Question of security

Expert views: T.V. Paul.   | Photo Credit: Photo: H. Vibhu


India's relations with other countries and security issues are of never-ending interest to T.V. Paul.

A TOP Canadian scholar and expert in international relations, T. V. Paul criss-crosses the world lecturing at various universities, speaking at seminars and most importantly listening to what various cross-sections of people have to say. Amid all this India holds a special place for this Malayali professor of International Relations at McGill University, Montreal.International Security, Nuclear Non-Proliferation and South Asian studies are Paul's pet subjects. And the first, he feels, is one that needs immediate attention. "There are three or four issues under the purview of the subject. One, national security or state security and defence policy. Two, international security that involves security between nations, international order with justice, maintenance of peace and a balance of power. Three, trans-national security that involves non-traditional security threats, like drug trafficking, environmental challenges, terrorism and diseases that have no borders," explains Paul.Here the debate begins. Is the state strong enough to handle these threats single-handedly, or does it need cooperation from others? "After the Cold War there is more consciousness of trans-national security issues and the need for collective action. There is a lot of insecurity in the South Asian region especially in the area of human security, like trafficking of women, threat of want, especially among children."

Public health

One of the biggest threats India faces is public health, especially public hygiene and environmental degradation. "There is hardly any debate on the quality of life issues. We are crisis driven. The plague in Surat proves that improvements happen only after a crisis. Quality of life is misunderstood as luxury. It is an important aspect of development. Then there is environmental security, global warming for example. Conscious and timely decisions must be taken to avert disaster."India finds itself in a curious position. It is surrounded by "weak, troubled states" but being the dominant nation it has not been able to give the region the strength of order. "I personally feel that India can surely go a bit further in integrating its neighbours. The Gujral doctrine had a lot of development ideas." More than any other, India's relationship with Pakistan always has been simmering dangerously. "This has affected every dimension of interstate and societal relations between the two countries. And, as I have detailed in my recent book The India-Pakistan Conflict: An Enduring Rivalry (Cambridge University Press India), despite occasional peace initiatives, shows no signs of abating. This situation is likely to continue at least for the next decade punctuated with limited détentes and cosmetic improvements in trade and contacts among people."

On the UN

When international security is threatened, does that mean that institutions like the United Nations have failed? "The UN is not a complete failure. It is a necessary force for global order. There is no immediate alternative to it. The various arms of the UN are still doing good service in different countries."However, nations pay no heed to some humanitarian requests of the UN, like in the cases of Rwanda and Iraq. "The UN does not have political power to dictate terms. The states are sovereign powers. It has been able to set certain legitimacy on issues, like use of force. It does have its flaws, like unequal representation. Developed nations like Japan and Germany do not find a place in the Security Council simply because they were the vanquished in World War II."

India's achievements

In such a scenario will India's bid for a permanent place in the Security Council bear fruit? "Countries like India must have a strategy at what exactly we want to do with this representation. What is the international order that India will be looking for? Still, I think, that India has the credentials for a place in the Council. Think of India's achievements as a nation of multitude of races and ethnic groups. It is a reasonably functioning democracy; economic inequalities are big but there is no revolution in sight. In fact, what many Arab countries lack is an Indian model, which is primarily based on the concept of power sharing and integration of different ethnic groups. India offers a model of participatory democracy. Then we have our secular credentials, a very open society where minorities survive in this vast ocean of Hindus. Look at history. New powers were given their leadership position after a world war. Today war is not a mechanism for change. Sooner or later, change will happen and India will be accorded its rightful place."