Cooperation on Non-traditional Security Issues Can Bring Our South Asian Nations Together: IDSA Fellow

Foreign Affairs

New Delhi: Non-traditional security (NTS) issues would bring the south Asian nations and their citizens together to draw up common action plans in an atmosphere conducive to change, IDSA Senior Fellow and South Asia Centre Coordinator Dr Ashok Behuria said.

Dr Behuria was speaking at a comprehensive overview of the 11th South Asia Conference with the theme of ‘Non-Traditional Security Challenges in South Asia: Agenda for Cooperation’ in New Delhi on December 18.

He said that the theme of the conference is a reminder of the realities of hard security.

On geo-political significance of the region, the IDSA Fellow said that South Asia is at a critical juncture of history displaying enormous capacity for economic growth.

Regional Cooperation would offer an opportunity for further accelerating such growth through cooperation, he noted, insisting that the impulses of change that initiatives like the South Asia Conference generates would reinforce the efforts of states to deliver greater public goods to the people.

The present conference seeks to identify multiple non-traditional security issues and draw up blue-prints for collective action.

The South Asian region is emotionally connected by historical memories and inerasable cultural linkages, but is separated by zero-sum politics and unreasoned fear of each other, observed Dr Behuria. It requires careful articulation of ideas and plans for action even in non-traditional security areas, he cautioned.

Speaking on the agenda in detail, Dr Behuria noted that in the current scenario, security has become all encompassing–including economics, water, food and energy, health, environment, climate change, as also the issues of cyber, space, technology, demography, and security of information, in addition to the sub-traditional issues of terrorism, radicalism, proliferation of small arms and WMD technology.

He termed these issues as transnational in nature not restricted by boundaries and suggested that all states in the region should collectively ward off these threats. Generating consensus among nations on NTS issues is relatively easier, he added.

Speaking on the occasion, IDSA Deputy Director General Maj Gen Alok Deb, referring to the World Bank Report on ‘Realising the Promise of Trade in South Asia’, which states that ‘South Asia remains the world’s least integrated region’, observed that despite conflicting security interests, states can still be persuaded to work together – through collective action on non-traditional security issues, which affect both parties equally, and where mutual understanding exists.

Suggesting that non-traditional security issues, which have been calculated to account for more casualties than during wars in the post-cold war era, are receiving greater attention by policymakers, Maj Gen Deb said that imaginative and whole hearted cooperation between security practitioners in different nations is required to mitigate any adverse impact at the regional level.

The way forward should be towards engaging each other on issues which are mutually advantageous and on which a common understanding can exist. This would enhance trust, to prepare the right setting to then look at more complex issues later, he concluded.

South Asia Conference is a flagship event that the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, has been organizing since 2007.

The conference seeks to draw on a cross-section of policy makers, academics, civil society actors and young professionals from all countries of the South Asian region, to examine and discuss issues of common concern and interest.