Cooperation on Non-traditional Security Issues Can Bound South Asia: Ashok Behuria

December 18, 2018

New Delhi: In a comprehensive overview of the 11th South Asia Conference on ‘Non-Traditional Security Challenges in South Asia: Agenda for Cooperation’, Senior Fellow and South Asia Centre Coordinator, IDSA, Dr Ashok Behuria today said that the theme of the conference is a reminder of the realities of hard security, while harbouring the hope that common non-traditional security issues would bring our nations and citizens together to draw up common action plans in an atmosphere conducive to change.

Summing up the geo-political significance of the region, Dr Behuria 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.

Terming these issues as transnational in nature - not restricted by boundaries, he 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.

Earlier in his welcome address, Deputy Director General, IDSA, Maj Gen Alok Deb SM, VSM (Retd), while 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.