By Mr. Saurabh Chaudhuri

The historic end of the Cold War, combined with the rising tide of globalization, environmental degradation and international terrorism, has opened new facets of security. The nature of threats and security discourses are incessantly changing and this expanding security agenda has gone beyond state and military security. With a disintegrated Soviet Union and a transformed socialist world, the global strategic environment has been in a constant flux. This shifted the focus away from military power, as the core determinant of international order and security, to several non-traditional sectors, with a much enhanced role of economic, political, and societal forces. Ever since, advocates of an alternative approach to security studies have questioned the position that security can only be about the military dimension. The end of the Cold War has therefore, marked a shift in the study and analysis of security and world order from a traditional framework to a non-traditional approach.

Against this new security environment and especially under the light of the changing global realities with regard to the end of the Cold War, globalization, international terrorism and global climate change, one needs to define non-traditional security threats in a comprehensive manner. Though increasingly used in political studies and practice, the concept is still short of a commonly accepted or authoritative definition in political science. While the sphere of traditional security concerns is quite precise and ardently guarded, no accord exists as to what non-traditional security is and what it includes and what remains excluded. However, according to Mely Caballero-Anthony Non-traditional security threats may be defined as “challenges to the survival and well-being of peoples and states that arise primarily out of nonmilitary sources, such as climate change, cross-border environmental degradation and resource depletion, infectious diseases, natural disasters, irregular migration, food shortages, people smuggling, drug trafficking, and other forms of transnational crime.”

From the above definition we find non-traditional security threats having a few common characteristics. They are generally non-military in nature, transnational in scope - neither totally domestic nor purely inter-state and are transmitted rapidly due to globalization and communication revolution. This implies that these non-traditional threats are much more intimidating than the traditional ones as they require the national leadership to look not only outwards to cultivate international cooperation, but also inwards, with an open outlook to execute internal socio-economic and political reforms. The manner, in which these transnational threats are now increasingly discussed, not only in academic circles but also among policymakers in almost all parts of the world, clearly reflects the enormity of the significance of these issues in the contemporary world. However, military deterrence, diplomatic maneuverings and short-term political arrangements are rendered inadequate in addressing non traditional issues and would therefore require non-military means and as well as comprehensive political, economic and social responses to resolve them. As V. R. Raghavan rightly observers that, “The existing state-centered approach to national security, confined to the defense of a country against territorial aggression, has been widened to the idea of security inclusive of a larger set of threats to the people of the state.” It is therefore becoming increasingly crucial to analyze how the non-traditional security threats are reshaping the global institutional architecture.

Non-traditional security issues have also been defined as those which are termed in contrast to traditional security threats and refer to the factors other than military, political and diplomatic conflicts but can pose threats to the survival and development of a sovereign state and human kind as a whole. From this particular definitional perspective too, one can observe several characteristics of the non-traditional security threats, in comparison with traditional security threats. These are:

Firstly such issues can affect both government institutions and civilian populations and these can originate from a variety of non-state human and natural causes, where the threats may be upshots of certain acts by individuals or social groups, rather than the actions of states. Hence one may observe that the outbreak of non-traditional issues is more unpredictable, and the enhanced mobility and expanding activities of individuals enable their impacts to spread and proliferate far more quickly in the contemporary world.

Secondly, the indirect effects of such issues can cause tremendous economic losses to a region or the whole world – as shown in the Asian financial crisis of 1997 and the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak of 2002-2003.

However, the most comprehensive definition of the concept of non-traditional security was provided by Richard H. Ullman in his revolutionary article of 1983. According to him national security should not perceived in the ‘narrow’ sense of protecting the state from military attacks from across the territorial borders. Such a perception was, for him, “doubly misleading and therefore doubly dangerous”, because it “draws attention away from the non-military threats that promise to undermine the stability of many nations during the years ahead. And it presupposes that threats arising from outside a state are somehow more dangerous to its security than threats that arise within it.” Ullman rather preferred to define a threat to national security as, “an action or sequence of events that threatens drastically and over a relatively brief span of time to degrade the quality of life for the inhabitants of a state, or threatens significantly to narrow the range of policy choices available to the government of a state or to private, nongovernmental entities (persons, groups, corporations) within the state.” For the purpose of comprehensive analysis, one can identify six broad branches of non-traditional security, namely, International Terrorism, Trans-national Organized Crime, Environmental Security, Illegal Migration, Energy Security, and Human Security.

Given the wide canvas of such threats, each of these six branches of non-traditional security deserves an independent analysis, with adequate attention upon the significance of the securitization of each issue, given the changing global realities and the new security environment of the contemporary world.