A Seminar on

Comprehensive Nature of Security

Guwahati, 11 January 2005

The Centre for Development and Peace Studies, Guwahati in collaboration with the New Delhi based Delhi Policy Group organized a day-long seminar titled ‘Comprehensive Nature of Security’ in Guwahati on 11 January 2005. The purpose of the seminar was to create a dialogue on the expanded nature of security which impacts on the states of South Asia. The seminar was inaugurated by the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Assam Sri Tarun Gogoi.

The seminar aimed at examining the ideas and needs of security in the framework of an interdisciplinary matrix. There has been for some time a questioning of the primacy of the state-led military element in the conceptualization of security. This has led to the widening of security agenda by claiming a security status for a range of issues beyond the purely military dimension. The wider range of issues includes economic, environmental and societal issues, in addition to the political and military factors which have traditionally defined security. There has also been a preference over the last decade in India and South Asia, to separate the military dimensions of security from the non-military aspects and examine them as two distinct entities. The Comprehensive Security Dialogue was an attempt to combine the competing perspectives of the ‘narrow’ and ‘wide’ streams of security thought with a view to obtaining a constructive and interactive security outlook involving the state and people.


In the inaugural session, Mr Wasbir Hussain, Director, CDPS extended the welcome address which was followed by the introduction of the Seminar theme by Lt Gen (retd) V.R.Raghavan, Adviser, Delhi Policy Group, New Delhi. In his address as the chief guest, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said that security has assumed various dimensions in today’s world, specially after the September 11 terrorist attack in the United States. The term ‘security’ has come to acquire different meanings since the end of the Cold War. By security, one primarily meant State, power and military security during the cold war era, but at the end of it, the focus of security shifted from the military to the non-military spheres. “So today, when one talks of security, one talks about food security, human security, environmental security and social security among others. Discourses as this one in today’s seminar are important to understand the different dimensions of security challenges and to evolve effective responses to deal with them. The Government or government agencies alone cannot respond to different security challenges—the people or the masses too have a role to play”. The vote of thanks was delivered by the CDPS President T L Baruah, IAS (Retd.)

Paper: ‘Critical Security Studies and Northeast India: Rethinking Insurgency and Counter-insurgency’ by Dr Sanjib Baruah
Discussant: Mr Noni Gopal Mahanta, Dept of Pol Science, Gauhati University

Paper: ‘Globalization and Security’ by Ambassador I. P. Khosla
Discussant: Dr Madhurjya Bezbaruah, Gauhati University

Paper: ‘Locating Security: A look into the State and Civil Society Responses in India’s Northeast by Dr Bibhu Prasad Routray
Discussant: Mr Wasbir Hussain, Director, CDPS
Vote of Thanks: Mr P.J.Baruah, Joint Secretary (Hony), CDPS
Critical Security Studies and Northeast India: Rethinking Insurgency and Counter-insurgency

Paper by Dr Sanjib Baruah
(About the Author— Dr Sanjib Baruah is Head, Centre for Northeast India, South and Southeast Asia Studies [CENISEAS], OKD Institute, Guwahati. Prior to his current assignment, Dr Baruah was Professor of Political Studies at Bard College, Annandale on Hudson, New York. Baruah has authored several books, his latest being ‘Durable Disorder: Understanding Politics of Northeast India’, OUP, 2005. His earlier book is ‘India Against Itself: Assam and the Politics of Nationalism’, University of Pennsylvania Press and OUP, 1999.)


Both among theorists of international relations and among security experts revisionist notions of security have become quite commonplace. That the term security is often modified these days by words such as comprehensive, common or cooperative is an illustration of this trend. There are many implications of this practice. It is generally accepted that security has military as well as non-military aspects. Thus the concept of human security used in the World Development Report of the United Nations Development Program includes economic security, food security, health security, environmental security, personal security, community security, and political security.

Many critics worry about that overburdening the term security with so many meanings might lead to the term losing all analytical value. However, the revisionism in security studies embodies important political insights. It de-privileges the state and the notion that state-provided security necessarily makes citizens feel more secure. Yet some of the rhetorical moves made by managers of state security in the context of post-9/11 conditions reinforce the state-centrism of the orthodox concept of security. This for instance, is the case with the argument that domestic security and national defence issues have become blurred in the context of the struggle against terrorism.

The paper will reflect on the agenda of broadening and deepening security discourse by looking at a few aspects of the contemporary condition in Northeast India. For instance, in areas where state forces engage in counter-insurgency operations ethnic militias and the state forces may be both a source of citizen insecurity. The notion of a security dilemma that traditional international relations theory uses to explain the ‘anarchic’ nature of global politics can explain some of Northeast India’s protracted conflicts. In many remote parts of the region since the state is not seen as a reliable provider of security, when an ethnic group forms its militia, a rival ethnic group may see it as a threat to its security. The latter group then forms its own ethnic militia in pursuit of security through self-help. In these conditions entrenching the "state-as-protector" mythology does little to either throw light on the ground situation or produce security as a public good.

Globalisation and Security
Paper by I.P.Khosla
(About the Author— Education: St. Stephens College, Delhi Univ. and Emmanuel College, Cambridge. Joined the Foreign Service in 1960 and served initially in Vienna and Algiers, where he helped to establish the Embassy. Has also served as Counsellor(POL) in London. Thereafter served as India's Ambassador to Bhutan, Bangladesh (as High Commissioner) to Afghanistan, and to the Netherlands. Secretary to government in the Ministry of External Affairs, 1989-92. Retired from service in 1996. Has written extensively on security issues including non-traditional security, as also on other matters relating to India's external interests, particularly India's relations with South Asian neighbours.)


For the purpose of this presentation, globalisation and security should be understood to mean the interaction between two things. First, the accelerated coming together of individuals, groups, peoples and nations; this usually means a coming together in better relations, as through trade, finance, mutual environmental concern and the spread of information and news; but it could also mean not so friendly contact, which too has been accelerated and made more intense. Second, the expanded nature of security that has developed in the last two decades and which is at the heart of the comprehensive security concept developed by the Delhi Policy Group.

It is important to understand this interaction in order to separate desirable outcomes from those which are not desirable.

When the idea of security is given a comprehensive perspective we can readily relate the economic security of the individual, as one example, to the increased job opportunities created by an expansion in exports, which may itself be the result of a liberalised trading regime initiated by the World Trading Organisation; or better technology for rural areas as a result of imports creating wealth for the villages. One can give many examples of such desirable outcomes.

On the other hand violence by insurgent or terrorist groups is today closely linked to the darker side of globalisation: the booming traffic in narcotics; criminal syndicates dealing in the international arms trade; even state support for violence carried out against another state.

Once the different kinds of outcomes have been separated it becomes easier to understand that while security should be comprehensive, this cannot be taken as a limitless license to expand its borders. And to understand that even globalisation has to be approached with caution, and keeping in mind that some of its aspects are deleterious to the long term security of the individual as much as of the state.

Locating Security: A look into the State and Civil Society Responses in India’s Northeast
Paper by Dr. Bibhu Prasad Routray
(About The Author : Dr. Bibhu Prasad Routray is the Director of the Database & Documentation Centre of the New Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management in Guwahati. He received his doctoral degree from the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi in 2001. Having worked as a Research Associate in ICM, New Delhi from August 2000 to August 2001, he was subsequently posted in Guwahati. He has travelled extensively in the northeast and has written extensively in various journals, print media and on the web on terrorism, internal security and democracy.)


Home to more than a hundred militant outfits, the seven States of the northeast constitute a unique challenge to the stability of the Indian State. In spite of the overwhelming presence of a large number of security forces, solution to the problems of militancy is nowhere in sight. In fact, a ‘culture of violence’ appears to dominate the mechanics of dissent-articulation in the region and that explains the origin and growth of a number of militant outfits. The continuing bush war between the security forces and the militants has resulted, in many of the States, in a virtual breakdown of governance.

Where as the State response to such militant violence has been primarily along military lines, the civil society’s contribution too has been found wanting in the region. The protracted armed movements, the longest being more than five decades old, have made ‘human insecurity’ a way of life. The civil society, which has developed some sort of immunity to the unending violence, too has failed to come up with an alternative voice for peace and security. In the context of this continuing chaos, the paper is an attempt to assess and analyse the responses of the State and the civil society groups to such endemic violence.