Remarks by Dr. Arvind Gupta, Director VIF, New Delhi: Eleventh International Research Conference at General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University, Sri Lanka, 13-14 September 2018
Challenges for International Collaboration in facing Unconventional Security Threats
Historical Background

Until recently the discourse on security was narrowly confined to military issues. The referent in traditional security is the state. In a world comprising of nation-states where state sovereignty is supreme, the state should have the capacity to defend itself against adversaries and enemies. According to the realist school of international relations, states are locked in security dilemmas. They have to maintain hard power to survive in the ‘anarchic’ world. Those who do not have the requisite hard power, adopt various stratagems like alliances, band-wagoning, hedging etc. to survive.

The Rising Salience of Non-traditional Security Issues

Lately, the concept of security has been broadened. Human security has been brought into the security discourse. No adequate theoretical framework has yet been developed to account for non-traditional security challenges. Security and power are inter-related. The concept of power is also changing. Apart from hard power, soft power as embodied in culture has also been promulgated. Soft power gives legitimacy to hard power.

The concept of non-traditional security is not new. In 1983 Ulman had given a definition of non-traditional security as “an action or sequence of events that (1) threatens drastically and over a relatively brief span of time to degrade the quality of life for the inhabitants of a state, or (2) threatens significantly to narrow the range of policy choices available to the government of a state or to private, nongovernmental entities (persons, group, corporations) within the state. Within the first category might come the spectrum of disturbances and disruptions ranging from external wars to internal rebellions, from blockades and boycotts to raw material shortages and devastation ‘natural’ disasters such as decimating epidemics, catastrophic floods, or massive and pervasive droughts”.

Around the turn of the century, the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan set up a panel of high-level experts to look into the new threats and challenges facing the mankind. The panel identified a new set of security challenges which would require new approaches and new institutions. It came up with six broad clusters of nontraditional security issues:-

  • War between States;
  • Violence within States, including civil wars, large-scale human rights abuses and genocide;
  • Poverty, infectious disease and environmental degradation;
  • Nuclear, radiological, chemical and biological weapons;
  • Terrorism; and,
  • Transnational organised crime.

Since then attention has been focused on Climate Change due to global warming, which is now recognised as existential threat to mankind. It can impact weather patterns, acidify oceans thus killing marine life. Melting of the mountain glaciers and polar ice sheets, alteration of ocean currents etc. can have unpredictable consequences. Many of the security challenges arise due to debilitating geo-politics, overexploitation of the environment, competition for resources, the inability of the system to deal with the rise of non-state actors, alienation caused by globalisation and improper comprehension of the issues involved. The conflicts of today are rooted in the lack of dialogue or Samvad between different cultures. Thus sophisticated, long-term approaches will be needed to deal with these issues.

The West-supported economic model is based on the reckless exploitation of nature, resulting is many problems such as environmental degradation and climate change. This has led to changes in weather patterns and loss of biodiversity on which humans depend for survival. The ancient civilisations were very well aware of the link between survival and nature. Nature was respected and venerated. The man accepted its inferior stature with repect to nature. Howeer, in the western economic models nature was to be humbled and used for man to satisfy his own greed.

Numerous hymns in the ancient Hindu texts praise and worship the nature and pray for its bounties. For instance, the Rig Veda, the Hindu ancient text, forbids the destruction of forests, and, the Atharva Veda, displaying great sensitivity to mother earth, describes plants as the saviours of humanity. It says in a 63 verse long hymn:

“Let what I dig from thee, O’ Earth, rapidly spring and grow again;O’ Purifier, let me not pierce through thy vitals or thy heart.”

Padma Purana 56.40-41 says, “the cutting of a green tree is an offence punishable in hell.”

The flawed concept of exploiting the nature for the benefit of man has destroyed the environment. This is having a disaterous impact on the man himself. It is essential to rediscover the respect for nature which the ancient religions always.

International Cooperation

It was realised way back in the 1970s that international cooperation will be required to deal with global issues such as environmental degradation etc. In the 1980s, international community concluded the Montreal Protocol to reduce the size of the growing Ozone hole which was threatening global health. This was a successful example of international cooperation to deal with a nontraditional security issue. Similarly, the international community has developed mechanisms of cooperation to ensure that the security of Outer Space (Outer Space Treaty), oceans (UNCLOS) and atmosphere (Paris Accord on Climate Change). The agreements reached on the regulation of Antarctica, the outer space and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, chemical and biological). There is a plethora of agreement to promote cooperation on many other issues such as drug trafficking, migrations, populations, health etc. More recently, the attention of the international community has been focused on dealing with the international terrorism. Numerous resolutions have been passed in the UNSC to promote cooperation among nations. However, the level of international cooperation is still low.

Among the emerging issues which can count as non-traditional security issues can be the impact of new technologies on jobs and economy, cybersecurity, privacy in the age of social media, autonomous systems and the ethical and moral issues they raise.

In order to manage the global issues, a countless number of summits and meetings, seminars and conferences are held regularly. Apart from the states, non-governmental organisations and civil society organisations are also active. Together, these discussions have led to a complex system of global governance consisting of laws, , rules, regulations, norms, processes and structures. Yet, it is being realized that the institutions of global governance are under stress and many of them are failing. Why?

We should look for the answers in the way global governance happens. The key institutions like the UNSC are inherently unequal. The seeds of failure of global governance are inherent in the way pricesses and structures are conceived in the first place.

Why International Cooperation Often Fails?
  1. Lack of Consensus (Politics)

    Politics is absed on national intrests and not on altruism. Only thse ckind of cooperative ventres sccedd where antions see clear advantage to themlselves. The examples of such win-win cooperation are there but rare. Poltics ften leads to the fiaalire of cooperation. For instance, despite cooperation on international terrorism, terrorism and radicalisation are increasing. The example of ISIS is noteworthy. Although it had been defeated in Syria, its influence has increased in the Middle-East, North Africa, South Asia, South East Asia and Europe. This raises a question why this problem cannot be tackled effectively. One reason is that very often there is not enough consensus in the international community on even defining the problem let alone tackling it. Despite so many years of experience of international terrorism, there is no agreement in the international community on the definition of the terrorism. So long as double standards exist, international terrorism cannot be dealt with effectively.

  2. Mutual Suspicion

    Mutual suspicions are major impediments in international negotiations. For instance, deep division exists within the international community on how to deal with information flows across the cyber space. Many countries are uncomfortable that the data pertaining to their population resides on servers located outside their jurisdiction. European Union has come out with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to place restriction on the cross-border flow of data. Similarly, tackling cyber crime is becoming difficult due to the lack of effective international cooperation. Law enforcement agencies of different countries are chary of sharing sensitive data with the Law Enforcement Agencies of other countries. Thus mutual suspicion also mars international cooperation. This suspicions can arise from various reasons rooted in history, different political systems etc.

  3. Lack of Capacity

    Even when the countries are willing to cooperate, their lack of capacity comes in the way. Many countries may not have the necessary means and wherewithal to deal with legal, technical and other capacity issues. For instance, managing natural disaster requires a wide range of capacity ranging from technical to human resource. Access to remote sensing data, for instance, can hamper capacity to deal with natural disaster.

  4. Regional Institutions

    Regional architecture plays an important role in dealing with nontraditional issues such as drug trafficking, migration etc. There are several regional institutions in the various regions in the world. What is important is the common concerns and the will to act on security challenges. However, their efficacy varies from region to region and from institution to institution.

  5. Non-state Actors

    Very often non- state actors pose major challenges to the states to discharge their duties. A case in point is the vast network of terrorists operating in the world today. The drug and human traffickers, smugglers and arms suppliers are able to circumvent state control. They are often stronger than the state. Sometimes there is collusions between state and non-state actors particularly in weak states.

  6. Weakness of International Law and Norms

    International laws and norms which are state oriented are often difficult to arrive and even more difficult to implement. The multiplicity of stake holders and issues makes negotiations difficult exercise. Even states leave the arrangements they themselves have negotiated and signed at will. The US withdrawal from the Climate Change agreement and the TPP is a case in point. North Korea left the NPT to resume its nuclear programme. The US recently withdrew from the JCPOA. This weakens the international legal regimes.

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