Emerging South Asian security complex calls for expansion of regional institution

By Khurram Abbas Source:Global Times Published: 2014-5-29 19:43:01

It seems increasingly clear that security issues in South Asia cannot be solved by South Asian countries alone.

The India-China border conflict in 1962 gave the first indication that South Asian security issues could not be fully addressed until China is involved.

In 1979, a couple of incidents occurred outside the South Asian security complex, but affected South Asia in different ways. The Afghan war and Iranian Revolution paved the way for the expansion of the South Asian security complex.

In 1985, during the formation of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), all the above mentioned incidents could not get attention in the eyes of those who were establishing a comprehensive regional organization. Therefore, the formation process restricted the geographical boundaries and incorporated seven states into the security complex of South Asia.

After almost 20 years, these seven states realized that without Afghanistan's inclusion into SAARC, the security complex of South Asia would remain inadequate. As a result, Afghanistan was incorporated into the organization, and was recognized as an important state for the South Asian security complex.

Ironically, South Asian countries once again did not recognize the importance of China and Iran, both in terms of the security and economic issues linked with South Asia.

But it is a recognized fact that if Afghanistan can become part of the South Asian security complex, then China and Iran have several reasons to become part of SAARC.

China, which has a direct border with five out of eight SAARC countries, is actually deeply involved in South Asian affairs. This direct cooperation-competition paradox makes China eligible to be a member of SAARC and to be recognized as an important state within the South Asian security complex.

Iran, which shares border with Pakistan, is also a key state in South Asian dynamics. Iran has key issues in SAARC, including gas pipelines, narcotics issues, as well as border issues affected by non-state actors. Iran's key role in Afghanistan due to direct border connections increases its importance in this region.

Iran's inclusion in the South Asian security complex can provide South Asian states a better chance of cooperation and trade with energy surplus states under the banner of the South Asian Free Trade Agreement.

The idea of further expanding the regional security complex strengthens the emerging neighboring cooperation. The post US and NATO drawdown situation will further integrate China and Iran into the South Asian security paradigm due to Afghanistan's unpredictable situation.

The bipolarity in South Asia has left many issues unresolved. The changing strategic environment of South Asia from bipolar to multipolar can promote stability in the region. It is high time to incorporate these two states into the South Asian security paradigm for the stability of the region.

The author is an assistant research officer with the Islamabad Policy Research Institute. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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