Contours Of Non-Traditional Security Challenges:

Global, Regional & National Perspectives A Top Down Appraisal

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By Air Commodore (R) Khalid Iqbal TI(M)*

*The author is a consultant on Policy and Strategic Response at the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI). He is a retired Air Commodore and a former Assistant Chief of Air Staff, Pakistan Air Force.


(During the Cold War, main threats to security were pegged around East-West rivalry and nuclear confrontations between the two blocs led by the US and USSR. These military related threats were further extended by the two superpowers through their hydra-headed proxy wars. There was hardly any conflict in the World where both super powers of that era did not have covert or overt participation. In tandem there were other threats such as: environmental hazards; terrorism; organized crime and illegal immigration. However, fast moving military issues had overshadowed and relegated non-military threats to a second-class status. Though the era of heated rivalry between the US and Russia is over, the world continues to be sprinkled with regional conflict zones and sticky bilateral issues. However, these latent hotspots are not potentially over-loaded to graduate to a global level conflict. With the end of Cold War, and the termination of military threat, issues like economic instabilities and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) have propped up to centre stage. They have acquired the status of main sources of concern for global security. Since the demise of the Soviet Union, non-traditional aspects of security have been an important area for research1 ; especially in the context of the disintegration of the Empire, both without any external military intervention and in the absence of any internal armed struggle. – Author)

  The Concept

The parlance ‘non-traditional security’ is a contemporary buzzword and its usage is on the rise amongst the practitioners of statecraft, strategy and politics. However, as a concept, it still lacks a precise and commonly accepted or, say, an authoritative definition. The sphere of traditional security concerns is quite precise; whereas no similar concurrence exists in the context of non-traditional security. According to Mely CaballeroAnthony, non-traditional security threats may be defined as: “Challenges to the survival and well-being of peoples and states that arise primarily out of non-military 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.”2

Military deterrence, diplomatic manoeuvrings and short-term political arrangements are ineffective and or inadequate in addressing non-traditional security issues. Tackling them essentially requires nonmilitary means including comprehensive political, economic and societal responses. It’s an ongoing process that can only be sustained through robustness of institutions, sufficiency of resources and participative response from state(s) and society/ (societies).

Global strategic environment is in a state of perpetual flux; whereby, the nature of threats and security discourses are incessantly shifting positions. The security agenda has gone beyond the preview of state and military. Advocates of an alternative approach to security studies question the conventional wisdom of restricting the expanse of security to military dimension alone. Even a super power cannot adequately and sufficiently handle some non-traditional challenges. For example, Hurricane Katrina exposed huge gaps in the disaster management regime of the United States. It was one of the deadliest hurricanes ever to hit the United States3 . An estimated 1,836 people died in the hurricane and the flooding that followed in late August 2005; and millions of others were left homeless along the Gulf Coast and in New Orleans. Officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said: “Katrina was the most destructive storm to strike the United States. It ranks sixth overall in strength of recorded Atlantic hurricanes. It was also a very large storm; at its peak, maximum winds stretched 25 to 30 nautical miles and its extremely wide swath of hurricane force winds extended at least 75 nautical miles to the east from the center”4.

Now non-traditional threats are increasingly discussed at transnational and multi-national levels in a comprehensive manner, which clearly reflects the enormity and significance of these issues in the contemporary world. Policy makers now portray these challenges as potent threats to their national sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as the well-being of respective people and societies. This is a significant development. If such ‘security framing’5 is to be effective, it must attract due attention to these challenges, convey a sense of urgency, and develop the capacity to rapidly mobilise national and international resources and create elaborate institutional support for commandeering these resources for their effective, efficient and equitable employment to mitigate these challenges and their consequences.

Though this discourse has swayed the focus away from military power, as the core and sole determinant of international order and security, to several non-traditional determinants, with a much enhanced role of economic, political, and societal forces, it does not mean that the military dimension has become dormant or irrelevant. Coming in full circle, the concept of non traditional security shares much ground with the ‘Fifth Generation Warfare (5 GW), generally called ‘unrestricted warfare’ that may be described as the employment of “all means whatsoever – means that involve the force of arms and means that do not involve the force of arms, means that involve military power and means that do not involve military power, means that entail casualties, and means that do not entail casualties”.6v

Also, one could argue that within the umbrella of national strategy, some of the NTS challenges fall under the rubric of indirect strategy. Application of non-kinetic strategy7 also has overlaps with some of the NTS dilemmas. Causing climatic changes through, mystery surrounded, scientific military-funded High-frequency Active Auroral Research Programme (HAARP) to unleash floods may fall in this realm8 . Usage  of soft power9 could also be a preparatory stage for inducting NTS challenges and later pushing in the traditional security stampede. Likewise, in the domain of cyberspace, sub-activities like crime, conflict, competition and spying have a complementary overlapping zones where both traditional and non-traditional security could concurrently lay their claims upon. Whistle blowing by Snowden in the context of cyber spying by the US, the UK and other countries amply demonstrates how a state with adequate cyber capacities could intrude on the privacies of other states and individuals, and how in such pursuits political borders become meaningless. It also brought to light the tacit collusion of the state with its own intelligence agencies.

Hence national security needs an all comprehensive treatment whereby it could prevent, minimize and mitigate the impact of both traditional and non-traditional threats, which may be in a sort of perpetual orchestration, intricately interwoven in a well thought out benign looking format up to a point when terminal transition takes place from NTS to traditional phase— the final push. Benign looking nontraditional threats may soften the state to the extent that it is no longer capable of defending its territory and people against the traditional threat. It is in this context that even a traditional enemy may make inroads through non-traditional threats with intent to degrade the national potential to ward off military threat planned for an appropriate time. Smart application of non-traditional means could even eliminate the need of application of traditional means, because the victim state may become a pliant state due to erosion caused by non-traditional means; and by the time it realizes as to what is eating it up, it may have lost the capability and national will to resort to traditional defensive means. In a similar way, an apparently friendly country may be engaged in clandestinely generating, supporting and sustaining non-traditional threats. Whenever, norms of healthy competition are violated, a usually benign activity could crossover to the domain of non-traditional threat.

Expanse, Scope and Speed of NTS Challenges

Mely Caballero-Anthony’s definition10 brings forth few common characteristics in the context of non-traditional security threats ordinarily they are non-military in nature and transnational in scope. These are neither totally domestic nor purely inter-state. These are transmitted rapidly due to globalization and communication revolution11. Non-traditional security issues are 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.12

Therefore, 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 reforms13. These threats require maintenance of continuous capacity to generate appropriate response with or without formal warning, for example in case of floods, earthquakes and epidemics.

Notwithstanding, the contemporary shift in the study and analysis of security and the world order from a traditional framework to a nontraditional approach14, one must avoid going overboard by making water tight compartments for the two. One may err in the comprehension unless there is a clear perception about the overlap zones. V. R. Raghavan15 has rightly observed that, “The existing state-centred approach to national security, confined to the defence 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 architecture16; singly as well as jointly with traditional security challenges.

Non-traditional issues can affect both government institutions and civilian populations and these can originate from a variety of nonstate human and natural causes; such 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. As indirect effects, such issues can cause tremendous economic losses to a region or the whole world, as done by the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997, the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak of 2002-200317 and the tsunami triggered Fukushima nuclear fiasco of 2010.

The most comprehensive definition of the concept of non-traditional security was provided by Richard H. Ullman18 in 1983. According to him national security should not be 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 etc) within the state.”19

Generally, six broad branches of non-traditional security are identified, namely: International Terrorism; Trans-national Organized Crime; Environmental Security; Illegal Migration; Energy Security; and Human Security. However, one size does not fit all. Each nation is likely to have its own list, which may or may not include all six, likewise regional and sub-regional arrangements would also modify the generic list. Irrespective of the list, each item would ordinarily require an independent analysis, with adequate attention upon the necessity of securitization of each issue. Likewise the response would vary as to each particular threat depending upon whether it affects a specific set of people who may belong to one or more states.

The impacts of these new NTS challenges are deep and wide ranging. For example the earthquake of 2005 and flash floods of 2010 caught the state and the people of Pakistan off guard and kept them off balance until the international community extended a helping hand.

The transnational expanse and enormity of such NTS challenges means that they can no longer be sufficiently managed only by domestic resources, measures or strategies. As a consequence of increasing futility of unilateral measures, there is growing realization about the necessity of evolving a sub-regional, regional and global approach.

However, critical to building effective and credible regionalism is the political will of governments to put in place systems, structures and resources to translate the regional plans into actionable deeds20.

Role of Non-State Actors/Entities

Non state actors have a dual role to play. They could generate a non-traditional threat; say by manipulating the market dynamics and playing with the intricacies of stock exchanges. An individual coming home on vacation from a distant county could inadvertently be a carrier of a locally uncommon virus that could erupt in to an epidemic, against which the recipient country has little or no countering capacity. High seas piracy is another non-traditional threat whereby only a handful group of pirates could radiate a sense of insecurity over a wide area.

On the other hand, non state actors, both individuals and entities, also have a role to play in mitigating the effects of some of the non-traditional challenges. Domestic and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) often network with the state/ governmental structures and create synergy in disaster management. Many philanthropic individuals and entities with various politicoreligious leanings have traditionally acted as an extended arm of the government organizations likes National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Civil Defence, and Red Crescent Society. However, if left to themselves, such entities are unable to carry out even handed and large scale activities, mainly due to capacity issues. If allowed to operate for a long time some entities could also trigger non-traditional threats of other types through their doctrinal beliefs, practices and cultural incompatibility.

State’s Central Role

Given that many NTS issues are transnational and trans-regional, national efforts in addressing these issues need to be complemented with multidimensional, multilevel, and multi sectoral initiatives. Willing involvement of different regional actors can strike a delicate balance between the push and pull factor for greater regional cohesion. Nevertheless, in spite of the crucial role that regional commitments, frameworks and mechanisms have in coping with NTS challenges, the central role and capacity of states towards gainful integration of the mobilised effort is very vital. While regional frame work is critical for addressing common problems through resource augmentation, it is certainly not sufficient21; the effected state has to play a central role and take charge for operationalising the regional effort.

Countering NTS Challenges: Global, Regional and Sub-Regional Dimension

The hope of a more stable and peaceful world after the end of the Cold War, was short-lived. Comity of nations continues to confront both traditional and new security challenges emerging from a host of transnational threats. There is growing recognition that new security challenges are proving to be more severe and more likely to inflict more harm to a greater number of people than conventional threats of interstate wars and conflicts22. The NTS issues have direct implications on the overall security of states and societies.23 At a global level, UNO has a number of organs engaged in mitigating the effect of a number of non-traditional threats viz World Health Organisation(WHO), UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) etc. World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) provide financial support against macro-economic instability.

Organization of African Unity (OAU) aims to:24 promote the unity and solidarity of African States; co-ordinate and intensify their co-operation and efforts to achieve a better life for the peoples of Africa; defend their sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence; eradicate all forms of colonialism from Africa; promote international cooperation, giving due regard to the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and co-ordinate and harmonise members’ political, diplomatic, economic, educational, cultural, health, welfare, scientific, technical and defence policies.

European Union (EU) is another continent-wide entity. It is an economic and political union of 28 member states25 that are located primarily in Europe. The EU operates through a system of supranational independent institutions and intergovernmental negotiated decisions by the member states. Institutions of the EU include the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, the European Council, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Central Bank, the Court of Auditors, and the European Parliament. Its areas of focus are: regional and local development; health, justice and citizen rights; employment and social affairs; economy, energy etc26.

In Asia there is no continent wide organisation for this purpose except the Asian Development Bank. However, there are a number of regional and sub-regional entities. Most of these act in isolation and have limited mission, scope and capacity. The Asian region is addressing the emerging non-traditional security challenges through its various regional and sub-regional institutions, mechanisms, and relevant security arrangements, referred to as ‘akin to new, second-generation types of regionalism’ that are characteristically more robust and involve closer and wider forms of cooperation27.

Some of these are:-

• Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO)28, it comprises of ten Asian states and functions under the motto of “Sustainable socioeconomic development for people of the region”, its areas of function are: economy and health related millennium development goals (MDGs) of the UNO; commerce, industry, insurance etc29. It also has a trade and development bank. ECO has signed Memoranda  of Understanding (MOUs) with numerous sister organizations including International Strategy for Disaster Management.

• The Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf is generally referred to as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Article four of its charter specifies the basic objectives of the Cooperation Council these inter alia include30 to formulate similar regulations in various fields including the following: Economic and financial affairs; Commerce, customs and communications; education and culture; stimulate scientific and technological progress in the fields of industry, mining, agriculture, water and animal resources; to establish scientific research; to establish joint ventures and encourage cooperation by the private sector for the good of their peoples etc.

• South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)’s objectives are31: to promote the welfare of the peoples of South Asia and to improve their quality of life; to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region and to provide all individuals the opportunity to live in dignity and to realise their full potentials; to promote and strengthen collective self-reliance among the countries of South Asia; to contribute to mutual trust, understanding and appreciation of one another’s problems; to promote active collaboration and mutual assistance in the economic, social, cultural, technical and scientific fields; to strengthen cooperation with other developing countries; to strengthen cooperation among themselves in international forums on matters of common interests; and to cooperate with international and regional organisations with similar aims and purposes.

• Within Asia, the collective effort by Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) presents a role model that the other subregional structures could emulate. A cardinal example is “2003 Bali Concord II”, that announced setting up of an ASEAN community based on three pillars: an ASEAN Security community (ASC), an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and an ASEAN Socio Cultural Community (ASCC). Out of these the ASC later became ASEAN Politico-Security Community (APSC). It has generated a lot of fascination because it speaks of many issues that have come to characterise ‘new regionalism’. Some observers have termed it as an ASEAN attempt for moving towards forming a soft security community. With the emergence of NTS threats, the impetus for effective multilateralism has become quite visible in some Asian sub-regions; ASEAN, ASEAN + 3 (APT), and even the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) have responded to new security challenges. The varieties of regional mechanisms that have been established have resulted in creeping institutionalism within ASEAN. These new institutional and structural reconfigurations have also generated different layers of regional efforts going beyond bilateral and multilateral arrangements which had, until quite recently, been largely sub-regional in nature. This has significantly altered the contours of regional institutional architecture in Asia. While these regional efforts are aimed at building regional capacity to address different security challenges, the kinds of measures being adopted have gone beyond the usual process oriented, confidence building measures. These initiatives are driven by the broader objectives of building more capacity and coherence in regional efforts to address new regional challenges and, in the process, complement the global efforts of the United Nations and other international organizations to promote peace, human rights, and development.32

• Within the generic framework for sub-regional cooperation, a workshop entitled “Non-Traditional Security Threats and Regional Cooperation in the South Caucasus” took place in Istanbul between 22-24 October 200933. The conference was aimed at highlighting those challenges that the Southern Caucasian countries have been experiencing since the collapse of the Soviet Union. With the participation of regional and international experts as well as representatives of key international actors (i.e. international governmental and non-governmental organisations), various issues including identification of problems in the fields of democratization,  formation of civil society, economic re-structuring, security building and regional cooperation were discussed with an aim to anticipate, analyze and increase awareness on emerging non-traditional threats to Southern Caucasian security. However, the nature of political transformation, democratization and civil society development has been different in the Southern Caucasus, where the entire process of transition has been dominated by the co-existence of continuity and change. The patterns of continuity inherited from the Soviet past are predominantly represented and reproduced by the ruling elite while the patterns of change associated with liberalization and democratization are mainly internalized and propagated by the societal actors. Looking into the future, the main challenge for the liberalization agenda in the region will arise from the complex political and ideological realities; that is the existence of resistance to modernity by pre-modern indigenous forces, actions of Russia that limit the freedom of choice in its “Near Abroad”, existence and exploitative actions of external forces, and finally post-national imperatives limiting the state’s ability to act according to security requirements.

Most of these regional processes are still at an amorphous stage, one could nonetheless extrapolate that as NTS issues start to take their due place in the security agenda of states in the region, the robustness in these regional initiatives would improve, thus paving the way for strengthening and streamlining the region/sub-region related counter NTS strategies and collaborative processes. This is likely to lead to reorientation of existing mechanisms, practices and institutions for better responses to these NTS challenges. As a corollary, this would attract regional actors toward deeper institutional commitments where member states are compelled to adopt more rules-based regimes in order to effect compliance and successful implementation of regional measures to enhance security cooperation in the region.

Moreover, as regional mechanisms open space to absorb other actors (nongovernmental organizations/civil society organizations, international organizations, and other external actors) in building and enhancing regional capacity to cope with NTS challenges, the nature of  regional security cooperation shall experience a redefinition through an evolutionary process leading towards catering for sensitivities’ related attention to issues of human security or say insecurity. These will at times create new tensions within and among states and resolve some chronic ones as they attempt to strike a delicate balance between protecting state and regime security while promoting human security. For example, Pakistan accepted Indian offer of aid during the earthquakes of 2005, but declined to accept the offer of Indian helicopters because they were to be piloted by Indian crew, that was viewed as detrimental to traditional security interests. During the country wide destruction caused by the flash floods of 201034, Pakistan asked India to route its aid through the United Nations.

While these regional efforts are aimed at building regional capacity to address different security challenges, the kinds of measures being adopted in some of the sub-regions have gone beyond the usual process-oriented, confidence-building measures. Instead, many of the regional measures adopted are now geared toward problem-solving, involving sharing of information; developing certain types of regional surveillance systems for early warning on infectious diseases and natural disasters; providing relief in disaster management, rehabilitation, and reconstruction; and, more significantly, working toward coordinated procedures and attempts at harmonizing legal frameworks in addressing transnational crimes.

The sub regional approach is the most suited way of handling localised yet trans-national NTS challenges effecting more than one country, for example floods, earthquake, disease, illegal immigration etc. However, at times mistrust arising out of bilateral disputes in sub-regions mars very good initiatives, and virtually makes the structures ineffective. Unfortunately such has been the case of SAARC. Despite sharing the victim-hood of many NTS challenges, this forum has not been able to stand up to the occasion and formulate a collective workable strategy. In comparison, ASEAN has shown remarkable progress in evolving participatory structures for handling non-traditional challenges.

 Asia’s Prominent NTS Challenges

Infectious Diseases

Since the Asia-wide outbreak of the SARS virus in 2003, the threats from infectious diseases appear to have become more severe. As the SARS experience has shown that in this era of globalization and regionalization, such types of infectious diseases have the capacity to spread fast, get out of control and detrimentally affect the security and well-being of all members of society and impact almost all aspects of the economy.35 This point was duly brought out during the 2006 World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, with the release of the “Global Risks 2006” report. The report ranked pandemics and natural disasters among the highest in the list of risks currently confronting the international community. The study also concluded that despite the interplay of these multiple global risks and their combined ripple effects, which can be potentially devastating, “disaster planning and crisis management suffer from a number of shortcomings.” Given that Asia has had a history of being the breeding ground for flu pandemics36, the WEF report raised the urgency within and outside the region to finding a common approach to prevent the outbreak of a new and devastating pandemic.

At the domestic level, most obvious is the lack of resources allocated to improving public health systems. Given the prevalent condition of poor health infrastructure in many parts of Asia, the national and regional capacities to respond to transnational health crises remain inadequate. Asia, as a whole, needs to consider a broader and more comprehensive strategy to prevent and contain the outbreak of infectious diseases. These would include, among others, focusing on key issues such as building credible and effective regional surveillance systems for monitoring infectious diseases, improving the poor state of health infrastructure in less-developed countries, and addressing the politics of crisis health management in the region 37. Especially in East Asia much of the information about pandemic preparedness, response, and capability of countries in the region is sketchy. Since national capacities are still quite weak, more efforts should be made to improve national level capacities38. In Pakistan the outbreak of Dengue fever in 2012 exposed the structural and professional inadequacies of the health department, especially of Punjab. Anticipatory actions were almost no-existence, the number of trained doctors and paramedic was insufficient and there was shortage of testing kits. Sri Lank sent its medical teams to train the local medical staff. However, the lessons learnt were duly applied the following year which was likely to be a peak year in the context of Dengue fever. A public awareness campaign started well in time and the Dengue season came and went un-noticed.

Many of these collaborative programs focus on strengthening the national and regional capacity for disease surveillance and early response and strengthening the capacity to prepare for any pandemic. Most of the measures outlined in these collaborative programs focus on, among others, strengthening of institutional capacities at national and regional levels. Other measures also include establishing information sharing protocols among countries and multilateral organizations and effective, timely, and meaningful communication before or during a pandemic influenza outbreak39.

Natural Disasters

Asia is also a region where major natural disasters often occur. The December 2004 a massive earthquake and tsunami illustrated the kind of devastation that natural disasters cause and the immensity of the tasks involved in undertaking disaster relief operations and in providing humanitarian assistance and post-disaster reconstruction and rehabilitation. Natural disasters generate complex emergencies that require urgent and coordinated responses from a broad range of state and non-state actors. Unfortunately, many states in Asia are least prepared to cope with these complex humanitarian emergencies40. This gap was vividly revealed in the region’s experience with the 2004 tsunami, 2005 earthquake and 2010 flash floods in Pakistan as well as tsunami triggered nuclear fiasco in Fukushima. These disasters certainly reflected the lack of any regional capacity to respond to disasters and to provide emergency relief, rehabilitation, and reconstruction. Were it not for the humanitarian assistance provided by external partners like the United States, European Union, Australia etc, plus a number of international aid agencies, the impact of these humanitarian emergencies could have been far more catastrophic41.

Dangerous Drugs

Proliferation of drugs is a global issue. Asia is a major producer of drugs; many trafficking routs either originate from or pass through a number of Asian countries. The ASEAN and China Cooperative Operations in Response to dangerous drugs, abbreviated as ACCORD42 outlines work plans toward a drug-free region and identifies priority projects and other cooperative measures including the sharing of information and best practices. Communication networks have also been set up among specialized agencies to facilitate better regional coordination in combating the drug problem.43 ACCORD tries to complement domestic efforts against the illicit trafficking and abuse of drugs by establishing an institutional framework for cooperation. Its success would, however, depend on the actual implementation of its central pillars and action lines. Nevertheless, it presents a foundational frame work that could be expanded to become a continent wide programme to control drugs. Pakistan has earned the notoriety of being a transit route for drug trafficking. It would be worthwhile to be a part of Asia wide anti-drug programme to overcome this menace through collective effort.


Terrorism is a global issue. Especially in the post 9/11 setting the entire world is ready to cooperate against this challenge. In the same stream, ASEAN members agreed to a Joint Action to Counter Terrorism, adopted at the 7th ASEAN Summit in 2001, which outlined several measures to fight terrorism. These include deepening cooperation among front-line law enforcement agencies in combating terrorism and sharing “best practices; enhancing information/intelligence exchange to facilitate the flow of information, in particular, on terrorists and terrorist organizations, their movement and funding, and any other information needed to protect lives, property, and the security of all modes of travel, and others.”44

 SCO also incorporates an elaborate “Regional Counter-Terrorism Structure” that operates in accordance with the SCO Charter, the Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism, the Agreement among the SCO member states on the Regional AntiTerrorism Structure, as well as documents and decisions adopted in the SCO framework45. Today all fingers point toward Pakistan when it comes to terrorism. Pakistan should become party to all regional counter terrorism structures, except those impinging upon its sovereignty. This would help in allaying some of the criticism.

Transnational Crime and Terrorism

These types of crimes not only constitute threats to state security by undermining national authorities and the rule of law, they also threaten the security and well-being of individuals and societies. Addressing these complex problems therefore, requires a transnational response. Yet regional cooperation in this area is often complicated by sensitive issues that impinge on domestic jurisdictions, such as the need to share information, extradition laws, and problems of corruption46.

Nevertheless, regional efforts in fighting transnational crime can already be seen on several fronts. At the ASEAN level, the regional mechanisms that have been established to handle this problem are the “Southeast Asia Regional Centre for Counter Terrorism” (SEARCCT) based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and the “Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement”.


According to the International Maritime Bureau, the Straits of Malacca is the most piracy-infested channel in the world47. To contain its further spread a trilateral arrangement among ASEAN’s littoral states of Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore (MALSINDO) was formed to conduct joint coordinated patrols along the Straits to beef up maritime security in the region. After this initiative, other ASEAN countries like Thailand, the Philippines and, Japan, have also been participating in many of MALSINDO’s training activities in antipiracy, antiterrorism, and coast guard patrols. There is also the recently launched Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP), which is the first government-togovernment agreement to enhance the security of regional waters beyond Southeast Asia48.

Poverty and Human Security

Unlike the other three NTS issues whose linkages to security threats are easier to comprehend, the threats and insecurities brought on by poverty as a result of sudden economic downturn are more difficult to capture and counter. Onslaught of the Asian financial crisis and its economic impact on many affected states were very devastating. It also brought along a host of problems across many facets of the security of states and societies, including ethnic conflict and violence. Despite the discourse at the official level about building a regional community there is a lot that needs to be done in translating these into more concrete terms in order to “promote more inclusive and caring communities.”49 One of these is to bridge the developing gaps among states in the region.

Mapping Counter NTS Trends in Asia

The variety of regional structures which have come up in Asia to address a number of transnational NTS threats, have resulted in creeping institutionalism. The nature of this creeping institutionalism has generated different layers of regional efforts going beyond bilateral and multilateral arrangements which had, until quite recently, been largely sub-regional in nature. There are a number of significant developments that could define not just the shape but more importantly the substance of regionalism in Asia as different state and non-state actors respond to NTS dilemmas. An important task ahead is evolving of new norms. As Asian states expand their cooperation in many dimensions, the pattern of interstate relations is bound to effect changes in state behaviour and clear the path for observance of a more equitable regional framework and provision of compatible legal framework for steering inter-state decisions, treaties, and conventions into the national legislation of member countries. However, to ensure that these sporadic and tiny regional efforts do not fizzle out prior to their attaining requisite robustness, sustenance of an inclusive regionalism remains of  fundamental importance.

Challenges like pandemics, terrorism, natural disasters, etc., require multilateral approaches which inevitably brings in the involvement of extra-regional powers like the United States and the European Union that have surplus resources.

One of the main conditions for the successful realisation of regional cooperation is identifying threats and risks common for regional states and expressing readiness to jointly overcome existing problems for the sake of creating a favourable environment for cooperation. Yet, this remains an elusive goal!

NTS Challenges to Pakistan

A wholesome assortment of NTS challenges confront Pakistan. These could emanate from: extremism; economy; energy crisis; demographic challenges; governance issues; human security; border security; refugees and illegal emigrants; trans-border/ trans-national crimes; food security, climate change; fragile political system; foreign policy dilemmas, foreign influences; institutional wrangling, etc. In an interesting way most of these sub-systems are intricately interrelated. Moreover, most of these operate simultaneously, hence accentuating the cumulative effects much more than the linear sum total. Of these, some also make interesting subsets, like economy, energy and demographic challenges; posing a chicken and egg dilemma as to which one causes the others. Aside from being non-military in nature, these challenges share other common characteristics; most of these are trans-national in approach (neither purely domestic nor purely interstate); some of them arise at very short notice and are transmitted rapidly. Most of these cannot be prevented entirely but their impact can be mitigated through systemic approach. At times national solutions are inadequate and thus regional and multilateral cooperation and participation is essential. The object of security is not just the state in terms of sovereignty or territorial integrity, but also the security of the people in terms of survival, well being and dignity, both at individual and societal levels.50

While mapping Pakistan’s main NTS challenges Ali Tauqeer Sheikh51 states that:52

 • Climate change will continue to negatively affect human activities and livelihoods in Pakistan through increasingly frequent extreme weather events and changes in temperature and precipitation. With the “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change” (IPCC) conservatively projecting the average world surface temperature to increase from 1.4°C to 5.8°C over the course of the 21st century53, it is evident that alterations in the planet’s ecological, biological, and geological system will not only continue but also intensify. In Pakistan, low-probability and high-impact events such as floods, droughts, storms, and cyclones are now increasing in frequency. An analysis of data for the past 60 years, taken from the “Centre for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters” (CRED), shows that the number of natural disasters per decade has increased considerably over the last two decades.

• Pakistan’s large population and high growth rate adversely affects all aspects of society, the economy, and the environment. Population growth creates and exacerbates vulnerabilities by endangering basic civic amenities, leading to a lack of clean water and space for housing and ultimately burdening society.

• Growth in agricultural productivity has broadly kept pace with accelerating demand. However, medium-term food security challenges will become far more daunting if immediate attention is not paid to managing water resources, both underground and in the Indus basin river system.

• Water security is the most serious challenge for Pakistan due to several factors, particularly the increasing pressure of population and urbanization, massive expansion of tube-well irrigation, reduced levels of precipitation caused by climate change, and the accelerated retreat of Himalayan glaciers.

He recommends that54:-

• Pakistan can mitigate the adverse effects of natural disasters through early warning systems, technological advances in building and infrastructure construction, improved sanitation systems, increased disaster preparedness, and an organized health sectoral response. Expanding and enhancing the information and knowledge base on climate change as well as mapping vulnerabilities, trends in internal migration, and new incidence of disease, can help create adaptive measures for reducing the effects of climate change.

• The successful implementation of mechanisms to address nontraditional security issues will require the South Asian countries to work together to adopt ecosystem-wide approaches that incorporates trans-boundary strategies.

• South Asia faces numerous NTS threats that in most cases predate the conventional security problems in the region. NTS threats make many conventional security challenges intractable, as regional conflicts are frequently rooted in the division or management of natural resources, ethnic divides, or ecosystem bifurcations.

• The progress in managing, let alone resolving, these NTS threats has been slow, primarily because the negotiating parties do not view them in the broader context of ecological civilization or ecosystem integrity. South Asia as a region has been slow in developing regional approaches to address NTS issues. Modest beginnings by the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) still require political will, resource allocation, and operational mechanisms. Recent efforts to develop shared positions on climate change have received a lukewarm response.

• Moreover, cracks in the negotiating position of the UN group of 77 (G-77) have further divided South Asia on climate change. Each country seems to be struggling on its own to address its climate vulnerabilities, just the way they have earlier dealt with other specific threats55.


Due to inadequate sub-regional and regional cooperative mechanisms, Pakistan, like other countries of South Asia is often caught in the thick of some of the NTS challenges. Natural calamities related disaster management suffers from inadequacy of resources. Hence, initial response is slow. Pakistan is yet to make up its mind whether it wishes to treat its high population growth as an asset or a liability. So far, the position has been of jockeying between the two positions. Insecure borders pose a threat of illegal immigrants’ issue that entails transnational crimes. Conflict in Afghanistan is a major driver of large scale influx of refugees. Measuring against the yardstick of the UN laid MDGs, Pakistan’s performance is unenviable. It is under performing in all eight sectors, posting the highest child mortality rate in South Asia56. According to a recent report released by a child rights body,57 Pakistan has the second highest number of out-of-school children in the world, behind only Nigeria. Other South Asian countries are also not far better. There is a need to evolve South Asian response towards some of the NTS challenges which are transnational in nature and where collective resources could be utilised in a more efficient and effective way. Still on a larger canvas, there is a need for an Asia level entity to address the challenges which have continent level outreach in terms of effects. For menaces like drug trafficking and terrorism, there is a need for global effort. Though Pakistan is grappling with a number of NTS challenges, survival of state and the society is not in an imminent danger of extinction. Hardship notwithstanding, the state and people of Pakistan would continue to inch forward and maintain their relevance in regional and global affairs.


1 M. Aydin (Ed.), Non-Traditional Security Threats and Regional Cooperation in the Southern Caucasus (Istanbul IOS Press, 2011), i-xii. http://academia. edu/987789/NonTraditional_Security_Threats_and_Regional_Cooperation_in_ the_Southern_Caucasus

2 B H Chaudhuri , “Non-Traditional Security Studies in Asia”, Defining Nontraditional Security Threats, Global India Foundation, 2011. http://www. (accessed on July 02,2013). 94 Khalid Iqbal TI (M) CRITERION – Volume 11 No.2

3 Kim Ann Zimmermann, Hurricane Katrina: Facts, Damage & Aftermath, Live Science Contributor Date: 20 August 2012 Time: 12:47 PM ET, http://www. 9 (accessed on July 10, 2013)

4 Ibid.

5 Mely Caballero-Anthony, “Non-Traditional Security Challenges, Regional Governance, and the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC)”. Asia Security Initiative Policy Series, Working Paper No 7, September 2010. Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies; Nanyang technological University, Singapore.

6 Thomas PM Barnett, “System Administration’ based Global Transaction Strategy”, (accessed on May 24, 2013).

7 Timothy Noah, When warfare gets “kinetic.”, Posted Nov. 20, 2002, at 6:40 PM of_a_washington_word.html/ (accessed on July, 2012). In common usage, “kinetic” is an adjective used to describe motion, but the Washington meaning derives from its secondary definition, “active, as opposed to latent.” Dropping bombs and shooting bullets—you know, killing people—is kinetic. But the 21stcentury military is exploring less violent and more high-tech means of warfare, such as messing electronically with the enemy’s communications equipment or wiping out its bank accounts. These are “non-kinetic.”

8 Austin Baird, HAARP conspiracies: Guide to most far-out theories behind government research in Alaska, posted on September 20, 2011 http://www.‎ (accessed on July 10, 2013)

9 The term soft power was coined in the early 1990s by Joseph S Nye Jr, in his book, “Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power”. He refined the concept in his follow up book in 2004: “Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics”. In Nye’s words Soft power is, ‘the attractiveness of a country’s political ideas and policy’. The term is now widely used in international affairs by analysts and statesmen. The former US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates spoke of the need to enhance American soft power by “a dramatic increase in spending on the civilian instruments of national security i.e. diplomacy, strategic communications, foreign assistance, civic action, economic reconstruction and development.”

10 A variant of her definition of non-traditional security (NTS) has been adopted as the working definition by the Consortium of Non-Traditional Security Studies in Asia, otherwise known as NTS-Asia. For more details, see the NTS-Asia Web site at ( accessed on July 03, 2013), where NTS is defined as: “Challenges to the survival and well being of peoples and states that arise primarily out of non-military sources, such as climate change, cross-border environmental degradation and resource depletion, infectious diseases, natural disasters, irregular migration, food shortages, people smuggling, drug trafficking, 95 Contours of Non-Traditional Security Challenges CRITERION – April/June 2016 and other forms of transnational crime”.

11 Saurabh Chaudhuri, “Defining Non-traditional Security Threats”, Global India Foundation, 2011. htm (accessed on July 02, 2013).

12 ibid.

13 ibid

14 ibid

15 Lt Gen (R) VR Raghavan is one of India’s leading military strategic thinkers. He is currently the Director of the Delhi Policy Group and President, Centre for Security Analysis, Chennai. He is a member of India’s National Security Advisory Board. (accessed on July 03, 2013).

16 Saurabh Chaudhuri, “Defining Non-traditional Security Threats”, Global India Foundation, 2011. htm (accessed on July 02, 2013). 17 ibid

18 Richard H. Ullman, Professor of International Affairs at Princeton University. During 1982-83 he was a Visiting Member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. (accessed on July 03, 2013).

19 Saurabh Chaudhuri, “Defining Non-traditional Security Threats”, Global India Foundation, 2011. htm (accessed on July 02, 2013). & Richard H Ullman, “ Redefining Security”, International Security, Summer(Vol: 8 No 1) MIT Press, Massachusetts. http:// (accessed on July 03, 2013).

20 Mely Caballero-Anthony, “Non-Traditional Security in Asia: Dilemmas in Securitization”, London: Ashgate, 2006.

21 ibid.

22 Mely Caballero-Anthony, “Non-traditional Security and Multilateralism in Asia: Reshaping the Contours of Regional Security Architecture?”, The Stanley Foundation encourages use of this report for educational purposes. Any part of the material may be duplicated with proper acknowledgment. View this report online

23 Ibid.

24 Organization of African Unity (OAU) / African Union (AU), http://www.dfa. (accessed on July 10,2013).

25 European Union, (accessed on July 10, 2013).

26 Ibid.

27 Mely Caballero-Anthony, Ralf Emmers, and Amitav Acharya (eds.), NonTraditional Security in Asia: Dilemmas in Securitisation (London: Ashgate, 2006).

28 Economic Cooperation Organization, (accessed on July 10. 2013). 96 Khalid Iqbal TI (M) CRITERION – Volume 11 No.2

29 Ibid.

30 The Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, eng/indexfc7a.html?action=Sec-Show&ID=1 (accessed on July 10, 2013).

31 SAARC Charter, (accessed on July 10, 2013).

32 John Gerard Ruggie (ed.), Multilateralism Matters: The Theory and Praxis of an Institutional Form (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993).

33 M. Aydin (Ed.),Non-Traditional Security Threats and Regional Cooperation in the Southern Caucasus (Istanbul IOS Press, 2011), i-xii. http://academia. edu/987789/Non-Traditional_Security_Threats_and_Regional_Cooperation_ in_the_Southern_Caucasus (accessed on July 10,2013)

34 The Express Tribune (Islamabad), July 3, 2010.

35 For more on SARS and its security impact, see forexample, Mely CaballeroAnthony, “SARS in Asia: Crisis, Vulnerabilities, and Regional Responses”, Asian Survey, 2005, Vol. 45, No. 3, pp. 475-495; Melissa Curley and Nicholas Thomas, “Human Security and Public Health in Southeast Asia: The SARS Outbreak,” Australian Journal of International Affairs, 2004, Vol. 58, No. 1, pp. 17-32; Elizabeth Prescott, “SARS: A Warning,” Survival, 2003, Vol. 45, No. 3, pp. 162- 177.

36 See for example, APEC Action Plan on the Prevention and Response to Avian and Influenza Pandemics, 2006/AIPMM/014; and East Asia Summit Declaration on Avian Influenza Prevention, Control and Response, at http://www.www. (accessed on July 04, 2013).

37 For more on this, see Mely Caballero-Anthony, “Combating Infectious Diseases in East Asia: Securitisation and Global Public Goods for Health and Human Security,” Journal of International Affairs (New York: Columbia University Press), Spring/Summer 2006, pp. 105-127.

38 In June 2005, the Singapore government put into place its avian flu plan. See “Influenza Pandemic Readiness and Response Plan,” Singapore Ministry of Health, June 29, 2005, /hottopics/influenza/index. do#32112653 (accessed September 15, 2005). Since February 2004, it has also established tight surveillance and control over local poultry population.

39 See “Regional Emerging Diseases Intervention (REDI) Centre,” remarks by Claude Allen, “…Finally, with the growing emphasis on NTS challenges, one could argue that the new, robust regionalism in East Asia has raised the human and comprehensive security agenda right in the heart of each member’s national policies…This would also mean more binding commitments and credible enforcement by member countries of the regional agreements or modalities that have been adopted to address different types of NTS challenges”.

40 Secretary of Health and Human Resources, May 24, 2004, http:// (accessed March 19, 2007).

41 See Statement from the Special ASEAN Leader’s Meeting on Aftermath of Earthquake and Tsunami, Jakarta, January 6, 2005, http://www.aseansec. org/17067.htm (accessed on July 04, 2013). 97 Contours of Non-Traditional Security Challenges CRITERION – April/June 2016

42 ASEAN and China Cooperative Operations in Response to Dangerous Drugs (ACCORD) 8th Task Forces Meetings on Civic Awareness and Demand Reduction, United Nations’ office on Drug and Crime, South Asia and pacific. (accessed on July, 08, 2013).

43 For more on ACCORD and its plan of action, see accord/default.htm (accessed on July 08, 2013).

44 See the 2001 ASEAN Declaration on Joint Action to Counter Terrorism, Bandar Seri Begawan, November 5, 2001.

45 Shanghai Cooperation Organization, “The Executive Committee of the Regional Counter-Terrorism Structure”, asp (accessed on July 10, 2013) 46 Alan Dupont, East Asia Imperilled: Transnational Challenges to Security, (Cambridge Asia-Pacific Studies, 2001).

47 Sam Bateman, Catherine Zara Raymond, and Joshua Ho, Safety and Security in the Malacca and Singapore Straits: An Agenda for Action, (Singapore: Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies Policy Paper, Nanyang Technological University, May 2006).

48 The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) is the first regional government-to-government agreement to promote and enhance cooperation against piracy and armed robbery in Asia. To date, 18 States have become Contracting Parties to ReCAAP. The ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre (ISC) was established under the ReCAAP Agreement. The roles of ReCAAP ISC include exchanging information among Contracting Parties on incidents of piracy and armed robbery, supports capacity building efforts of Contracting Parties, and for cooperative arrangements. For more on ReCAAP, see (accessed on July 04, 2013).

49 See ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community in the ASEAN Bali Concord II, http:// (accessed on July 04, 2013).

50 Mely Caballero-Anthony, “Non-Traditional Security in Asia: Dilemmas in Securitization”, London: Ashgate, 2006.

51 Ali Tauqeer Sheikh is CEO, LEAD Pakistan & Director Asia, Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN). (accessed on July 03, 2013)

52 Ali Tauqeer Sheikh, “Non-Traditional Security Threats in Pakistan”, The National Bureau of Asian Research NBR Special Report #32, October 2011.

53 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), IPCC Third Assessment Report: Climate Change 2001 (Charleston: Biblio Gov, 2001).

54 Ali Tauqeer Sheikh, “Non-Traditional Security Threats in Pakistan”, The National Bureau of Asian Research NBR Special Report #32, October 2011.

55 Ali Tauqeer Sheikh, “Non-Traditional Security Threats in Pakistan”, The National Bureau of Asian Research NBR Special Report #32, October 2011.

56 The Nation (Islamabad), July 12, 2013. 98 Khalid Iqbal TI (M) CRITERION – Volume 11 No.2

57 Pakistan has second highest ‘out-of-school’ children globally, News Track India, (accessed on July 15, 2013). The Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (Sparc) stated in it’s annual report titled ‘The State of Pakistan’s children 2012’ that one fourth of the 19.75 million children in Pakistan who were aged five to nine were out of school and including adolescents, the figure rose to about 25 million. Of these children, seven million aged three to five did not receive any primary schooling. The report added that Pakistan had reduced its spending on education from 2.6 percent to 2.3 percent of the GNP (gross national product) since the last decade, and it ranked 113th of the 120 countries included in the Education Development Index. On the brighter side, at the province level, Punjab had the highest NER (net enrolment rate) for children in primary schools at 61 percent along with Sindh at 53 percent, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at 51 percent, while Baluchistan fared lowest at 47 percent. Overall, Pakistan recorded an NER of 74.l percent for all age groups enrolled either in primary, secondary or higher education but the youth literacy rate was only 70.7 percent with only 61 percent of girls are literate as compared to 79 percent boys in the age group of 15-24 years. The country is placed at the 129th position among the 135 countries on the Gender Gap Index 2012, according to the Global Gender Gap Report, 43 percent of children in Pakistan are afflicted with stunting; five years mortality rate has declined from 122 to 72 per 1,000 births in 2011; and 30 percent of polio cases worldwide along with 2.1 million cases of measles are found in this part of the world, along with a high instance of HIV. The report further stated that a lot of children have been victims of drone strikes over the years and they were subject to a lack of educational opportunities, poor health conditions, no protection for poor and vulnerable children, miserable conditions in juvenile jails and employment of minors in hazardous occupations. In the absence of a national database on violence against children, it was difficult to account for the number of cases of physical violence, sexual abuse, trafficking, and recruitment in armed conflicts and acid attacks.