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Sunday, July 19, 2009

#1521, 8 October 2004
For a Paradigm Shift Firdaus AhmedFreelance Security Analyst
In a recent article 'Securing India' in the EPW, a noted critic of the defense establishment, Gautam Naulakha pegs the budget allocation for 'defence' at Rs. 101,128 crores after adding a proportion earmarked for space, atomic energy, and the forces controlled by the Home Ministry. This makes the spending on defense amount to 22% of the expenditure of the central government. As against this, he reveals that the expenditure on three heads - education, health and rural development - amounts to Rs 37,726 crore, 'which is little more than a third of the resources allocated to the military!' Furthermore, about Rs. 15000 crores is allocated for India's internal wars, while the figure set aside for the social sector is a mere Rs. 10,000 crores.
These figures reveal that despite the onset of detente with China and the possibility of the same with Pakistan, there has been no change in the trend in expansive defense budgets since the Kargil Conflict. So much for one of the promised benefits of nuclearisation. Neither has the limited political utility of a conventional military force been driven home to the security establishment, despite the yearlong lesson from Operation Parakram.
Taking into account lessons from the unfolding conflict in Iraq, it is arguable whether political ends can be met by military force. Not all of America's F and B series of armaments and platforms can bail it out of the demographic terrain encountered. According to the doyen of military thinkers, there have been only nineteen conventional wars since the Second World War, while there have been over 57 major conflicts in the 90's alone. Learned prognostication for United States' National Intelligence Council project on War 2020 reveal that Asymmetric Wars form the face of the future. Therefore, spending on high profile acquisitions such as the Phalcon system, Agni III (in the pipeline), the Gorshkov, etc., is to prepare for the 'wrong war'.
Clearly there is need to move security thinking away from the stranglehold of the strategic community fixated on Lahore, Agra, Islamabad and most recently New York. The security paradigm needs to focus on human security. As a fallout of the Millennium Summit, the UN Commission on Human Security, co-chaired by our very own Nobel laureate, Dr Amartya Sen, has already fleshed the concept out. However, its report submitted last year has not commanded the attention it deserves in the media or on the seminar circuit of the national capital centric strategic elite. It is no wonder then that the defense budget shows a hangover of the last century instead of securing India of the future.
Human security is 'people centered'. The UN report does not contest the primary responsibility of security residing with the state, but forwards the case that security challenges have become complex and thus requires broadening of the security paradigm. The two mutually reinforcing strategies it recommends are 'protection' and 'empowerment'. Protection through norms and institutions is to preserve the people from threats while empowerment, such as through promotion of health and education, is to enable them to cope with these autonomously. Human security goals, in the words of the Commission, are: "To prevent conflict and advance human rights and development; to protect and empower people and their communities; to deepen democratic principles and practices; all to promote a human security culture and framework." Thus it is evident that human security complements state security, as threats arise from a neglect of 'people', for which the current paradigm has no credible answers.
With India's population set to overtake China by 2035, it is questionable whether the state security paradigm and the kind of militarisation it entails, can secure India's future. Take for instance the brouhaha that has surrounded the motivated release of the wrong figures regarding the 'demographic time bomb' constituted by India's Muslim minority. Such controversies sow the seeds for future conflict. Only the human security paradigm, focused on development and education can preclude or cope with such a future.
The human security paradigm needs to be adapted to the South Asian conditions. Presently, the SAARC summits, in order to be considered successful, require the heads of the two antagonist states to meet on the sidelines. Instead there is an urgency to look at the collective future in its complexity anew through the conceptual perspective made available through the exertions of Dr Sen and UN's former High Commissioner for Refugees, Mrs. Sadako Ogata. There is no escaping the conclusion of the Commission that "human security should be mainstreamed in the agendas of international, regional and national security organizations." It is time to liberate the security agenda from Cold War vintage strategists.

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