Academic journal article The Polish Quarterly of International Affairs

The Issues of Political Security in South Asia and Its Implications for the EU and NATO

Academic journal article The Polish Quarterly of International Affairs

The Issues of Political Security in South Asia and Its Implications for the EU and NATO

Article excerpt

South Asia is a very dynamic and complex region that presents the European Union and its Member States, the United States and the NATO with tremendous opportunities and serious challenges to global security, political stability and human well-being on various levels. The region is home to India, the world's largest democracy and a rising power with one of the fastest growing economies. It is also where both Asian superpowers, India and China, are collaborating and simultaneously competing for regional dominance, usually termed as the competition for their own security. In fact, one third of humanity is at present governed by two capitals, New Delhi and Beijing.1 It is also the region where governments are struggling to maintain control of their countries, where two nuclear powers, India and Pakistan that coexist in an uneasy and often tense relationship, and where conflicts with al-Qaeda, the Taliban and recently the Islamic State (Daesh) forces that have engaged U.S. and NATO forces. Pakistan, Nepal, Myanmar or Bangladesh are dealing with their own domestic problems, which have regional implications so it comes as no surprise that all these countries have become another playground for both Asian superpowers where international competition is quite fierce and will certainly intensify in the years to come, especially when Beijing asserts its rights in the "close neighbourhood" and Delhi puts up strong resistance to Chinese plans for continental or regional domination. The issues of political and economic security in South Asia are closely interrelated with those of the Middle East, as the latter is not only the most important "energy centre" for Asian players but also a working place for Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani citizens who form sizeable diasporas with growing financial and thus political clout.

It is worth noting that, while in East Asia the potential conflicts are likely to be played out mostly by state players (for example, China vs Vietnam or Japan, South Korea vs North Korea, etc.) West and South Asia are areas where both state and non-state players (terrorist groups, communal insurgents, separatists etc.) are usually involved. All of these factors make the whole region the subject of considerable strategic importance to the wider international community, especially to the United States, but also to the EU Member States who are interested in strengthening their economic ties with selected Asian players, while at the same time being aware of the local challenges and threats which may easily cross regional or even continental borders. Political disintegration, then social and economic chaos in South Asia and its surroundings, may result in the destabilisation of more distant areas, including the European Union. And growing migration from one of the most populated areas of the world could have a very tangible effect. NATO and the EU collectively, in collaboration with their Member States, who may have various policies in the region, could therefore be expected to contribute to the process of stability and peace in South Asia. However, it must be stressed that their role is limited, so the objectives to be achieved should be modest and realistic. Michael Rühle (Section Head of the Energy Security Section in NATO's Emerging Security Challenges Division) highlights the global role of NATO in South Asia:

"Only a few years ago, any mention of India and China as potential NATO partners would have led to raised eyebrows not only in Delhi and Beijing, but also in many NATO member countries. Not anymore. The Secretary General's suggestion sparked little debate, let alone controversy.

"And why should it? After all, reaching out to India is not a veiled attempt to draw this country and other rising powers into the Alliance's political and military orbit. And neither is it an attempt to outflank the United Nations as the ultimate arbiter of global security. The suggestion to use NATO as a forum for consultation and cooperation is much less grandiose, and much more pragmatic. …

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