be better understood in the dispersal of power from the State and its linkages with the organs utilizing such power. He maintained the need to concentrate more on implementation of research already done in the sphere of non-traditional security. His contention was that there is an overwhelming number of studies done and data available and over reporting of issues, whereas there remains an under resolution of the issues. He said that the task for young scholars is to delve deep into the concepts and define them, but deal with the root causes, and find prescriptions.
He linked the approaches to improve the security of the people with gradual dispersal of power from the State to other actors, such as NGOs, civil society groups, etc. About hundred years ago there was a “triple concentration” of power internationally with colonialists, internally with Governments, and within Governments with the small elite, he said. It has, however been replaced by a gradual leakage of power.
This phenomenon has also affected the trade unions and labour movements, which once exercised tremendous influence on governments. For example, the Indian liberalization programmes of the early 1990s could not be challenged by the weak trade unions. He also stated that the “over-towering bureaucracy” has expanded and it had led to a dispersal of power. The bureaucracy has two basic roles, first, it is an arm of the government; and second, as it expands, it becomes representative in its character by “developing local links”.
As a result of the dispersal of power from the State, it is no longer possible for the State to preserve, consolidate and enhance power over its own people through coercion, laws and institutions; the state is now called upon to improve the lives of its people by focusing upon denominators like life expectancy, health, education, the environment, etc. The state is also expected to give away power to local bodies. The response of the State in the face of such erosion of authority has been attempts to “recoup some of the losses”. This is done through promulgating ideologies such as ethnicity, religion, and language. It has attempted to promote homogenizing projects like that of nationalism. It has also tried to focus more on economic indicators such as GDP, FDI and foreign exchange reserves.
However, overreliance on such indicators, Ambassador Khosla cautioned, can be highly erroneous. He defined terrorism as a discourse about State and about accumulating more power in favour of the State. It is yet to be defined in a comprehensive manner. The power to tell who is a terrorist lies in the hands of the State. He pointed out that the State is not in favour of providing definitions to the term. This workshop can attempt to arrive at a definition, he said.
The root causes of terrorism are about deprivation and poverty, and generally, it is a result of a “mismatch between the flow of power upwards and downwards”. The human security discourse is one result of a decentred State. “Security, i.e. defence against external and internal enemies, has gradually come to mutual and cooperative security,” he said. In a dispersed State, security is being managed by many groups.
The human security debate has been an international debate, and has been a continuing one. The idea about the modern State is about its permanence. The debate, however, happens at a below the- State-level, a factor which the State is yet to internalize. Its absence is visible in the budget and plan documents.
In fact, the State can reclaim some of its power by focusing more on human security. Ambassador Khosla outlined two approaches to governance. One can be an attempt to construct an index, which is relatively easy, given the fact that there is no dearth of data and information. The second approach is to take the aspirations of the people into account. It is a long and complicated process. “What are people’s goals in terms of well-being, security, income and prospects, often they don’t really know.” There is, thus, the danger of popular aspirations being distorted by the culture of consumerism.
During discussions on the presentation, Ambassador Khosla elaborated that even the role of the civil society and NGOs has been distorted by their agenda, “ethnic, religious and promotion of nationalism of a certain kind”. He said that even though the civil society would like to exercise more power, the governments of the day have displayed great reluctance to allow the same. Governments, on the other hand, do not have similar problems in sharing power with private organizations. Another handicap of NGOs, in his opinion, is that “they are not organized enough” and do not have the resources to collect data on a national scale.
The workshop became a “conduit” for the young scholars to engage in more research in the various segments of study to explore fresh resolutions to problematc areas in the field of security studies in the region.
The list of Faculty Members and the topics covered by them in the course of the 10-day workshop are given below.
Non-Traditional Security Issues in South Asia:
Prof. Dhruba Kumar, Dr Pancha Maharjan, Prof. S. D.Muni, Dr Rubina Saigol and Dr Nira Wickremasinghe
Dr Sumona Das Gupta
Winter Workshop on Sources of Conflict in South Asia: October 2004