Securitization In The Case Of Kashmir

Day 27. A Wednesday. International Relations.

Two decades ago, Ole Wæver, of the Copenhagen school of thought, conceptualised a new approach to security studies with the term securitization, it remains a relevant means to study conflict scenarios even today.

The lens of securitization

The route of securitization in many ways helped bridge the gap between the traditional school of thought, to whom security was state-focussed and the alternate school of thought whose primary concern was the survival of the individual. The need for a ‘bridge’ was evident by the rigid box of national security on the one hand and the problem of no full stops and ever-increasing parenthesis involving human security on the other.

While the classical definition of security was focussed only on protecting the state, a definition that not just existed in the political realm but also in history, philosophy and literature. Those focussed on redefining security had four goals that were — survival, development, freedom and identity.

To bridge the gap between these contrasting approaches Wæver focused on the specificities of an issue, “beginning from the modality of specific types of interactions in specific social arenas, we can rethink the concept security in a way that is true to the classical discussion, we can take the concepts of national security, threat and sovereignty, and show how, on the collective level they take on new forms under new conditions.”

It was this approach that led him to coin the term ‘Securitization’, which essentially meant that by terming certain developments as security issues it gave the state legitimate rights to ‘deal’ with the developments. He writes, “security is articulated only from a specific place, in an institutional voice, by elites. All of this can be analysed, if we simply give up the assumption that security is necessarily, a positive phenomenon.”[1]

An Analysis Of Societal Securitization In Kashmir

Wæver offers three levels of analysis for societal security — the traditional state centric perspective, the conventional-critical approach and the Securitization of identity. Each of these aspects of societal security can be seen in the conflict in Kashmir from events reported over the past month.

The state centric approach implies that societal security is focussed on protecting the state from the ‘society’. This form of Securitization becomes relevant especially when a society is a minority within the state, when such a society seeks to strengthen itself it becomes a threat to the state. In the case of Kashmir, the state has a favourite tool to ‘deal’ with this threat — ‘AFSPA’.

The 25th anniversary of the controversial law may have gone unnoticed but for the Amnesty Report, “Denied: Failures In Accountability For Human Rights Violations by Security Force Personnel in Jammu and Kashmir”[2]. While the most obvious fallout of the large umbrella of immunity granted to the armed forces is abuse of power, it is also a mechanism of the state to remain in control. It ensures that the society doesn’t disintegrate or turn against the state. It ensures that the balance of power remains with the state.

Securitization as a theory would force one to look at when, why and how did the elites succeed in labelling Kashmir as security issue that justified the use of AFSPA. Is it time to desecuritize these very same issues?

Wæver’s conventional-critical approach would point towards the broadening of the classical definition of security to include the individual. This according to him could lead to a “pedagogical project trying to convince people that although they feel threatened, there really is no security problem”.

The Trading for Peace initiative is one such project that seeks to return ‘normalcy’ to the valley. The idea being that trade across the borders will lead to trust across the borders. The blind trade system that allows businesses to carry own a barter system of 21 goods on a zero tariff list has been working effectively under the leadership of Conciliation Resources since 2009, in fact in June they won the Bond development organisation’s positive collaboration award[3]. Are awards enough to remove the insecurity faced everyday by the individuals living in the middle of this security problem?

It is in this context when both extremes of security studies become irrelevant to Kashmir that studying the mechanism that has led to the Securitization of Kashmir become relevant. In his own words, “such an approach implies that we have to take seriously concerns about identity, but have also to look at the possibilities of handling some of these problems in non security terms, that is to take on the problems but leave them unsecuritized”

[1] Wæver, Ole, Securitization and Desecuritization, On Security, Colombia University Press 1998

[2] Pokharel, Krishna India fails it’s own constitution in Kashmir: Amnesty International, Wall Street Journal, 1 July 2015

[3] Aziz, Tahir Kashmir: Trade between ex-combatants is bringing hope for peace, The Guardian, 19 June 2015