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Rajesh asked: What is common security and comprehensive security and the difference between the two?

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  • D.P.K. Pillay replies: Common security is a notion based on the assumption that no nation, community or individual can be secure without other nations, communities and individuals enjoying the same level of security. It is rooted in the belief that security emanates from not having enemies who seek to pose a challenge, as opposed to having the ability to keep potential opponents in check by projecting capacities to inflict damage on them. In simpler terms, it means that all nations, groups, societies and individuals enjoy the same level of security and hence are not insecure and do not seek to establish control over others.

    Comprehensive security is an approach that goes beyond the traditional realist state-centric and military approach and includes human, economic and environmental dimensions as well as a subjective feeling of security or insecurity of individuals. The term was coined during the 1980s because of the need for an approach which was broader and deeper than the realist notion of security. Such an approach seeks to find answers at three levels: First, for whom is security intended to be provided for – an individual, a group, a community, an ideology or a state; second, from what kind of threat they need to be secured from; and, finally, by what means the security is to be obtained.

    There has never been a universal definition of ‘security’ and it has been contested between approaches to the use of power and the quest for obtaining a state of peace. The traditional idea of security was the protection or defence of states against external threats or attacks.  The common and comprehensive concepts of security go beyond the narrow traditional and realist approach to security. While the notion of common security is about non-violent approaches to the universal need to be secure, the idea of comprehensive security emanates from the need for addressing both military and non-military threats to security.

    Posted on July 16, 2019
    Views expressed are of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the views of the IDSA or of the Government of India.