Originally Published 2004-06-11 12:27:48 Published on Jun 11, 2004
Over the last few decades, particularly after the end of cold war, a distinctive feature of the strategic and security related environment has been the unprecedented and sheer dynamics of change in the concepts, paradigms and complexities of national, regional and global security.
Changing Paradigms of Security Need for Multi-Disciplinary Approach
Over the last few decades, particularly after the end of cold war, a distinctive feature of the strategic and security related environment has been the unprecedented and sheer dynamics of change in the concepts, paradigms and complexities of national, regional and global security. There are three main reasons for these changes. Firstly, the rapid advances made in science and technology, particularly in the field of information technology. Secondly, globalization, multilateralism, and regionalism are replacing bilateral international relations and a straitjacketed concept of sovereignty. And thirdly, a more liberal approach to security; there is now a greater focus on peace, development and cooperative security; most people would like to see stability at national, regional and global levels to continue. There is thus a new salience and awareness of the comprehensive nature of security. This includes in its ambit the traditional defence-related threats, but no less importantly, challenges in societal, political, economic, technological and environmental dimensions as well. 

It appears that while the USA, Europe and other developed countries have taken note of these changes seriously and are currently in the process of re-modeling their security infrastructure, the mindset of political leaders and security managers in most of the developing world is still rooted in the past.

It is also evident that these changes are being understood better and more easily by liberal and stable democratic nations than nations ruled or dominated by the military, or quasi-democratic countries. Although the situation in this respect is much better in India than what prevails in Pakistan, the full impact of these changes is yet to be felt adequately in our security planning and management. 

Trends and statistics of the last 50 years have shown that the armed conflicts around the world have been gradually moving down the paradigm scale of intensity as well as inclusivity. Potential nuclear war has given way to restrained nuclear deterrence. Total war, even a conventional war, has yielded to 'limited war', 'restricted war', and several types of 'low intensity conflicts'. The empirical evidence points towards a significantly lowered probability of a regular high intensity war leave alone a regional protracted war. There are several reasons for this trend:

  • The attention of international relations and national attention has shifted markedly towards developmental economics, commerce and trade issues. Global and regional trade and economics of international finance have made more and more nations inter dependent in a free market and export-oriented world. High-speed long-range communications have shrunk the world. Even the insular and inward looking nations have no options but to join 'internationalization' and 'engagement' thus reducing the chances of open or intense conflicts. The trend is to focus on peace and development and most people would like to see this stability to continue. 
  • The challenges of human development, including international efforts to enlarge peacekeeping and peace enforcement. It includes issues like human rights, international laws of war, protocols on nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and efforts to prevent collateral damage. There is close monitoring of conflicts and conflict situation by the media and it ensures greater public accountability of governments. 
  • High cost of maintaining standing Armed Forces and costly new weapon systems and equipment. There is likelihood of heavy civil and military casualties on account of greater lethality and reach of sophisticated conventional and non-conventional weapons. 
  • Destruction of enemy's military potential and occupation of large foreign territories: these are not easily attainable military objectives even when an armed conflict is between unequal enemies, as we have seen in Palestine and Iraq.

This does not mean that any nation is prepared to compromise on its security or give up its efforts to become powerful. But these trends have undoubtedly made an impact on the complete range of security issues as discussed below. 

In the last few decades, the force option has become more and more costlier and less and less effective. The Soviet example has shown the high price of maintaining large standing Armed Forces, not just in economic terms but also in sustaining sovereignty and governance. The expenditure on account of the armed forces and their modern weapons and equipment is so high that unless defence planning is done carefully, it can easily upset a nation's developmental budget. 

The international opinion is now strongly against forcible change of regimes or re-drawing of national boundaries through forcible means. Ever since the US pre-emptive action in Iraq, the debate on unilateralism versus multilateralism has intensified. Now there is increasing realization in the world, including the USA, that in any major conflict around the world, there is no alternative to multilateralism to prevent conflicts or to an ultimate conflict resolution.

Meanwhile, the liberalists' concept of cooperative security has gathered momentum. This concept is founded on two arguments.

One, new security challenges are diverse and multi-dimensional. These are:

  • Different forms of terrorism.
  • Economic under-development.
  • Trade imbalances and disputes.
  • Illegal migration of people.
  • Uncontrolled population growth.
  • Human rights abuses.
  • Drug trafficking.
  • Environmental degradation.
  • Conflicts over access to natural resources that are key to development e.g. water and oil.

As these challenges are not solely of a military nature, heavy reliance on the establishment, preparation and use of large-scale military forces to meet these emerging security challenges is unnecessary. 

Two, the management of these emerging issues cannot rely on unilateral or even bi-lateral measures but requires multi-lateral efforts through the processes of discussions, negotiations, cooperation and compromise. Cooperative security approach encourages informal, track one and track two dialogues, and inclusive participations until conditions are mature for substantive negotiations on core disputes. This trend is now prevalent everywhere and has also been India's approach in dealing with China and Pakistan. 

External threats today do not lie as much in the armies invading across borders, but, more often, are in the form of limited wars, global and cross border terrorism with high technology and lethality available to it, including the possible use of nuclear and biological weapons in the future.

In order to maintain political stability and create a conducive climate for socio-economic development, internal security has gained importance in national security policies. Internal peace and security is a major problem in most of Southern Asia. It is plagued by internal unrests and transnational influences eg, political competition, insurgency movements, caste, communal, ethnic conflicts, and religious fundamentalism. These unrests not only stir up political upheavals within nations but also tend to cross national boundaries and lead to inter-state tensions. Some of the issues that India is faced with are:

  • Problems of national assimilation and integration, particularly of Border States in the North and North Eastern part of India. 
  • Porous borders with Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka which enable illegal trans border movements and smuggling of weapons and drugs. These days AK rifles, machine guns, rocket propelled grenades, land mines, RDX, even shoulder fired surface to air missiles are easily available from such sources. 
  • Exploitation of ethnic and religious minority status by unscrupulous political leaders.
  • Nexus between crime, insurgency & politics. We have several such examples in India.
  • Weak governance including large-scale corruption, law and order machinery in many states.

On account of the changed pattern of threats discussed earlier, internal and external security has got enmeshed more than ever before. 

Non-military developmental security issues--some people call them soft security issues-- have also gained a higher degree of importance in the new globalised security environment. These are issues like rising population, food and water security, depleting energy resources, demographic changes, regional/interstate inequality, global warming and environmental security, and so on.

The whole concept and doctrine of national power has undergone a change in the new global environment. It is not just military but economic, political, cultural and technological power. Greater emphasis on military power as compared to other components could not save Soviet Union's collapse and has got many military regimes into trouble. The true mark of a great power today is strength in all areas. China is pursuing comprehensive power. In Southern Asia, there is still heavy emphasis on military power, though it is much less in India than in Pakistan.

In view of the above-mentioned trends, there is now a growing recognition that security problems require integrated national and international responses more than ever before. These responses combine political, economic development, military and diplomatic instruments. 

What about the military? The military today has a tougher job than ever before. It has to be prepared for this elongated spectrum of conflict and security, ranging from Assistance to Civil Authority, peacekeeping and peace enforcement, and counter terrorism, limited wars to a war involving Weapons of Mass Destruction. It requires careful prioritizing of its roles, likely missions, and greater versatility and flexibility. It has also to learn to synergise with other instruments of power and governance that have a role in the enlarged security matrix.

To conclude, there is a need to bridge the gaps between the traditional and the emerging new approach to security, and between national development and security issues through crosscutting policy agendas such as conflict prevention and security sector reforms; by establishing connections with related disciplines like international relations, regional studies, socio-politics and socio-political economy. The integrated security matrix involving both internal and external facets also makes it imperative that security policies include direct and indirect threats and all types of challenges posed by countries, non-state actors and any other intricate factors that impact security of the nation in a global and regional framework.

* Former Chief of Army Staff; currently President, ORF Institute of Security Studies.

*Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Observer Research Foundation.

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