Meeting the challenges

Brig Gen Shahedul Anam Khan, ndc, psc ( Retd)

If the primary objective of national policies is the furtherance of national interest, much of it will be compelled by the internal dynamics of a nation. It is also true that regional and global developments will shape a nation's regional and international response.

According to experts, foreign policy of a country revolves around three concentric cir-cles. The neighbours circum-scribe the inner most while the center circle consists of the region and the outer circle includes the trans-region or the rest of the world.

For Bangladesh the inner as well the central circle is predominated by its big and predominant neighbour. It is therefore not surprising that our policy has largely been, and will continues to be, oriented towards dealing with India and devising ways and means to coexist with a large neighbour.

It is heartening to note the paradigmatic shift in the conceptualisation of the term 'security', not only in the context of the region but also in the global context. This was the inevitable and obvious result of the end of the COLD WAR. The state-centric perception, which viewed the challenges exclusively in the physical and external context, gave way to a non state-centric treatment of the term where the main focus and referents were primarily the people. The concept of 'Comprehensive Security' first formulated by the Japanese, gained currency, whereby the traditional military conn-otation of security was de-emphasised and threats to the people in its entirety was brought into consideration in the discourse of security. This has caused the role of the military, as the sole guarantor of security, to be relegated to the background.

Nature of Future Challenges
It may be also worth dwelling briefly on the nature of conflicts that experts foresee states are likely to be involved in the future. The optimists among the experts see the end of the Clausewitzian way of settling interstate disputes. Primarily, there are three compelling reasons for war no longer being made an extension of politics. First, it will no longer be the norm for civilised nations to take to arms to solve intractable matters between one another (in spite of US invasion of Iraq, which is an aberration). Second, the cost benefit criterion will impose restrain on prospective antagonists. For the victor, if there be any at the end of the day, the victory would be at best Pyrrhic. Third, war may not necessarily bring peace. What, however, cannot be discounted are the possibilities of mistrust and misunder-standing finding expression in the form of 'violence' and 'conflict' between states rather than large-scale wars, as we have seen in the case of India and Pakistan. Experts also foresee the possibility of intrastate war compelled by internal dynamics and festered by external linkages and sponsorship.

Generic Sources of Challenges
The inevitable question that follows is what are the generic sources of threat that we might face in the years ahead? Some analysts see several interesting threat scenarios. Loss of state monopoly over information, technological revolution in electronic media, failure of the state to protect its people, failure to achieve economic prosperity, loss of state's monopoly over justice in view of growing role of international organisations, lending institu-tions, foreign governments, human rights groups and, self-appointed spokesmen for democracy, failure to provide justice and threat from within, are likely to induce negative impact on the security environment of the states. To this one could add that deprivation from common resources or inability of a state to make legitimate and optimum use of common natural endowments might also pose threat to a country's security. The most immediate source of threats, however, will generate from within, and, as we have witnessed in the case of Bangladesh, misrepresen-tation of religion and exploita-tion of sensitive minds can lead to radicalisation of a section of the society.

Meeting the Challenges
In view of the foregoing where sources of threat will be multifarious, how should we address the challenges that are likely to face us?

First, re-conceptualisation of the concept of 'security' demands that we redefine our national interest and re-evaluate our security concerns. We have to identify our national interests without which policy formulation for pursuing our national interests would not be possible. This will allow us also to articulate our security policies and determine our military capabilities. It will be well for us to note that because of the post Cold War reorientation of ‘security', a new approach to strategic planning will have to be actualised which would no longer be based on entirely military threat.

Second, it necessitates the recognition of the possible threats through objective and pragmatic assessment of the issues in a comprehensive manner. Within the circumscribed parameter, our future security agenda can be stated as economic, political, territorial, environmental, social and military. Political instability, nexus of politics and violence, proliferation of small arms, are all recipes for disaster, and unless addressed squarely may impact on our security adversely. Equal emphasis needs to be accorded on all the constituents that make up a nation's strength and provide resilience to its structure.

Third, in the transformed nature of the world and, in spite of the reservation about the efficacy of globalisation, the compulsions of globalisation have led many analysts to query that if we can talk in terms of ecology, economy and even potential annihilation, all in global terms, what then prevents the political leaders from envisaging, “global political structures responsive to the security needs of the twenty-first century rather than the seventeenth century.”

Fourth, our military posture should exhibit our defensive orientation. Our military has been organised from the very beginning on the strategy of strategic defence. It goes very nicely with the current concept of 'non-offensive defence' (NOD) which is based on the assumption that security is best served by taking into account each others' genuine security interests rather than exploiting those.

Fifth, it is important that we accept the concept of comprehensive security sooner rather than later. If globalisation seeks the economic prosperity of humanity as a whole, it follows that globalisation would be more than relevant to the matter of security of world humanity as a whole and not to the security of any particular state or people.

Sixth, time has come to assess whether or not SAARC needs to be invested with more potency so that its relevance as an institutional mechanism to address bilateral issues, and issues of security concerns are firmly established.

The author is Editor, Defence & Strategic Affairs, The Daily Star.

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