Regional Security Issues in Central/South Asia and Potential for Cooperation

P. Stobdan, Research Fellow, IDSA


I consider it a privilege to participate in this prestigious colloquium, which is being convened in the context of enhancing the process of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), proposed by President Nazarbaev in October 1992. The CICA process appears to have come a long way, establishing itself as a viable institutional mechanism to promote peace and security in Asia. We in India have greatly welcomed this historical initiative taken by the Republic of Kazakhstan and have been fully involved in promoting the process, as described by our leaders as one of the skeletons in the future Asian architecture. We are happy that the process is now gaining momentum and it is most desirable that the CICA should come up not only as an effective security concept but also that its declared principles be made applicable for enhancing peace, security and prosperity in Asia.

First of all, the emergence of CICA as a concept of security is highly significant as we move into the next millennium. In fact, we have now almost approached the end of this century which has been characterised by the unique paradox of an unprecedented human progress and unprecedented human destruction. At one level, the rapid economic and technological development have led to increased life expectancy of mankind by 18 years, and, as of 1995, 80 per cent of all children had been immunised against vaccine-preventable childhood diseases. At another level, the percentage of human deaths resulting from war have risen sharply. It is estimated that over 110 million people had died in 250 wars in this century, which was roughly six times more than the estimated toll of wars in the 19th century.

Although, the momentous events following the end of the Cold War have significantly altered this dualistic nature of the world systems that made the 20th century the most violent era--the quests and portents for a more peaceful future world order are not yet clearly visible. It is here that the CICA process should pave the way for enhancing the opportunity to drastically revise and improve the prospects for peace and security. There have been several conceptual level thinkings formulated to explain the future trend of development in the aftermath of the Cold War. Among other things it has been argued and accepted by many that the end of the bipolar confrontation (largely between democracy and totalitarianism) have minimised the role of ideology in international relations and conflict. However, talks and arguments in that direction are not proving to be correct as we still see palpable type of dualism not only in Asia but also in Europe. Not only has there been a spurt in various types of nationalism, but also a growth of new ideologies which are being focussed on narrow definitions of religious, emotional and sectarian parameters and which are in a way filling the ideological vacuum in the post-Cold War era.

Need for Asian Security

The broadest conceptual framework for CICA should be one based on "cooperative security", essentially working together in "collective security"--in the spirit of cooperation, the principles of which should be made applicable in different dimensions--bilateral, regional, and global. The nature of security paradigm, both old and new, in the industrialised countries of the West are based on the application of military power. This has significantly influenced the Asian security scene as well. However, the nature of Asian security needs to be understood in a different way.

Firstly, the problems of national security of many Asian countries are associated with problems inherited from the process of decolonisation. The developments shaped during the imperial times continue to dictate the political and security environment of Asia. Many of the national boundaries and frontiers which came as legacies of the past continue to pose potential security threats among states. Secondly, security issues in Asia are also arising out of the limitations and constraints among the states, more so among the newly independent states of Central Asia, with regards to consolidating their internal socio-political profiles and improving their socio-economic levels of development. These two fundamental points, therefore, become impediments for the Asian countries to make any modification or compromise on the concept of "sovereignty," which essentially keeps the national security concept self-centered. The sensitivity towards safeguarding the sovereignty and independence is all the more high among the newly independent states, which tend to seek complete assurance against any possible reconquest or expansion.

On the contrary, what we currently witness among European states is a different scenario. The trends there are essentially arising out of their own historical experiences of the past three centuries. The nation-states there are reconciled to their identities. Nationalism no longer poses a threat and their political and economic integration has desensitised their attitude towards sovereignty. Therefore, the integrative process in Europe, the arms control measures like the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) process and Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) agreements do not necessarily become a replica model for Asia. Even though the rationales and facts of the CSCE process could well be considered as lessons, its dynamics must be accepted where feasible for building security structures for other regions.

Asian security should be based and structured in its own history and values. Let me share with you the experience of the process of Sino-Indian CBMs that had been effectively initiated in early 1990s in order to normalise our relations and reduce tensions along the borders. The Sino-Indian CBMs have proved to be unique in their own right, which are being guided much by a set of Asian values and understanding. Here, we find that the situation in our region is quite different from others in the following ways:

-- pre-eminence of civilisational and historical factors;

-- security issues are mainly bilateral;

-- an absence of ideological content in the dispute;

-- significant absence of Cold War factors;

-- less emphasis on formal structure and more on political goodwill and wisdom;

-- primarily guided by, and in response to, public opinion;

-- a general distrust for Western type solutions;

-- a genuine commitment to the principle of non-interference in each other's internal affairs;

-- a different understanding of values such as human rights issues.

Similar to the Sino-Indian case the other issues relating to Asian security are also quite complex and require a different approach. Asia houses many civilisations, history, religions, values, and ethos. Although the diversities in Asia pose serious challenges but they also offer great opportunities for creating a more comprehensive security paradigm for Asia. Firstly, the security issues in Asia are largely region specific. The dynamics of Middle East is quite different from South Asia whereas, the East Asian security environment differs from other parts of Asia. Secondly, the framework for resolving the security matters is also oriented quite differently. At the moment we do not see how West Asian issues could be delinked from the Western approach. Similarly, bilateral relationships continue to remain strong in East Asia. Also there are numerous bilateral questions that complicate efforts for resolution. The diversity in Asian environment can also be seen from the types and forms of political regimes, the ideologies they display. We still have monarchies, dictatorial regimes, military regimes, democracies, centralised command structures etc., Consequently there also exists doctrinal asymmetry leading to insecurity, mistrust, and unpredictability. That is why the end of the Cold War has not really addressed the security issues in Asia.

New Security Challenges

After the end of bipolar confrontation we do see changes in the security environment in Asia, but there are things which have not yet changed. Although the tensions, fears and rivalry at the level of the great powers has disappeared, they have not particularly removed the conflicts that had local and regional roots. In fact, the end of the Cold War has unleashed the hitherto pent-up conflictual impulses and interest of a large number of states. In our own region of Central and South Asia, the end of the ideological confrontation has in fact given way to resurfacing of localised conflicts, based on ethnic tensions, resurgent nationalism and religious extremism. This new pattern of conflicts is assuming serious dimensions. They not only threaten the existence of many states but also pose a threat to regional peace and security. The de-communisation has led not only to the disappearance of the Soviet Union but also caused ethnic cleansing in most East European and former Soviet states. Of the 18 armed conflicts in Europe in 1989 to 1993, 15 were fought on the territories of the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.

As mentioned earlier the disappearance of East-West conflict has not minimised the role of ideology in international conflict. In fact, the states are now moving towards narrowly based ideological foundations such as religion. The states founded on the basis of religion such as Pakistan believe in trans-national linkages and seek extra-territorial affinities, loyalties and legitimacy. The Islamisation of Pakistan and the growth of extremist ideologies has also given rise to a new trend of using religion for political purposes. The threats emanating from the politics of religion carry the needs of extremism, exclusion of minorities, fragmentation of states and destabilisation. This trend is increasingly getting trans-national in nature, which in turn makes international relations more complex. Religion is also being used as an ideological and political instrument for interfering in the internal affairs of other states. The export of ideology becomes more difficult when it is pursued through terror. The conflict between India and Pakistan is fundamentally an ideological one (between secular India and theocentric Pakistan) rather than the popularly believed communal problem between Hindus and Muslims. Otherwise millions of Muslims--second largest in the world, would not choose to live in India. The trans-national ideologies are now being sought to be imposed through violent means and at times through revolutionary movements such as the way Taliban has been spawned to achieve such a goal. What is happening in Afghanistan presently is no different from similar export of revolution particularly during the Communist days. Similar ideological claim is likely to be made over Central Asian states. Therefore, religious extremism and its use as an instrument of politics calls for a lot of caution and sensitivity. In Kashmir the issue is not the four million Muslims in the Valley but the peace and security of 130 million Muslims elsewhere in India.

The end of ideological confrontation between Islam and Communism has not brought peace to Afghanistan. The Mujahideens have finally got divided into Tajik and Pushtun camps. Today, battles are being fought along ethnic, regional, sectarian and even tribal lines. As mentioned earlier, the pent-up local conflicts in the region have acquired new activism and strength in the region in the context of the end of the Cold War. For example, the phenomenon of ethnicity has emerged as a direct, if not exclusive result of the end of the Cold War. In fact, the disintegration of the Soviet Union unravelled the Asian ethnic frontiers. In our region, there are unsettled borders, historical misperceptions, which could become potential source of conflict and instability. This is true about both Central and South Asian regions. The Central Asian ethnic issues seem to be more complex than they appear, specially when the national boundaries are said to have been drawn arbitrarily, cutting across ethnic enclaves. There are more Tajiks in Afghanistan than in Tajikistan and Pushtuns are more in Pakistan than in Afghanistan. Territorial and border problems also exist in Central Asia and how these problems can be resolved is a big question. The Western academics do not restrict the regional setting of Central Asia to the five republics of former Soviet Union, but tend to include a wider spatial phenomenon, both lands and peoples, traditionally not parts of Eurasia; Russia, China, India and Persia. The concept of "Inner Asia" and the metaphors like Eurasia, Greater Central Asia and Silk Route etc., could undermine further the interest of multi-ethnic societies.

In our region the most conflictual border has been between India and Pakistan in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Even today, Kashmir remains the most explosive issue between India and Pakistan. If one looks objectively at the historical evidence and records, Pakistan has no legitimate claims on Kashmir except as an aggressive intruder in 1947, who has since then been sitting over the occupied territory in violation of all international legal and political norms. It was the Pakistani aggression that led the Kashmir ruler to seek accession to India for its protection and defence. That accession was a legitimate, proper and internationally acknowledged exercise. Over the years, Pakistan has violated all the agreements which had ensured that the issue be resolved bilaterally with India through peaceful means. Instead, Pakistan has adopted the path of intervention and interference in the present internal turmoil in Kashmir. Time and again Pakistan has launched proxy war and supported terrorism in Kashmir, but to no avail.

Non-Military Threats

Unlike in the past, the nature of threats as well as conflicts is undergoing changes. We now no longer see major regular military-to-military armed conflicts between states. Instead, the conflicts now are more of an unconventional nature, which are not directly but indirectly supported and sustained by external actors in the form of irregular warfare. If we see the world pattern of casualties, only 50 per cent of war casualties had been civilians at the beginning of this century. Whereas by 1980s, this percentage had risen to 74. The current estimates of civilian casualties in the conflict of the 1990s is said to be running over 90 per cent. This trend of war casualties clearly indicates that the interstate wars have been replaced by intra-state conflicts. This is a new type of conflict where force is projected through proxy war by using the method of guerrilla warfare, insurgencies and terrorism. In 1993 there were as many as 36 major wars primarily of this nature in progress across the world. The ongoing civil war in Afghanistan is a classic case of intra-state conflict. Afghanistan is a clear example of this pattern, where civil war has actually intensified after the Najibullah regime stepped down in favour of the Mujahideen government in Kabul in 1992.

The conflict in Afghanistan over the years has produced a dangerous phenomenon of widespread proliferation of small weapons. Billions of dollars worth weapons poured in Afghanistan, which included Kalashnikov assault rifles, powerful machine guns, rocket launchers, grenades and explosives, surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), and millions of landmines drastically altered the security environment in the whole of South and Central Asia. In fact, these weapons have now reached the hands of non-state actors like criminals, terrorists and separatists. It is estimated that over 500 million small weapons are out of government control in the region. The phenomenon known in Pakistan and Afghanistan as "Kalashnikov Culture" has already threatened and brought armed conflicts within the civil society. In fact, terrorist training camps and arms available in the open market are proving to be destabilising for Pakistan itself. These weapons are being used for trans-border terrorism.

Over the years, Pakistan has become a breeding ground for international terrorism. Apart from its involvement in Kashmir and Afghanistan, the role of the Pakistani fundamentalist activists in other countries including those in Central Asia is well known to need any emphasis. Islam has been grossly politicised simply to gain power and has nothing to do with the human foundation of Islam as a religion. Serious concerns have been expressed by several Asians and non-Asian countries. Iran has been protesting to Pakistan about the killings of its nationals and the massacres of Shias in sectarian violence in that country. The US has shown similar displeasure about the killing of its citizens in Pakistan. Uzbekistan has recently accused three Pakistani organisations--the Hezb-e-Harkat-e-Jihad (HHJ), the Devas-Ul-Ershad (DUE) and the Islamic Ulema Society (IUS) of training clandestinely about 400 Central Asians at various centres in Pakistan with the task of carrying out terrorist attacks, destabilising the situation and overthrowing the governments in Central Asia. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) described the Pakistani drug trafficking as "a threat to its national security" and warned Islamabad of grave consequences if the narco-traffickers are not cracked down. There are also reports of the Chinese protests to Pakistan against the involvement of its fundamentalist groups such as Jamat-i-Islami and Tablik-e-Jamat in inciting religious forces in Xinjiang province of China. Russia, Egypt, Tunisia, Malaysia, Algeria, Tajikistan and others had protested to Islamabad against the origin of terrorist activities from Pakistani soil. The US in the past felt that Pakistan be added to the watch list of states sponsoring terrorism. The US too since 1995, in its reports on "Patterns of Global Terrorism" has been charging Pakistan with sponsoring terrorism against India. Finally, the US had branded the Harkat-ul-Ansar (HUA) along with 29 other outfits, as a terrorist group in October 1997. The HUA has been indulging in trans-border terrorism, specially in terrorist operations in Kashmir, Bosnia, Tajikistan, Myanmar, Chechnya, some African countries and now in Kosovo. Pakistan's own confidential intelligence report prepared by the Deputy Commissioner of Sheikhupura for the erstwhile Benazir Bhutto Government disclosed the existence of 38 markazs (centres) of which 28 are in Punjab, 2 in Baluchistan, 3 in Sindh and 5 in POK. In Karachi alone, 43 training centres function mostly in universities and medical colleges. The camps described by Pakistani media as "nurseries of terrorism" are a serious challenge to regional security. It is clear that Islamabad wants to impose the Afghan scenario on other countries as well. The phenomenon exported into the states like Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab in India have had far reaching implications for India's internal security. Although, a country like India has been able to withstand the threat of trans-border terrorism due to its size and strength, a country like Afghanistan has been internally destroyed through such powerful ideologically motivated transnational military movements. The pattern is now getting expanded to cover the Central Asian states and other parts of Asia. If the mechanisms to prevent such possible conflicts are not evolved, the whole of Central Asian states too will fall victim to these phenomenon. The recent terrorist bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania seemed to have opened the American eyes to the danger of this phenomenon.

The phenomenon of weapons proliferation is also linked with growing narco-trafficking, money laundering, and war patronage. In fact, the linkages between weapons and drugs have made the situation in Asia more explosive. Drug trafficking is ever increasing in the region of Golden Crescent (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran frontier). With the Taliban controlling the southern parts of Afghanistan, drug cultivation and trafficking are reported to have increased. As a result Central Asia too is now getting engulfed into the web of Asian narco-trafficking. It is reported that the total area of drug cultivation in some of the Central Asian countries has gone up by 10 per cent in recent years. Besides, Central Asia is now becoming a new corridor for big drug shipments from Afghanistan to Europe. It is also a fact that several drug-barons operating in the region have become powerful centres of power, controlling, moderating and sustaining the conflicts in the region.

India is not only being threatened by drug trafficking from the Golden Crescent in its West but also from narco-trafficking in Golden Triangle, bordering in our eastern side, where the rate of growth is much higher than in the Golden Crescent. Although, strict laws, regulations and border management seemed to have helped control the flow of drug trafficking in the Southeast Asian countries, the risk of its revival remains high in the wake of current Asian currency crisis.

Thus, many of our security perceptions are associated with the threat emanating from non-military sources such as the export of extremist ideology, trans-border terrorism, spread of light weapons, the growing menace of drug trafficking, trans-national crimes, illegal migration, environmental problems and possible shortage of energy and food. Consequently, we need to consider the ways and means to deal with this type of non-military threats in our region. In the absence of such mechanism at the regional level, the conflicts generating from these forces give outside powers such as the US, enough opportunities to enhance its role as an interventionist for peace. Such intervention is also being sought then to capture and control vital strategic resources that are needed for the developed world.

Afghan Conflict and Regional Security

Instability in Afghanistan and its unpredictable future has become the most serious security problem for the whole of Central and South Asian region. The conflict situation in Afghanistan took a new turn following the Soviet collapse. The Soviet collapse and the consequent unfolding of Central Asia altered not only the course of political configuration, but also the reasons for conflict in Afghanistan. Since the fall of the Communists in April 1992, Afghanistan has continued to be the scene of massive military conflict. The end of the conflict between Communism and Islam has not necessarily brought peace to Afghanistan. The impact of the Soviet disintegration on Afghanistan has outweighed the spirit of Islamic victory against the communists. In fact, the Soviet disintegration has resulted in unravelling the ethnic and national boundaries across Afghanistan-Central Asian frontiers. Struggle among different ethnic and tribal groups continues primarily to win control over central power. In the changing realignment of forces, the Pushtun seemed to have lost their traditional leadership role, resulting in their search for alliance across the frontiers in Pakistan. Consequently, the Afghan conflict has redefined the contours of post-World War regional alignment and power relationship around South, Central and West Asian region. While Afghanistan as a pawn in the East-West conflict had barely ended, the resistance movement of the Mujahideens assumed a useful arena for narrow sectarian goals of powerful Islamic states such as between Iran and Pakistan.

The phenomenon of Taliban since late 1994 has brought the threat of conflict to the Central Asian doorsteps. The militia's espousal had been associated with Pakistani policies which have constantly sought to manipulate the Afghan resistance while pursuing a zero-sum game to install its own puppet regime in Kabul. By giving selective encouragement to one faction, Islamabad has only helped prolong the Afghan conflict. Today, the Taliban are the best bet for Pakistan to fulfill its multiple goal of integrating the Afghan territory within the strategic fold of Pakistan. The concept of "strategic depth" for Pakistan was not just to acquire a military space, but also a wider political and ideological exercise to dilute and undermine the "Afghan nationalism" that threatened to exacerbate the "demand for Pushtunistan."

The rise of Taliban must be viewed in the light of the US effort at rectifying its past policy blunders. The US has undoubtedly been the single country most responsible for the current state of affairs in Afghanistan. The Taliban are also the best bet for the US to re-engage the "Afghanis" within Afghanistan. Besides, the Taliban offered a new regional dimension for the US to contain Iran, specially after the CIA's debacle in northern Iraq. The militia also came about in the face of increasing Indo-Iranian cooperation in Central Asia. The Taliban emergence has to be seen in the light of increasing international attention on Central Asia's rich hydrocarbon reserves. The US and Saudi Arabia in connivance with Pakistan took a series of steps to deny Iran the strategic advantage it had acquired in the aftermath of the Soviet collapse. They particularly saw to it that Iran does not get access to Central Asian lucrative oil and gas reserves, which would be linked with Iran's own production network in the Persian Gulf. The capturing of Herat by the Taliban and the Pakistani initiative to push the US/Saudi financed oil/gas pipeline project across Afghanistan was seen as undermining the Iranian goals. The Iranians have claimed that the US administrations have spared no effort in using US diplomatic and financial influence to frustrate any positive result that may derive from Iran's mediation in Afghanistan. This notwithstanding, Tehran has sustained successful Central Asia and Afghan policy while adopting a comprehensive regional and diplomatic approach. It is hoped that a possible thaw in the US-Iran relations in the coming years will have a significant impact on the Afghan situation.

The phenomenon of Taliban has already had profound implications. So far, the children and women have been the worst victims of the Taliban's anti-Islamic policies. The Taliban is perceived as a social threat, because of the militia's increasing involvement in drug trafficking across the border. The Afghan economy is being controlled by the Taliban, who do not address the problems of the people. The Central Asian stake in Afghanistan's stability is crucial both in terms of regional strategic realignment, as well as from the practical need to cope with possible spill-over of turbulence into the region. The presence of the Arabs, non-Arabs and the Wahabi activists, Pakistani ISI activists, as well as a large number of terrorist training centres in the Afghan territory pose a threat to Central Asia. There can be two scenarios about the future.

(a) A situation in which the Taliban fail to capture northern Afghanistan. Then, the countries which have helped the militia may bear a heavy price in terms of military implications. The consequences will be heavy for Pakistan with risk of internal ethnic explosion. Besides, the stockpile of weapons in Afghanistan may reach across the border particularly in Central Asia which would have negative political impact on Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

(b) In a scenario where the Taliban successfully take control of the whole of Afghanistan, the first fallout will be on the southern part of Tajikistan. Uzbekistan will also be vulnerable due to sharp division of people along the radical Islamists and the anti-religious forces. Situation in Ferghana Valley and Namangan is already explosive. The Central Asian states need to be worried about the threat of migration across the border from Afghanistan. In a situation of the Taliban succeeding fully, it is not going to be the end of tragedy in that country. The Taliban will then eliminate remaining 50 per cent of the Afghan population out of vengeance. In fact, the situation has now reached a point where one is equally worried about the failure of the Taliban as of their success.

From India's point of view, instability in Afghanistan has always had immense implications for regional balance in South Asia. The key factor has been Pakistan's view of Afghanistan and Central Asia as an adjunct to its rivalry with India. The Mujahideen's victory against the Soviets had also inadvertently given rise to a belief in Pakistan that it can replicate a similar strategy vis-a-vis India. As mentioned earlier the major fallout of the Afghan crisis had been the spread of earlier accumulated small arms and ammunitions throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan. The entire civil society in these countries is today weaponised.

India has consistently supported the idea of a regional approach to conflict resolution in Afghanistan. The UN despite its mandate, had been surprisingly inactive, particularly in the aftermath of the Soviet withdrawal. India would support any UN initiatives that will fulfill the fundamental interests of Afghan people. Many of the problems in Afghanistan seem directly related to the break down of agriculture and irrigation system, tribal and social laws, and unless and until these issues are effectively addressed, return of peace and stability in that country would remain elusive.

Other Challenges

The question of Asian security concerns also relates to the future of China and to some extent Russia's future economic strength. Russia is yet to overcome difficulties both at domestic and international level. Russia's future relations with the West are not likely to be smooth as is also true for its long-term relations with China. Similarly, the evolution of China poses the single largest challenge to peace, cooperation and stability in Southern Asia. China's uncertain future will remain as the most important strategic challenge to Asian security. China appears to be headed for either one of two extremes: either it will fall victim to domestic instability and even disorder or, it will emerge as a major power through successful economic reforms. A great deal of uncertainty remains over how China will use her growing power. Currently, the West seems to be following a policy of engaging China. Many of the problems are being dealt by the US and China bilaterally as if the rest of Asia did not exist. Such a problem in the future will have its effect on the neighbouring countries. However, China is trying to strengthen and consolidate its spheres of influence in all parts of Asia. It also frequently flexes its military muscles not only against the neighbours but also against big powers. With the end of the Cold War and the Soviet collapse, China, like in the past during the Han, T'ang, and Chi'ang dynasties is once again wielding influence upon the steppe zone of the Eurasian heartland. China's landward orientation assumes significance in the face of declining Russian strategic proximity with India, Vietnam and its strategic retreat from Central Asia.

In addition, security challenges in Asia depend largely on how the relations between Asia, or more specifically relations between some of the bigger states like China, India, Japan and Russia with the major power, such as the US develop. Western interests in the region do not appear to be homogenous. The US is seeking its own strategic equations in the region. In fact, Central Asian security in the coming years will be determined by international attention, as well as competition for exploiting and routing the region's enormous energy resources. The Western thrust for exploiting the region's oil and gas deposit is likely to have its own implications. The US in pursuit of establishing an independent energy supply system intends to act geopolitically to win oil contracts and supply routes. In fact, the existing conflicts in the region are increasingly getting mixed with oil politics. This applies not only to the oil exporting countries but to transit states as well. The security calculations are also getting linked up with the future supply of resources from Central Asia, and the power that will control the production and supply of Central Asian gas/oil, will also control world affairs. Oil politics, if not handled carefully could endanger the region by becoming the biggest source of insecurity. The pipelines could well turn into future conflict lines instead of promoting economic development. Some mechanisms have to be developed to regulate the geopolitics of oil in order to prevent any conflict arising in the future.

Potential for Cooperation

Although Asian security situation is characterised by tension and conflict, it is also an area of potential economic growth. It is also evident that many of these tensions are linked with economic underdevelopment and hardships of the people which tend to tear up society and polity. Many of these problems such as religious fundamentalism, political extremism and international terrorism can be addressed through economic means. The countries of East Asia have succeeded in developing multilateral systems. The APEC in the economic sphere and the ARF in the security field have deepened their interdependence and have ensured durable security. In South Asia, concerted efforts are being made by the members of SAARC to bring about a lasting solution to the complex economic issues. The SAARC has already adopted the South Asian Preferential Trade Agreement (SAPTA) in order to open up regional trade on a liberal basis.

There are enormous prospects for evolving a mechanism for Central Asian Regional Integration (CARI), on the lines of other regional groupings without giving it a monolithic treatment such as religion or ethnicity so as to avoid friction on the individual national identities. Moreover, a move towards sub-regional integration is becoming an essential pre-condition for a broader regional or global integration. The region has got all the ingredients such as rich natural resources, common scientific and technical work-force, and common language that would not only make their integrative process a smooth one but would also widen prospects for a variable and a prosperous regional entity. The regional approach is also necessary because even the internal problems of each state are transnational in nature. For instance, the problems posed by the non-military threats, as well as mechanisms to deal with them are regional in nature.

Already, Asia is assuming importance in terms of its centrality to the global geopolitics and geoeconomics. The region is complementary in terms of resources, manpower, capital and market. For example, the regions of Central and West Asia are endowed with one of the largest reservoirs of hydrocarbon resources of the world, which would ensure energy supply to the enlarging regional industrial growth centres. In South Asia, there is an enormous amount of skilled and scientific manpower available. It also houses some of the largest emerging markets in the world. Similarly, the Southeast Asian region, which can also be termed as growth triangle, has significant economic and technological resources. Such a diverse resource base can be pulled for a broader regional cooperation in Asia, which will in turn engender durable peace and security in the region.

The countries in South Asia are already working towards forging a closer economic interaction with the Southeast Asian countries while forming sub-regional groupings like Bangladesh-India-Sri Lanka-Thailand Economic Cooperation (BISTEC). Myanmar has also joined the grouping recently. Such a sub-regional economic grouping can also be formed between South Asia and Central Asia. India has been long trying to bring Afghanistan into the SAARC. However, in the absence of peace in Afghanistan and in the face of hostile attitude of Pakistan, India has had to depend on Iran for an over-all interaction with the countries of Central Asia. The Tripartite Agreement between Iran, India and Turkmenistan on transit and trade routes has been a significant move towards strengthening regional cooperation.

Another important area is the need for cooperation in the field of energy security. The prospects of routing the oil/gas pipelines from Central Asia to South Asian region and further towards the East and Southeast Asian markets are also great. The proposed pipeline project from Turkmenistan via Afghanistan to Pakistan and India is a welcome move. However, it will have to confront a number of geopolitical and techno-economic issues that are yet to be resolved adequately. Similarly, for a long time, we in India have been talking about constructing a Southern Asian Highway, linking up the region of Southeast Asia and South Asia with the Eurasian part. However, the regional policies adopted by Pakistan have so far stymied the idea. Projects of such a scale will forge greater economic and regional cooperation in Asia.


The fall of the polarised world structure has generated a sense of insecurity among countries. In Asia, pent-up local conflicts have acquired a new activism and strength in the context of the end of the Cold War. The margins for political manoeuvre as well as frictions have also widened. As a result, states are being faced with new types of rather complex uncertainties. Already the concept of sovereignty is being challenged severely. The possibility of increasing fragmentation of states has gone up and so have the ways of practising new types of interventionism. This has particularly heightened the concerns of the plural states. On the other hand, the concept of security no longer remains a term associated with defence. Although, the Western world still tries to see security as a military concept. In the coming century, the greatest challenging task will be to ensure that security is perceived in a much wider and holistic sense that will ensure peace and development of mankind on an enduring basis. We can no longer avoid accepting the principles of cooperative security. Security cannot be obtained by taking a confrontational posture, but by engaging others in the same security circle. We in India try to stress on the need for ensuring peace rather than security. The logic being that peace can ensure security but security does not necessarily give peace. Europe has had security for the last 50 years but they did not enjoy peace. The rationale behind underlying reunification of Europe signifies not only their desire for peace, but also their inability to bear the cost of maintaining security.

Although it is hard to project regional and international peace and security for future, but there are certain basic issues which should be considered to meet the challenges of the future.

1. Continuous effort must be made to accelerate the process of arms control and disarmament (conventional, nuclear, chemical and biological) at global, regional and sub-regional levels.

2. A cooperative mechanism for durable regional peace and security must be found.

3. Need to restructure, democratise and strengthen the United Nation's ability to defend international peace and security.

4. Institutionalise a structure for Asian consultation to accommodate and harmonise great diversities of the region.

5. CBMs should be conducted through formal and informal dialogues on the practical rather than the desirable lines.

6. The decision making of the structure should be based upon consensus and emphasis should be laid on creating an atmosphere of cooperation through CBMs rather than on executing the principles.

7. Mechanism should be found for exchanging and defusing information among regional countries. Regular seminars, research and survey on key regional security issues should be conducted.

8. Consultative process should involve the views of academics, experts and businessmen.

9. Similar to the experience of ASEAN and others emphasis should be on the "process" rather than the structural building and achievements.

10. Emphasis should be laid on deepening economic integration and achieving a certain economic growth so as to overcome the constraints arising out of cultural and other diversities.

11. A well co-ordinated strategy to counter international terrorism, drug trafficking and other forms of non-military threats should be developed.

12. A global modus operandi to tackle vital issues involving political and economic refugees and other displaced persons fleeing the impact of regional crisis should be evolved.

13. Adopt a global action plan for equal distribution of world resources, as well as even development of mankind.

14. Establish a global standard of behaviour, human rights protection, and non-aggression based on respect for the inviolability of international frontiers.

15. Mechanism for increasing transparency in relation to military capabilities, postures, and activities in order to improve predictability and remove mistrust.