Global spending on Homeland Security now stands at about $200 billion annually. But with budgets in Asia now set to increase by 30-percent in its trillion-dollar-plus market, where China, India, Japan and Saudi Arabia are 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 geostrategic regions, each with its own peculiarities, presenting challenges that are either indigenous or insurgencies that survive on cross border support.
The indigenous insurgencies 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 the centre and the tribal insurgency in the north-east, 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 require a combination of police cum military operations 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.
The second challenge is posed by proxy wars and trans-national threats. This is sometimes even used as an instrument of policy by certain countries, such as Pakistan’s support for cross-border groups that operate in Kashmir which has added momentum to the failures of New Delhi policies, or Islamabad’s support to the Taliban groups in Afghanistan. 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.
Finally, trans-national terror groups either linked with or inspired by Al-Qaeda – from Philippines to Iraq – have inspired their cadres with radical Islam. While Osama bin Laden has been eliminated and Al-Qaeda may be in tatters, his legacy continues to motivate suicide bombers from Pakistan to the Gulf States. The challenge they pose is still not insignificant, and most difficult to counter.
A heady cocktail of these threats have made Asia the world’s fastest-growing Homeland Security market. And Securing Asia 2012, a unique initiative to be held in London from 25th to 27th June at the QE-II Centre, will not only showcase the technologies and training methodologies that Asian countries need, but will bring together, for the first time, the buyers and the suppliers under one roof, to equip Asian countries for their battles ahead.
Maroof Raza is a well-known commentator on military and homeland security issues, especially on television, appearing frequently on TIMESNOW, India’s leading television news channel. He also writes for the editorial pages of The Times of India and The Hindustan Times, and a regular column in the monthly magazine he publishes, “Salute”.