The concept of security has evolved since the Second World War, transcending the traditional or military security to the other aspects vital to nat-ional and regional stability, including economic development, food, energy, communication, human, he-alth, social, cyber and environment security. These aspects have emerged as the fundamental concerns of the international community, pushing the soc-ial scientists to define the concept of post-modern security.
While not ignoring the importance of traditional security, the post-modern security features wide-range of elements covering socioeconomic and human problems. This phenomenon has entirely transformed the approaches of strategic thinking of nation-states. The outbreak of epidemic has further enhanced the importance of this logic of transformation in the traditional thinking of security because today’s humanity is witnessing the most difficult time in its known history in shape of COVID-19. The entire spectrum of life stands suspended and affected in terms of politics, economy, society and psychology.
Consequently, the new dimensions coupled with national security formed an inclusive concept popularly known as “Comprehensive Security.” It demands confidence building measures at regional level as a prerequisite in breaking the vicious circle of insecurity and underdevelopment.
In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the fault lines in every country. It has caught the world unaware in terms of healthcare preparedness and impact on daily lives. Scientists are increasingly confident that the pandemic threat will persist, possibly for years. Ultimately, the global economy is headed for an economic nose dive that could rival, even exceed, the Great Depression. Not only will this translate into rising unemployment and food insecurity, but it could quickly escalate into political unrest, violence, and conflict.
In this regard, the risks of violence will probably rise in the most vulnerable countries and cities. The armed groups, terrorists and organized criminals are already exploiting the pandemic. They will find further opportunities – including in cyberspace. Spiraling insecurity and conflict will undermine the collective willingness to work together to tackle shared challenges.
In South Asia, the stalemate between Pakistan and India continues. And, prospects for sustained and meaningful engagement look rather slim. The ceasefire violations also continue on the Line of Control and the Working Boundary. Rather, mutual rivalries among the states are further undermining global and regional efforts to cope with the after-effects of COVID-19. There is no sign available to suggest that the states have decided to seek enduring peace in view of current and future threats of COVID-19.
The South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) has been lagging behind in adopting inclusive concept of comprehensive security to combat all kinds of challenges ranging from conventional to non-conventional security threats, primarily due to intransigence of insulative India how continues to scuttle its summits. In reality, the SAARC region is plagued with various health security, water scarcity, population explosion, ecological imbalance, low human development index, high cost of interregional trade, hunger and illiteracy challenges, etc. owing mainly to mistrust, political unwillingness to solve the outstanding disputes, arms race, hybrid warfare and historical baggage of the interstate rivalries.
These challenges have accelerated underdevelopment, and backwardness, which altogether present a grim outlook of South Asia. Resultantly, after thirty six years of its inception, the SAARC remains unable to achieve its primary objective to promote cooperation at social and economic levels and nourish cordiality among the member states
The predominant elements of “Comprehensive Security” require concerted efforts at regional level. For this, the member countries of the SAARC need to reinvigorate the comatose forum as an effective regional platform to address the complexities of the emerging humanitarian challenges of today’s world. It is, indeed, unfortunate; that the SAARC summit has not been held since 2014. It is a well-known fact that frequent interactions at summit level promote organizational effectiveness, the practice which is presently missing.
Security and prosperity are interlinked. It would benefit the region when this association promotes cooperation in countering epidemics, communalism, terrorism and state coercion coupled with social sectors like sharing the benefits of regional connectivity in the form of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM). In this context, the expansion of the SAARC with new members such as China and Iran having convergence of interest with the region may further endorse the idea of regional integration, and socioeconomic development. It would encourage a shift towards vibrant regional cooperation and enhance emphasis on regional goals. It will take the existing security challenges to a regional level and may bind member states to a timetable for implementation at a regional level.
In all, “Comprehensive Security” and regional collective outlook are indispensable to regional development and cooperation. Regional connectivity contributes constructively to the economic progress of any region. If present stalemate continues to prevail, cooperative security will remain a distant dream, and South Asia will witness a chaotic re-alignment of interests to the detriment of local populations, economies and the environment.
Note: This article appeared in Balochistan Times, dated 19 January 2021.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are of the author and do not necessarily represent Institute’s policy.