Monday, December 7, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: “Asia - Search for Security and Cooperation” Book-II

PUBLISHED IN PAKISTAN OBSERVER JUNE 17, 2007

Arguably, major shifts in both perception & priorities can be attributed to significant upheavals in the global and political dynamics, arising, partially from the vestiges of the Cold War, threatened exclusivity of the nuclear club(to the dismay of 5) and absolutely from actions of 9/11.

The emergence of the Asian continent as a globally predominant security concern merits the exploration of its complex, long drawn out regional conflicts while identifying the security/cooperative challenges, the neglect of which will jeopardize global stability given the fragility of a nuclear setting on hostile territory.

And this is what ‘Asia-Search for Security & Cooperation’ aims to do.

Maj. General (R) Jamshed Ayaz Khan is an authority on matters pertaining to regional and International affairs being the head of Institute of Regional Studies(Islamabad) and his second book ‘Asia-Search for Security & Cooperation’ is, in fact, a compilation of newspaper articles and papers, presented at various international conferences.

Taken together, these papers present a systematically independent study of the exigency in addressing a multitude of issues directly concerning the peace, stability and development of Asia in a new millennium. While the premise of the book remains Asian security and cooperation, this theme can be explored separately and on several different levels.

Taking the contentious Indo-Pak relations first, making a strong case for reversing the trend of mistrust & suspicion plaguing both nations is high on the agenda while touching upon the underlying causes of the Indo-Pak conflict; the potentially favorable signs marking an acceptable resolution of core issues since 2004 have also been liberally covered and chapter (11) has been devoted to an assessment of India’s professed level of commitment to the peace process. Chapter 3 presents a cooperative matrix for both countries, at the same time keeping the risks emanating from dissension in a nuclear environment well within sight.

Here, the arguments contending the powerful impact of stabilizing the Indo-Pak region in terms of fostering a surge in economic growth in the both countries while setting off a ripple effect of stability in South and West Asia and regions beyond the subcontinent appear credible and subsequently, the significance of Track-II/back channel diplomacy along side global intervention (where needed) has also been put forth to facilitate the course of composite dialogue. In an atmosphere where talks on core issues have so far remained inconclusive, response to trade and economic cooperation has been more favorable and slow advances have, in fact, been made.

The emerging Indo-US relationship accounts for the visible tilt of US towards a country whose perceived hegemonic designs are as much a cause of regional concern as its nuclear triad aspirations that, in effect, openly conflict with the stated U.S. nuclear objectives.

Chapter 4 on ‘Bush and the Indo-U.S. Nuclear Deal’ investigates the U.S. Interest of turning India into a ‘global power’ . We may well attribute globalization with these disturbing but seemingly unavoidable shifts in allegiance as the expansion of global benefits has a powerful appeal and India finds itself in an advantageous position with none of the liabilities of security issues affecting Pakistan of late.

The carving out of a civil nuclear cooperation agreement was unprecedented in that it was done without the involvement of American public or Congress ahead of time. What this growing partnership portends for the Asian region and Pakistan in particular, in terms of preservation of the depth of U.S.-Pak commitment and the expectancy of an even handed approach in the U.S. dealings can only be imagined. Regrettably, both India and Pakistan have been saddled with a nuclear albatross, the deterrence value of which is subject to interpretation.

The Chapter on ‘WMD: Pakistan’s Perspective’ relays Pakistan’s support of a ‘non discriminatory WMD free world’ with a look at the initiatives aimed at reducing nuclear weapons. Though the modernization of the U.S. nuclear arsenal can be blamed for the escalatory nature of the arms race but I will add that the START Treaty and INF Treaty are, in fact, responsible for reductions in the U.S. nuclear arsenal and the unilateral denuclearization of its army. In Russia, the U.S. has so far successfully negotiated reduction of strategic and elimination of the intermediate, although tactical nuclear weapons still remain.

Profiling the major stakeholders in stability stationed within the Asian neighborhood, the book further proposes that the ECO and SCO join forces in creating a greater security and economic bloc to interact with SAARC, thus contributing to the economic uplift of this region. The emergence of EU as a trading bloc serves as an inspiring model of regionalism, one of many, for the Asian region. The growing concern of energy security mentioned in Chapter 8 is given a serious look alongside some non traditional security challenges of poverty, arms/drug trafficking etc . The capability of Iran or Turkmenistan to replenish the declining natural gas deposits of Baluchistan, for instance, remains debatable. Now turning to Pakistan’s closest neighbors,

Chapter 16 presents the strategic benefits of a Pak-Iran partnership in terms of politico-economic cooperation for the reconstruction of Afghanistan , the stability of which is jointly perceived to be linked with the core national interests of both these nations. Also, in Chapter 6, China which is said to ‘overtake Germany in economic output by 2008, Japan by 2015 and U.S by 2040’ , with its ‘sustained economic and strategic partnership’ calls for the strategic readjustment and enhanced cooperation between these two nations

The civilized world is in consensus that global dimensions of terrorism present a unique security challenge threatening the autonomy of concerned nations, so equally important are the areas dealing with Pak-US cooperation in combating terrorism and the ability to forge a liaison that is realistic; more durable and less conditional. Some people point out that the tribal economy is an anachronism and Chapter 14 ponders on the potential effect of introducing development packages in tribal areas in a bid to check the lawlessness; It also makes a clear distinction between ‘Jihad’ and ‘Terrorism’.

That the unequivocal acceptance of a ‘Greater Middle East’ plan by the U.S. garnered mixed sentiments among the Arab States brings up the argument that its success hinges, in part, on engagement of the concerned States in addition to the resolution of key causes of dissension in the Muslim world, specifically Palestine and Kashmir and the intransigence engulfing these issues. The writer argues in the final chapters that if the US can be seen in an objective perusal of the ME political and economic reforms, much less focus will be on the sincerity of its intentions and more on the attainment of mutually beneficial goals. .

Stalling for peace now presages a disaster of global proportions; that much has been established. So keeping the inner complexities of regional relationships within Asia in mind when endorsing a durable settlement of leftover conflicts, the recognition and ultimate acceptance of rising foreign stakes and their stabilizing influence taken with compatibility of ideals might foster a deeper commitment to usher in an era of cooperative defense and comprehensive security.

Images Courtesy of: http://www.stepmap.de/getmapimg.php?id=187236&w=480&m=2

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