Normal is repeatedly redefined to include more and more abnormals. The visible and tangible borders are also being redefined to include more and more invisible and intangible territories. The normal or traditional perception of any nation consisted of its physical boundaries or borders along with the entire population of citizens residing in it. Security of any sovereign state implied protection of its borders which physically determined the extent of jurisdiction of its governments. Nations built military strength to prevent, deter, protect or repel attacks by other nations. An encroachment by a state inside the territory or borders of another state was the only major threat to its sovereignty. The perception of government towards security was dominated by the ability to protect its land or sea borders.
Today, the world is very different. It is not symmetrical. It is not a world of borders but is a world of borderless threats, a world of cyber threats, a world of disasters on a fairly large scale that can cause a substantial damage to our citizens and their property.Today, we have to be prepared to protect ourselves from external threats of a different kind.How can a terrorist organization affect our computer systems, our banking systems , our air traffic systems ? How to respond to these threats ? How should we be interacting with other agencies to counter such threats effectively?
Cyberterrorism is a kind of politically motivated borderless threat perpetrated through the use of computers, information technology, networking and internet in order to carry out destructive and malicious terrorist activities.The risk lies in the fact that cyber terrorism can target government records, air traffic controls, control of dams, medical records as well as the financial and commercial infrastructure. Cyber intervention can cause breach of national security, loss of physical assets, digital assets and interception of vital services. Perhaps, China has recognized this and has even restricted a few sites including Facebook which are publicly available elsewhere.
Environmental and climatic change is altering the daily life in several places.Last year, President Obama touched down tiny Kotzebue, Alaska to observe how warming temperatures and melting permafrost are changing the way of life of arctic residents.Erosion from rising seas has already left several Alaskan villages in imminent danger of having to be relocated.Think about that- if another country threatened to wipe out an American town, we would do everything in our power to protect our territory.What are we doing to combat this borderless threat?
The refugee crisis in south east asia and in the Mediterranean can also not be solved using the traditional security approaches of border security.There is a fundamental difference between the fighting forces and the civilians. Neither the deployment of Thai, Malaysian and Australian navies to intercept and repel migrant boats nor the European Union proposal to destroy the vessels of Libyan ‘people traffickers’ be termed as humane. A militarized response to the state of affairs due to the social, political and economic conditions that are propelling refugee flows would be unethical, unreasonable and irrational.
Pandemics like Zika virus, ebola or H1N1 have affected the whole world and the borders between nations become irrelevant when they spread.According to an estimate, pandemic events would cost global economy over 6 trillion dollars- over 60 billion dollars per year in the 21st century.The report recommended spending 4.5 billion dollars annually on global prevention and response capabilities to reduce the threat posed by pandemic events. This threat transcends all borders making the traditional approaches of border security irrelevant.
All kinds of regulatory restrictions are applied on investigative and intelligence agencies thus making it difficult for them to share and synergise available information with their counterparts across their borders.While fighting ISIS and other such terrorist organisations, intelligence agencies need to go borderless.Borderless threats can be countered only by borderless intelligence.Unless we take preventive measures which are not limited by borders, unless the personnel across the border team up against their common enemy, unless they use their combined skills to track the terrorists- we may not be able to reach the logical conclusion in our fight against terrorism. A terrorist may belong to Afghanistan, travel through Syria and Greece, procure arms from Germany and attempt a daring attack in France or United Kingdom. Terrorism knows no borders.
It is a known fact that disasters too, whether natural or technological, are not limited or restrained by borders. Hurricanes, storms, floods, environmental degradation and pollution due to industrial waste affect multiple countries at once when they occur.There was a possibility of the sea waters of Cuba getting affected during the BP oil spill.Indian and Pakistan face a huge loss due to the uncoordinated manner in which dykes and embankments have been built at the international border to stop the flooding of land on one side due to the river water of the other. If we have to prepare residents of a locality along a river or a canal for possible flooding , our efforts should not be limited by a political boundary.
The concern about borderless threats does not imply that the security of physical borders is a thing of the past . Maintenance of sanctity of the border, prevention of transborder crimes and protection of borders from the illegal movement of drugs, weapons and people is a necessary element for the sovereignty and identity of a nation. The emotions of an entire nation get affected by any transgression into its physical borders.But the deployment of security forces needs to be supplemented by mutual cooperation in raising the opportunities of employment, education and betterment of living standards between neighbouring countries. Imposition of sanctions and trade embargoes by one country upon the other, for whatever reasons, should be avoided. If United states imposed sanctions on Cuba, the people who got punished all these years were the innocent citizens of that country. This is a human right violation of another kind. If India deploys resources for the development of Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan; if United States ensures that Mexicans and Cubans get job opportunities in their own countries; if the objective is to ensure that the economy of all backward regions is at par with the developed nations, the threats will surely reduce. Afterall , development should be borderless too.
By: Piyush Mordia