Speakers at a discussion on Sunday said there is a need for increased connectivity, cooperation, and inte-gration among the South Asian countries and Bangladesh which can be an important catalyst in this stra-tegic arena.
The panelists agreed that South Asia should be given greater importance by major international actors. It should be the centre-piece in all regional strategies.
The Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS) organized the roundtable discussion on ‘Emerging Security Challenges: South Asian Security Landscape’ at a city hotel.
The event brought together national and international stakeholders, including ambassadors, foreign dip-lomats, government officials, editors, and academics. The session was moderated by Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, a Distinguished Fellow at BIPSS.
Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury defined the region of South Asia. He laid out the four key assumptions of security- security of what, for whom, from whom and by what means.
He highlighted the contested nature of the concept of security and the need for multi-level analysis to better grasp the concept.
With the changing global order, he explained, there are new conflicts as well as new alliances in the re-gion.
Although regionalization is considered weak in South Asia, he said, citing the example of SAARC, South Asia is not a weak region, and regional groupings remain of great importance.
Following the introductory statements, the moderator gave the floor to the expert panel, which consisted of Dr Niloy Ranjan Biswas, Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of Dhaka, Ms Farzana Mannan, Associate Professor of International Relations at Jahangirnagar University, and Brig. Gen. (Retd) Shahedul Anam Khan, former Associate Editor of the Daily Star.
Dr Niloy Ranjan discussed the geostrategic significance of South Asia, asking a pertinent question of whether we are ‘constructing a meta-region’.
A diverse region home to two nuclear powers, South Asia, has experienced cooperation and dissonance, and the idea of deterrence has been tested here.
He added that although the region is asymmetric, this has not always led to disasters and conflicts.
As the world order has become multipolar, he explained that South Asian states, such as Bangladesh, have greater strategic autonomy due to their strategic importance and geographical location.
He believes that South Asia will become a significant trade hub in the future and that multilateralism will continue to play a crucial role in facilitating regional cooperation.
Farzana Mannan shed light on non-traditional security issues in South Asia, focusing particularly on the impact of climate security on human security. She stated that while non-traditional security is not mili-tary in nature, it has the potential to trigger conflicts and irreversible consequences.
Farzana explained that climate security has a direct impact on human security and personal security be-cause our food, health, and economic security are all tied to climate security. She asserted, using climate change as an example, that there is a resource shortage that is already engendering social disruptions and mass displacement.
Turning to traditional security issues in South Asia, Shahedul Anam focused on hard security and the region’s ability to defend its freedom of action. South Asia, he stated, is not a single security construct, and each state in the region has diverging perspectives about what security means.
He pointed out that externally generated factors are primarily to blame for South Asia’s security woes. He reiterated that the region is the only one in the world where two nuclear powers share borders.