By Irfan Mahar*
The South Asian region keeps much importance when it comes to its strategic, political, social, economic and cultural affairs. Various well-known scholars look at this region with great significance concerning future changings and developments. Such as David Waldorf, in a World Bank report, stated that “South Asia will play an important role in the global development story as it takes place in the Asian Century” including it has world’s largest working-age population. Moreover, the presence and involvement of many state and non-state actors in the region have increased the strategic importance of the region. The security of this region is directly connected with the security of other regions of the world.
According to West and their allies, security issues arise from this region such as terrorism, insurgency etc. and spread to every nook and corner of the globe that have been harming every walk of life. The involvement and engagement of these major powers like the United States, Russia and China along with the multinational corporations and other regional and global institutions have diverted the focus of the world towards this region. This region has unique characteristics with the inter-play of economic, diplomatic and security factors that portray the complex picture of the whole region. These are the major reasons which have become helpful in generating the complex nature of territorial claims and religious extremist activities among multiple nations of South Asia.
This whole scenario makes the structure and environment of the region complex where it is not easy for any state to take decisions without any hindrance and with full confidence since unexpected things could also happen with the involvement of foreign entities and other powerful states such as America, China, Russia, and India. Also, the South Asian region holds much significance because of the three nuclear states namely China, Pakistan and India. India and Pakistan are arch enemies of each other and have problems concerning multiple issues since their inception.
As for as the China and India are concerned, they also have fought a war over the territorial dispute in 1962 even though both the nations have engagement with each other about economic, cultural and political relations. These issues among the states of South Asia add oil to the existing issues and keep them remain for a long time which could result in worsening the security and stability of the region. Besides, the traditional/conventional concept of security experiences major changes by transferring into non-conventional/non-traditional security threats. In this regard, the multiple other issues have emerged and taken place of old security concept such as environment, human security, ideological and societal problems.
There are two dimensions of security in South Asia, one is traditional security threats and other is non-traditional security threats. When it comes to the traditional security threats it includes military issues among the various nations of the region. While non-traditional security threats are getting much importance and attention of the world because of their destructive nature, it includes resource crisis, food security, humanitarian security, environmental degradation, water crisis, health issues, and multiple viruses such as COVID-19 etc. Both the security threats have their statistics and nature when it comes to their effects on the various affairs of the society.
These staggering and long-lasting security threats are a great hindrance in maintaining the peace and harmony, development, progress and mutual understanding within the nations of whole the region. Furthermore, most of the South Asian states have been suffering from multiple kinds of problems which for some of the countries seems much difficult to solve them at their own without the help, collaboration and cooperation of other regional states.
America, being a dominant power of the world, has remained involved in one way or other in the social, political, economic and security affairs of the region. In this regard, there is also the physical presence of American and NATO forces in countries of the region such as Afghanistan and they also used the airbases of Pakistan to fight against the menace of terrorism.
Moreover, the strategic ties and joint naval exercises between both the U.S and India have raised serious concerns for other regional states particularly Pakistan as well as China. Firstly, the priority of the U.S in the region revolves around countering China. Secondly, it revolves around the issue of Afghanistan which has cost it for trillion dollars and left severe effects on the economy of the country. New security threats are emerging because of the involvement of extra-regional powers such as America, Russia, Israel and Japan. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the states of South Asian region to take a rational decision that could be beneficial for them through growing their economy as well as eliminating security problems that resultantly make the region stable, developed and peaceful rather than playing in the hands of foreign powers.
*The writer is Ph.D. scholar in the Department of Defense and Strategic Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad, Pakistan.