Saturday, June 5, 2010

War and Peace in Asia

Doest the 21st century belong to Asia? Many economists, strategic experts and world leaders think so. The growing clout of Asian countries in the present international system, the strategic importance of Asia to the super powers and the relative escape of China and India from the global financial crisis have emboldened the view that Asia holds the key in an evolving multi-polar world in the new century. But at the same time, Asia faces several security challenges – both inter and intra-state challenges. “The Future of War and Peace in Asia”, a compilation of essays edited by N.S. Sisodia and S. Kalyanaraman, is looking into this strategic dimension of an emerging Asia.

As Sisodia, the director of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA), India’s premier strategic research think tank, notes in the preface, the impact of the global slowdown on Asian economies has “accelerated the shift of economic power to Asia”. The coming decade will see Asia becoming a principal theatre of international politics and security. One of the major challenges Asia will face in its rise, according to the book, will be intra-state conflicts. “Asia is the main theatre of action for jihadist groups, which among others, include the al-Qaeda and its franchises, Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, Pakistani groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Jamaat ul-Mujahideen and Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami in Bangladesh, Jemaah Islamiyah in the Southeast Asian countries, the Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippines, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan,” writes Kalyanaraman, a research fellow at the IDSA, in the introduction.

But the “security problematique” is not limited to intra-state conflicts. There are multiple actors -- Asian and non-Asian – who have security and economic interests in the region. Apart from India and China, the two countries often dubbed as key Asian powers in the coming decades, the US, Russia and Japan also have interests in the continent. The roles these five major and emerging powers play in the continent are crucial for “ensuring and maintaining long-term peace, stable balance of power, economic growth and security in Asia”.

The 18 chapters of “The Future of War and Peace in Asia”, divided into five key parts, discuss the changing face of war in the region and its geopolitical implications. The first part, “The Changing Face of War”, addresses the issue of “irregular warfare”, its manifestations in the Af-Pak region and West Asia and the challenges it poses to modern states. The second part, “Preparing for War”, explores how militaries in the region are modernizing themselves and preparing to face the existing and forthcoming security challenges. Will the technological advancements change the nature of war in Asia? What changes the space technology and missile defence are going to bring in the military doctrines of major Asian powers? Part three of the book, “Star Wars in Asia”, addresses these issues. The last two parts, “Asian Geopolitics” and “The Emerging Asian Order”, are mainly focused on the geopolitical angle. It also discusses the interests and interventions of big powers like the US and Russia in the Asian continent.

It is now a widely accepted view that the East is rising. Its economic clout is fast increasing in a world shaken by the collapse of western capitalism. But this rise could not be sustained unless the East prepares itself to face up to the security challenges. “The Future of War and Peace in Asia” brilliantly analyses the security dilemma of Asia countries and the geopolitical implications of the emerging Asian order. The editors have cautiously selected chapters so that the book can give a comprehensive understanding of conflicts and tensions in Asia and also the dynamics of power shift.

N.S. Sisodia and S. Kalyanaraman (Eds) (2010), “The Future of War and Peace in Asia”, New Delhi: Magnum Books. (Reviewed for Purple Beret)

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