Over the past decade, as Asia’s importance has increased economically, one can also witness a significant spurt in expenditures on homeland security. Researchers say that the Asia Pacific region market for homeland security market would grow at 20% or more annually. A heady cocktail of threats have made Asia the fastest growing Homeland Security market with China, India, Japan and Saudi Arabia being closely followed by the South East Asia tigers. The message is clear: Asia is already almost as big a market as the United States, which accounts for one third of the world’s Homeland Security expenditure. But unlike the US, it’ll be a mistake to look at the security situation in Asia as one constant. Asia has many geo-strategic regions, each with its own peculiarities, presenting challenges that are either indigenous or insurgencies that survive on cross border support. With the exception of the insurgencies in India’s north east, in across central India, and the LTTE in Sri Lanka now extinct, almost all terror groups in Asia, inspire their cadres with radical Islam from Philippines to Iraq, such as the ISIS in West Asia and LeT/JuD in Pakistan.
Even though al-Qaeda is a splintered shadow of its past and Osama bin Laden has been eliminated, the bands of suicide bombers from Pakistan to the Gulf States, continues to grow. But, the biggest challenge is now being posed by the jehadists of the Islamic State (ISIS) that have established a territorial homeland of their own and are raising money – apart from the windfall from captured cities in northern Iraq- by selling oil worth millions of dollars in the black market, from oil wells in their control. And though the US has reluctantly embarked into an air campaign against ISIS – asking the Arab states to battle ISIS on the ground, which the Arabs are hesitating against – the writing is clear: simply bombing the ISIS won’t work; but not bombing them, would make things worse! While the ISIS emerged as part of a western initiative with Arab support, to topple the regime of Bashr Assad in Syria, the ability of the ISIS to pay well, coupled with their reputation for ruthlessness, has begun to attract all sorts of jehadists from across the world and even from al-Qaeda’s fold.
Another major challenge is posed by the use of Proxy wars and Trans-national threats by States. This is sometimes even adopted as an instrument of policy by certain countries. Pakistan’s support for cross border groups that operate in Kashmir that has added momentum to the failures of New Delhi policies, or Islamabad’s support to the Taliban to dominate Afghanistan, are cases in point. Likewise, Israeli support for the Jundullah to undermine the Iranian government and the Iranian support for Hezbollah in Lebanon, or more recently the anti- Bahrain and anti-Saudi groups in the Gulf, are prominent examples. The challenges they pose are still not insignificant and could be most difficult to counter.
On the other hand, the indigenous insurgencies in Asia and sometimes conflicts with communal divides have their roots in poor governance and corruption, ethnic inequalities and sense of persecution by the State. In India, these can be seen in the Maoist movement across Central India and the tribal insurgency in Northeast India, whereas in Pakistan it is the Shia –Sunni divide, the Balooch insurgency and the Pashtun disaffection in the NWFP (Af-Pak region). Russia’s Chechen problem and China’s battle against discontent in Xinjiang, as well as the Kurdish problem across Iran, Iraq and Turkey all fall in these categories. These will require a combination of police cum military operations while adhering to the minimum force dictum to contain the problem, backed with imaginatively delivered packages that address the core grievances of the locals, employment, education, housing and roads.
Maroof Raza is a strategic affairs commentaror. Visit: www.maroofraza.com