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Covid-19 has redefined security | Opinion – analysis


The increasing death toll and related social dislocation due to Covid-19, the coronavirus, has had a significant impact on global politics in a way that was not anticipated. At the time of writing, more than 7,000 deaths have been reported worldwide and more than 180,000 cases of infection have been reported. Many public health experts say the worst is yet to come and that the next few months will be crucial. A worldwide transmission of the tsunami-like virus worldwide can have catastrophic effects. That is why it is imperative to apply effective draconian quarantine measures and testing protocols.

While the economic fallout is gutting stock markets with bleak forecasts for the global recession, the security domain and its correlation with politics are also undergoing major structural changes. This will reorder global politics and have an impact on India.

It should be remembered that the former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, in his seminal book Perestroika (1987), warned, at the height of the Cold War, that “the new political perspective requires the recognition of a simple axiom: security is indivisible.” It is just as safe for all or none at all. “While the primary focus at the time was nuclear weapons and, to some extent, terrorism, Gorbachev’s axiom rings true today in a strong and clear way regarding the current world health crisis.

The concept of security, defined during the Cold War decades largely throughout the vector of weapons of mass destruction (ADM), soon morphed into a combination of terrorism and ADM after the enormity of September 11 . However, the dominant discourse continued to prioritize hard security with its concomitant military emphasis. The epidemic / pandemic threat and its impact on human security were cloistered in the basket of non-traditional security concerns and were seen as a relatively minor political priority in terms of funding and capacity building.

What the Covid-19 experience has done is expand and reorganize the concept of national security, make it more inclusive, and bring human security to the fore in a more comprehensive way. Human security is a multi-layered and gradual concept and is made up of a number of factors, including individual genetic pedigree, socioeconomic indicators, levels of nutrition, and the local ecosystem. The empirical pattern and the clear division between rich and poor reveals that even in the 21st century, despite radical political progress, all human beings are not equally safe.

Global security in the 20th century was dominated by military and territorial considerations, as pursued by the main powers of the time. The two world wars, separated by only 20 years, offer a tragic testimony to the price paid by the citizen. More than 90 million lives were lost in both wars, and although estimates vary, the end of World War II and the birth of the atomic age, in the context of the Hiroshima cloud, altered the political dynamic between the main interlocutors. .

Traditional enemies became cautious partners (Germany-France-UK) and evolved into military allies under the leadership of the United States (USA), while wartime allies (the US and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or USSR) became strategic competitors. Paradoxically, while techno-strategic insecurity was apparently mitigated by the acquisition of more lethal nuclear weapons, planners gleefully calculated collateral damage to human security in the millions. In 1965, the then US Secretary of Defense. The US, Robert McNamara, forged a strategy of secure destruction of the adversary (USSR) and stated that deterrence would depend on “the ability to destroy the aggressor as a viable society” by causing more than 100 million deaths.

Fortunately, the catastrophic nuclear exchange did not take place, but the techno-strategic profile of the nuclear weapon transformed geopolitics irrevocably. Gorbachev alluded to this underlying principle when he embarked on his perestroika, and he and the USSR both paid a price for what followed. Washington and Moscow remain cautious adversaries, but the existential nature of the nuclear weapon continues to constrain and challenge contemporary policy and security policymaking.

Specific to the current coronavirus challenge, the regional political dynamic has been affected by India’s laudable initiative to initiate a consultative process of the South Asia Regional Cooperation Association (Saarc) at the summit level. Unsurprisingly, Pakistan’s response was Pavlovian and a crude attempt was made to inject a bilateral (Kashmir) problem when a larger collective human security issue is on the anvil, but this reflects the tenacity of political compulsion in the prioritization of security considerations. .

Epidemics have an existential quality, and the long cycle of history has many tragic scores where numbers ranging from thousands to millions have died. The immediate challenge for the Saarc and the extended South Asia region, which includes Iran, would be to understand national security in an inclusive way and to transcend both the military dimension and ideological chains. The disputed territoriality must recognize the centrality of human security and internalize Gorbachev’s template that now, more than ever, security is indivisible.

The fledgling Indian initiative must be sustained to encourage a collective approach to what could become an intractable global security challenge.

C Uday Bhaskar is director of the Society for Policy Studies, New Delhi.

The opinions expressed are personal.

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