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Asian Relations Conference –VI (ARC-VI)

New Delhi, India

‘Non Traditional Themes in Asian Foreign Policies’

March 23-24, 2015

Concept Paper



The Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) is hosting the Sixth Asian Relations Conference (ARC-VI) on ‘Non Traditional Themes in Asian Foreign Policies’ in March 2015.

Non Traditional Themes (NTT) in international relations refer to challenges faced in the 21st Century that go beyond the classical issues of peace and war, diplomacy and economic co-operation among states. These themes encompass the broad linkages between security and development, highlighting the issue of security in the economic sense, including the idea of Non-traditional Security (NTS), and also cover the impact of science and technology in international relations. There is a need to examine these critically in a holistic manner, taking the broad Asian perspective in view with the intention to promote the idea of latent unity in various regions of Asia.

Towards this end, this conference will address a number of NTT in foreign policy discourse of Asian countries and their threats and challenges to Asia. The conference is divided in seven sessions including inaugural and concluding session.


Session I

Non Traditional Themes: The Evolving Concept

There has been an attempt to go beyond the concept of traditional security and theory as practice of international relations is moving into new areas, emanating from nexus between security and development. NTT in international relations broadly include: climate change, infectious disease, natural disaster, irregular migration, food shortage, smuggling of persons, drug trafficking and other forms of transnational crimes. NTT in foreign policy go beyond the NTS and include issues of resource scarcity, economic/financial crisis and cyber security and have implications at the global, regional and at national levels. Besides being non-traditional in nature, these challenges are transnational in scope (neither purely domestic, nor interstate) and cannot be addressed by one country; instead they require multilateral approaches.

This session attempts to examine NTT in general and in Asian foreign policy discourse in particular. The issues that need to be looked into are: (a) Evolution of NTT in foreign policy discourse of Asian countries (b); How these themes have been moulded to suit the domestic policy priorities of Asian countries to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)?; (c) What are the methods used by states to confront the non-traditional challenges to security of States?

Session II

Challenges of Economy, Public Health and Ecology

Millions of people in Asia live under Below the Poverty Line (BPL) and sustaining a decent livelihood is a major challenge. Food, water, health care, sanitation, education and employment are pressing issues and there are increasing expectation from the States to provide basic necessities to the people. In essence, States are under enormous pressure to address the above human security issues.

Climate change also has a direct bearing on the economic development of Asian countries. The cultivable and available land area is under constant pressure from the demands of increasing population as well as urbanisation and industrialization. This is increasing pressure on people to look for other economic avenues leading to migration within and outside the region. This can potentially affect internal stability of the country or the region due to altered ethnic and religious composition.

This raises a number of questions which merit attention: (a) What is the impact of climate change on economic development of the region?; (b) How NTS issues could result in instability in the region?; (c) How the human security is linked to energy security?; and (d) How to evolve a consensus at regional level to deal with human security issues, particularly human migration?

Session III Challenges of Insecurity and Violence

NTT in Asian foreign policies also include issues such as: piracy, drug trafficking, human smuggling and illegal immigration. States are vulnerable and at risk due to the above activities carried out by non state actors. There is a need to prevent these sources of violence in Asian societies apart from confronting violent extremism.

In this context, some of the questions that need to be addressed are: (a) Is there a need for states to evolve consensus policies in dealing with these threats and challenges?; (b) What is the role of internal socio- economic and political stability in dealing with the issue of human smuggling and illegal migration?; and (c) How the above issues influence the functioning of regional institutions and organisations formed on the basis of economic and cultural co-operation among member States?

Session IV Technology in Asian Relations

Due to rapid technological developments in areas of space, nuclear, oceanography, science and technology, Information and Communication (ICTs) and social media the relative remoteness and isolation of peoples/places have been substantially eroded and free flow of ideas, people, goods, information and capital has opened new avenues for cooperation as well as conflicts in Asia.
Countries are increasingly depending upon technology to improve the way of life and to further socio-economic and energy development. Sharing this technology among the developed and developing nations is important to tackle damaging consequences of other NTS threats and challenges. However, unregulated technological space can potentially become a national threat if appropriate policies are not implemented by States to check violations.

In this scenario the questions that need to addressed are: (a) Relevance of technology in dealing with NTS?; (b) What is the role of multilateral and regional institutions in promoting technology to address NTS issues?; (c) What are the measures that should be taken by the States to prevent the use of technology by non state actors for destabilization of the region?; (d) and What are the measures that should be taken to fill the technology gap between the less developed and developed countries?


Session V Regional Groupings: Towards Continental Convergence

Regional groupings apart from multilateral organizations, are attempting to address NTT in security sphere. Most of the Asian states emerged in the 1940s and are yet to settle their conflicts (internal and external) while some have become the epicenter of conflicts. Poor economic and social development and lack of opportunities are some of the reasons pushing many people to take up arms against the State leading to internal conflicts. Most of the NTS threats and challenges have regional implications.
Therefore, promoting convergence in Asian regional groupings in dealing with the above mentioned issues is important. Some of the questions that merit the attention are: (a) Are the existing regional and multilateral mechanisms in place are equipped to deal with NTT and issues?; (b) What role States should play in dealing with these threats?; (c) What are the prospects to evolve consensus approach to deal with NTT at regional level?

Session VI Enablers: Governance and Institutions
Good governance is a universally recognized pre-requisite for development. It has emerged as the core of administrative reforms undertaken by both the developed and the developing countries including transitional economies. South Asia is rich in culture and tradition but poor in governance and human development. What does good governance mean to the people of South Asia? How should the quality of governance be assessed in the region where majority of population lives in abject poverty? What are the constraints on good governance among South Asian countries? Which are the institutions to be transformed for delivering good governance?