RCSS Summer Workshop

RCSS Summer Workshop

RCSS for over two decades has organised several annual ‘Summer Workshops’ which exclusively addressed traditional security issues in South Asia, such as regional and nuclear security; role of military and nuclear technology; arms control and disarmament; and emerging security concepts. These 10-day residential workshops, over time, have brought together young scholars and other professionals from the region to address, individually and collectively, problems and issues of topical interest for the region. Along with the participants of the RCSS Winter Workshops, an alumni network of approximately 500 globally, now exists who hold influential policy-making and research positions within leading universities, think tanks, governments and development agencies in South Asia.

Since the first Summer Workshop in 1993, its organization and course contents have gone through various changes. For the first four years it focused mostly on security matters relating to India and Pakistan. In pursuit of educating young groups of scholars, academics and defence experts on different aspects of traditional security, the first Summer Workshop was held in 1993 in Bhurban, Pakistan. The other three that followed were help in Nathiagala, Pakistan (1994), Neemrana, India (1995) and Neemrana, India (1996). In the months leading up to the Fifth Workshop, the key organizers and decision makers decided to transfer the programme to the RCSS. After 1997, the Workshop included other South Asian countries and also China as a key factor in the South Asian equation. Since then, the RCSS has successfully conducted several Summer Workshops in Kandy, Sri Lanka (1997), Shanghai, China (1998), Ahungalla, Sri Lanka (1999), Kathmandu, Nepal (2000), Kalutara, Sri Lanka (2002), Shanghai, China (2003), Lahore, Pakistan (2005), Marawila, Sri Lanka (2006), and Kalutara, Sri Lanka (2014). The financial support for these Workshops has come from different sources including Nuclear Threat Initiative, W. Alton Jones Foundation, The Merck Fund, The Ploughshares Fund and the Ford Foundation.

An evaluation of the Summer Workshop, by Dr. Chris Smith in 2001, recommended that there should be a more focused discussion on military issues limited to largely India, Pakistan and China. Out of this emerged the new and topical theme of “Defense, Technology and Cooperative Security in South Asia”

The main objective of the Workshops, post-1997, was to provide a forum for young Indian, Pakistani and Chinese professionals to mutually and collectively examine and understand the major issues of defence, national security, regional stability and confidence building in South Asia. It also encourages a new generation of analysts, commentators and opinion shapers to introduce, perspectives and initiatives to the security debate in the region.

As part of RCSS’s overall programme on security issues, the Summer Workshop provides a valuable opportunity for sensitizing the youth, along with the opinion and policy makers in the region to some of the key dimensions of issues relating to defence, technology and cooperative security mechanisms in South Asia.

Specific goals of the workshop are to:

  1. Equip participants with information and understanding on conceptual, technical and practical aspects of defence, national security and regional stability in South Asia;
  2. Provide participants with insights into strategic and security thinking in South Asia and China, and how divergence in security perception transform into arms build-up, affect relations between states, evolve into conflict and prevent regional stability;
  3. Stimulate informed discourse on various shades of opinion and thinking in the region, especially on emerging and new ideas, relation to the theme of the workshop;
  4. Facilitate objective debate on extra-regional factors and perceptions that affect issues, perceptions and trends in South Asian security, and
  5. Stimulate alternative thinking on defence and security, free from abstraction and polemics, and promote collective consideration of possible options and approaches to stability, confidence building and cooperative security in South Asia.

The course and approach has consistently been an inter-disciplinary one. At each workshop an internationally reputed expert delivers a keynote address on the main theme of the workshop. Thereafter, the programme is designed to facilitate maximum interaction between participants and faculty, and among the participants themselves. Each Summer Workshop consists of several panel sessions, in which more than one faculty members will lead the discussion on a set of agenda/questions to be provided by the participants themselves, in addition to several simulation exercises with respect to specific issues and instances. Furthermore the workshop includes participants-led panel sessions in which participants themselves will be speakers, commentators and moderators. Group meetings and activities remain an important component of the workshops, where participants are divided into smaller groups. Given the diverse backgrounds and nationalities of participants, this has helped both facilitate closer focus on specific issues and solutions of their choices, by the participants, as well as fostered greater mutual understand and cooperation between citizens of often contesting nations.

As of 2014, the Summer Workshop series shifted its focus towards “Nuclear Disarmament, Safety and Stability”. Additionally, the target audience and nations of interest also shifted, to include participants from the United States of America, and the workshop was attended by 28 scholars from India, Pakistan, China and the United States of America. It was envisioned that the workshop would educate participants selected from a wide cross-section of young academics, security analysts and practitioners in South Asia, as well as outside, who will influence their country’s and regions’ future policies on issues related to nuclear disarmament, nuclear safety and security.

Participants, much like the years before, were drawn from diverse professions such as lecturers, researchers and civil servants and carefully screened to ensure the highest of academic excellence and professional experience. They hailed from renowned institutions of academic learning and research such as the Fudan and Sichuan University in China; Jawaharlal Nehru University, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies in India; Atomic Energy Commission, Quaid-i-Azam University and Jinna Institute in Pakistan; Department of State and Stimson Centre in the US and the International Atomic Energy Agency in Austria.

The strength of RCSS’ annual Summer Workshop is the consistently esteemed team of faculty members drawn from within and outside South Asia, with special focus on India, Pakistan, China and the USA. Their expertise in nuclear and security issues and experience in engaging with policy makers has not only brought important perspectives to the table, but promoted a space where divergent ideas and opinions are heard and welcomed. Faculty members frequently represent a broad spectrum of viewpoints and ideas especially on major controversial and debateable issues. The workshop is not intended to support or reject any particular policy or posture, and therefore participants are exposed to critical, balanced, objective, and above all contemporary views and various streams of thoughts throughout the Workshop.

As a resultant of this workshop, two main outputs materialise, the first being, since 2004, a publication based on the workshop papers which continues to foster dialogue and contribute towards knowledge beyond that of the Workshop proceedings. Simultaneously, a network of individuals engaged in strategic studies in South Asia who keep in touch with each other and RCSS, continue the dialogue, make policies, generate research and above all take away the key lessons that the workshops instil in them, to the various think tanks, universities, organisations and governments that they now work in.