Is Pandemic Exposing National Security Vulnerabilities?

02.04.2020

Globalization has changed the understanding of national security to embrace new perspective in addressing national security issues. It has become evident that state security is not merely territorial integrity, but also the welfare of people, their survival and well-being. Nowadays states are facing novel threats, different from traditional security issues. These non-traditional security threats are transnational in nature, challenging policymakers to develop a non-state centered paradigm of security.

Non-traditional security issues are challenges to the survival and well-being of people and states that arise primarily out of non-military sources, such as climate change, infectious diseases, resources scarcity, natural disasters and transnational crimes. Since these dangers are transnational in scope; therefore, defying unilateral remedies and requiring wide-ranging social, political and economic responses. Ironically, the non-traditional security threats do not come from competition between states or appear amid changes in the balance of power, but the increased human activities including growing volume of trade, constructions of buildings, cutting of trees and emission of poisonous gases from industries and vehicles give them birth.

These new threats have been significantly increasing, in the form of climate change and diseases, since 1990 with the arrival of globalization. While playing with nature, humans have invited new infections which are on the increase, incurring extraordinary economic and health costs and globally degrading our natural capital. The new security challenges are pushing almost all the countries of the world to cooperate with each other and think globally

Evidently, the globalization has introduced several infectious diseases too such as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, Swine Flu in 2009, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2012, and now novel Coronavirus (COVID-2019). All the diseases have shown the capacity to affect detrimentally the security and well-being of all members of world society and the international economy. The paradox is that states are bound to ensure external (border) security and internal security. They are liable to protect as many of their citizens as possible and simultaneously they are responsible to ensure capability to fight against external aggression. In this situation, the new pandemic is pushing us back, weakening society, burdening economy and challenging political system concurrently.

Currently, the novel pandemic COVID-19 has reached in almost 178 states and it appears that all the government policies are failed to contain the outbreak.

Indeed, COVID-19 has become the most severe security threat and the sociopolitical crisis of the ongoing century. We still do not have a clear idea of its transmissibility, how infectious people are before their symptoms manifest and why some cases suddenly become severe. This uncertainty has unleashed that globalization is breeding new challenges for the existing security paradigm. On the one hand, the novel coronavirus is testing approaches to crisis management of our state, on the other hand, it is the trial run of security department to protect common people.

Just like other states, the COVID-19 has also been reported in multiple cities of Pakistan and fueled panic. Now there is a wide impact of this contagious disease, developing in form of lockdown, the disruption of transportation, shutting of educational institutes, closure of air traffic and continuous plunge in the stock market. The problem of mismatch between demand and supply of certain items has become annoying. It can be anticipated that the impact of a pandemic would be more severe for Pakistan. The likely situation is that the current crisis can trigger deprived class, those who are jobless and without assets, against elite class in the struggle of basic needs and the chances of lawlessness can be increased. Nevertheless, societal schisms can be prevented through an adequate response of the government.

The arrival of novel COVID-19 is also largely due to constant neglect of all governments. No one was paying heed to health sector; moreover, pandemics were not the main concern of security department. Similarly, when the cases of COVID-19 were rising in neighboring countries of Pakistan, meantime no preparatory actions were adopted to deal with the public health crisis. Presently, some preventive measures are being taken by the government and people; however, it should have done earlier. The first priority of government at this time should be to provide clarity and protection to the general public. The prevailing situation is portraying that non-traditional security threats have been widely ignored and not taken seriously.

Certainly, the threats posed by infectious diseases are so complex because the novel pandemic transcends territorial boundaries, so government must pay heed to introduce a new dimension of human security in diplomacy. Associating pandemics with security threats would help government to hone the best countermeasures to curtail the outbreaks in the future. 

It has been proved that national approach to managing pandemic is no longer enough but this disorder is presenting our global human interconnectedness more clearly. Therefore, some modifications are required in the theories of security and the new actions must be made to safeguard people. Our government should work locally and think globally.

It is time to act sensibly, forget the politics of political parties, unmuzzled media and let the public health experts speak to share valuable information to the public in this critical time. In addition, it is pertinent to highlight that the National Security Council should take a committed group of specialists on the pandemic disease.

Our government must also make pandemic disease a national security priority. We should build our capacity to deal with different outbreaks when they occur. A suitable strategy should be tailored to the threat pandemics pose and should include it in diplomacy along with public health preparation.

To conclude, the contagious disease has exposed the vulnerabilities of national security councils/departments worldwide. The Security Councils are not made to manage borders merely, non-traditional threats such as infectious diseases require equal attention. The need for the preparedness should not be ignored. We need to realize that this planet belongs to us and we all are responsible for its protection.