JUMUN 2019


Security in the 21st Century: The shift in narrative

by Shreyosi Roy
15th February, 2019

Security implies a state of protection or essentially the sense of being secure with no cause for trepidation. However, the concept of security with reference to international relations has a divergent set of implications, all of which went through a marked modification during the changing socio-political era after the cold war. Traditionally, security meant protection from hostile forces. The new dynamics in world politics that was ushered in after the Cold War, implies that security could be divided according to its beneficiaries or referents- national security, public security, homeland security, internal security, international security and human security.

Studies show that threat to national security can be interpreted in the form of political tension directed towards the government, the people and the state resources. With respect to this, hampering of security might sprout from a general disagreement with government policies, discontent among different factions of people and depletion of resources that destabilizes the social and economic security of the people. With the introduction of the economic and social stability as the primary point of focus after the Cold War, the original idea of security which meant that the military safeguarded the protection of the people underwent a change. The Cold War period saw a mad race for arms in a bipolar world.

However, the changing dynamics of international relations after the Cold War more or less revised the perception of security, and associated concepts came up which focused on security that was distinct from military protection with weapons as a tool. The notion of human security was established, explored and added to the pre-existing set of security agenda in the 21st century. Non-traditional security challenges came up due to threats that were not related to the enemy's military might. Environmental, economic and societal security gained importance when non-military threats like crises in energy development, food and water shortage seeped in. “Security” was revised in the field of International Relations, and defense did not just mean protection from bullets and bombs, but also protection against poverty, economic disparities, ailments, diseases and corruption.

The concept of security was expanded further with UN's Human Development Report of 1994. With emerging concepts like food security, this report discussed the need to maintain people's security instead of territorial security, with the means of seeking security through sustainable development instead of through armaments.

The current state of affairs in the 21stcentury has put any situation that might hamper the development of a country and put it in a state of crisis, as a threat to security. As opposed to the race for weapons during the Cold War, the race for resources during the 21stcentury is a clear indication of how each nation state must have adequate resources to be responsible for their own security. Yemen is currently going through one of the worst famines in history with 14 million people being reported in dire need of food. Although this humanitarian crisis arose from a civil war resulting in conflict between governmental and non-governmental forces, the current food emergency is the largest in the world which has absolutely destroyed any kind of food security.

Ethnicity and religion has always been the most intriguing aspect of every conflict that might pose a threat to International Peace and Security. Sectarian violence has brewed up to its worst point amidst the Muslim countries in the East, of late, concerning the Sunni’s and Shias. The conflict between Israel, the nation created by Jews and Palestine, with its Arab population, has developed into a conflict over land but finds its origins in religious roots with Jewish claiming the land to be their biblical birthright while the Palestinians argue that they have been unjustly driven out. This conflict is one of the longest existing disputes in history and has also been characterized by regular armed confrontations. However, the underlying perspectives lead us to interesting revelation about why at every conflict; multiple layers of security concerns are at stake. The Six-Day War in 1967 arguably had its origins in a water dispute - moves to divert the River Jordan, Israel's main source of drinking water. Looking beyond the known narrative of the Indo-Pak hostility centering Kashmir, the Indus Waters Treaty between India and Pakistan failed as a procedure for settling the river basin conflict and the beginning of the construction of the Baglighar Dam, further worsened the relations between the two countries. The 2017-2018 Iran protests that began in Masshad protested against the economic policies of the country's government as a bid to question the economic security of the state and widened into a series of protests against the theocratic regime of the government, the main features of dissent being corruption and Iran's involvement in other regional conflicts. This was perhaps, one of the finest example of the establishment in Iran facing threats within its internal security about matters concerning just the territory between the state borders.

Contemporary International Politics has hence made countries adapt to the ever-evolving dynamics of security challenges through increasing its political power. Countries use International Platforms like the United Nations and the Regional Cooperative Associations/Organizations to flaunt their power and have their influence on World Politics. For all the inquisitive readers who still find Chinese Policy on South China Sea difficult to comprehend, your answer lies in the five-lettered word itself. It is in China’s National Interest to maintain its influence over South-East Asia through its absolute dominance over the South-China Sea. That is why USA continues to strengthen its efforts to increase its naval presence in the region through a Malabar Naval Exercise along with India and Japan. Of course, in this world, power can possibly be the least permanent possession with so many countries constantly engaged in a competitive hunt to strengthen its security. Power is indeed the currency with which you can buy Peace and Security.