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CBSE Notes | Class 12 | Political Science | Contemporary World Politics | Chapter 7 - Security in the Contemporary World.

The chapter Introduces students to different notions of Security: Traditional and Non-Traditional. We also highlight cooperation among various states in arms control through various arms control treaties and the New sources of threats.

What Is Security?

The term "security" refers to the absence of threats.

Human life and the life of a country are both fraught with dangers. Every time a person leaves his or her home, their existence and way of life are threatened in some way.

Things that threaten 'core values' should be considered in security discussions.

Security only refers to extremely dangerous threats that could jeopardise core values to the point where they would be irreparably damaged if we did nothing to address the situation.

There are two types of security conceptions: traditional and non-traditional.

Traditional Notions

What are the external threats?

Traditional security thinking holds that military threats pose the greatest threat to a country. Any other country jeopardises the core values of sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity by threatening military actions. 

In a situation like war not only soldiers are likely to be injured or killed. Ordinary men and women are frequently made targets of war in order to severe the alligiance to the conflict.

In such a situation a government has the following options to choose:

  • surrender 

  • promise to increase war costs in order to deter the opposing side from attacking.

  • To defend itself in the event of a war, denying the attacking country.

When faced with a conflict, governments may choose to surrender, but this is not advertised as the country's policy.

As a result, security policy is divided into two parts: deterrence, which is concerned with preventing war, and defence, which is concerned with limiting or terminating the war.

The third component of traditional security policy is the balance of power.

As a result, governments are acutely aware of the power dynamic that exists between their country and other nations. They work hard to maintain a favourable power balance with other countries, particularly those in close proximity, with whom they disagree, or with whom they have previously clashed.

Alliance Building

Military power is an important part of maintaining a balance of power, but economic and technological power are also important because they serve as the foundation for military power.

Traditional security policy includes a fourth component: alliance building.

An alliance is a group of states that work together to deter or defend against military attacks. Most alliances are formalised in written treaties and are based on a fairly clear identification of who poses a threat.

Why Alliances are formed?

Alliances are formed by countries to increase their effective power in comparison to another country or alliance.

Alliances are formed based on national interests, and these interests can shift over time.

For example, in the 1980s, the United States supported Islamic militants in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union, but later attacked them after Al Qaeda—an Islamic militant group led by Osama bin Laden—launched terrorist attacks against America on September 11, 2001.

The majority of security threats come from outside a country's borders. This is because the international system is a rather brutal arena with no central authority capable of regulating behaviour.

Within a country, the threat of violence is regulated by an acknowledged central authority — the government — but there is no acknowledged central authority that stands above everyone else in global politics.

It's alluring to believe that the United Nations is or could be such a power.

The United Nations is a member-driven organisation, and its authority exists only to the extent that its members allow it to exist and obey it. Each country is responsible for its own security in international politics.


Traditional security is also concerned with internal security.

It is not given as much weight because, following WWII, it appeared that the internal security of the world's most powerful countries was more or less assured.

Following 1945, the United States and the Soviet Union appeared to be united and to be on the verge of establishing peace within their respective borders.

The majority of European countries, particularly those in powerful Western Europe, faced no serious threats from within-border groups or communities.

These countries focused their efforts primarily on threats that came from outside their borders.

The Cold War was a period following WWII in which the Western alliance led by the United States fought the Soviet-led Communist alliance.

Both alliances were wary of each other's military assaults.

Furthermore, some European powers were concerned about violence in their colonies caused by colonised people seeking independence. (For example, in the 1950s, the French were in Vietnam, and the British were in Kenya in the 1950s and early 1960s.)

When the colonies gained independence in the late 1940s, their security concerns mirrored those of European powers.

Some newly independent countries, such as Europe's major powers, became members of Cold War alliances. The Cold War between the two superpowers was responsible for roughly one-third of all wars in the post-World War II period. The vast majority of these conflicts occurred in the Third World.

The European colonial powers feared violence in the colonies, and some colonial people feared that their former colonial rulers in Europe would attack them after independence.

As a result, they needed to prepare to defend themselves in the event of imperial war.

Security challenges confronting newly independent Asian and African countries differed from those confronting Europe in two ways. First, the new countries had to deal with the threat of war with their neighbours. They had to be worried about internal military conflict as well.

These countries faced threats not only from the outside, primarily their neighbours, but also from within. Many newly independent countries began to fear their neighbours more than the US, the Soviet Union, or former colonial powers.

They fought for control of borders and territories, as well as people and populations, or all three at the same time.

Internally, the new states were worried about separatist movements attempting to establish independent states. At times, external and internal threats merged.

External and internal wars posed a serious threat to the security of the new states.

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Traditional Security And Cooperation

Traditional security recognises that cooperation can reduce violence.

Both ends and means of war are constrained. Those countries should only go to war for legitimate reasons, such as self-defence or to prevent genocide, which is now widely accepted.

The means of war must also be limited. Armies must not kill or injure non-combatants, unarmed combatants, or those surrendering.

They must not be violent. Force should be used only when all other options have failed.

The most critical are disarmament, arms control, and confidence-building. Disarmament requires all states to give up certain weapons.

The BWC of 1972 and the CWC of 1992 prohibit the production and possession of these weapons (CWC).

The BWC has 155 signatories, while the CWC has 181. Both conventions had great power representation. But the superpowers — the US and the USSR — refused to give up the third type of WMD, nuclear weapons, and instead pursued arms control.

As a defensive shield against a nuclear attack, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) was signed in 1972.

Both countries could deploy a limited number of defensive systems, but not mass produce them.

Other arms control treaties signed by the US and the USSR include SALT II and SART (START). That is countries that had tested and manufactured nuclear weapons before 1967 could keep them, while those who had not were required to give up their right to acquire them.

The NPT did not ban nuclear weapons; it only limited the number of countries that could possess them.

Traditional security accepts confidence building as a means of avoiding violence. Countries share information and ideas with their adversaries to build confidence.

Building confidence is a strategy to avoid wars caused by misunderstandings or misperceptions.

Traditional security concepts focus on the threat or use of military force. Force is the primary security threat and the primary security solution in traditional security.

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Non-Traditional Notions

In addition to military threats, this concept encompasses a wide range of threats and dangers affecting human existence.

Human security in a non-traditional sense, in which the emphasis shifts from the state to the individual. It is security in a broad sense, including other forms of insecurity such as hunger, poverty, civil war, and so on.

In the last century, their own governments have killed more people than foreign armies. According to all proponents, the primary goal of human security is to protect individuals.

Supporters of the 'narrow' definition of human security focus on violent threats to individuals, or, in the words of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, "the protection of communities and individuals from internal violence."

According to proponents of the "broad" concept of human security, hunger, disease, and natural disasters kill far more people than war, genocide, and terrorism combined.

According to human security policy, people should be protected from both these threats and violence.

The human security agenda includes economic security and "threats to human dignity."

To put it another way, the broadest formulation emphasises "freedom from want" and "freedom from fear."

Global security emerged in the 1990s in response to global threats such as global warming, international terrorism, and health epidemics such as AIDS, bird flu, and COVIT-19.

These problems cannot be solved by a single country. In some cases, a single country may be forced to bear a disproportionate share of the burden of a global problem, such as environmental degradation.

New Sources Of Threats

Human security and global security both have non-traditional perspectives that emphasise the changing nature of security threats.


It refers to political violence that targets civilians on purpose and indiscriminately. International terrorism involves citizens or territories from more than one country.

Terrorist organisations use force or the threat of force to alter a political context or condition that they do not agree with.

Civilians are frequently targeted in order to terrorise the public and use public dissatisfaction as a weapon against national governments or other opposing parties.

Terrorists have previously hijacked planes or planted bombs in trains, cafes, markets, and other crowded places.

Despite the fact that terrorism is not new, other governments and the general public have paid more attention to it since the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001. Previously, the majority of terrorist attacks took place in the Middle East, Europe, Latin America, and South Asia.

Human Rights

It is divided into three sections. Political rights include freedom of expression and assembly.

There are two kinds of rights: economic and social rights.

Rights of colonised peoples, as well as ethnic and indigenous minorities. Events such as Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, Rwanda's genocide, and Indonesian military killings in East Timor have sparked debate over whether the UN should intervene to stop human rights violations.

Some argue that the UN Charter authorises the use of force in the defence of human rights. Others argue that the national interests of powerful states will determine which cases of human rights violations the UN will investigate.


It exacerbates insecurity. Global population will rise to 700-800 million in 25 years, then stabilise at 900-1000 million.

More than half of global population growth is now attributed to these countries.

Most developing countries' populations are expected to triple in the next 50 years, while many wealthy countries' populations will shrink.

Wealthy states and social groups benefit from low population growth, while poor states and social groups benefit from high income per capita.

A global divide between the Northern and Southern hemispheres exists.

For example, the majority of global armed conflicts now occur in Sub-Saharan Africa, the world's poorest region. More people were killed in wars in this region in the early twenty-first century than anywhere else.

Southern poverty has caused mass migration to the North in search of a better life, especially economic opportunity.

Global political tensions have risen. International law distinguishes between migrants (who leave voluntarily) and refugees (who are forcibly displaced) (those who flee from war, natural disaster or political persecution).

In general, states must accept refugees but not migrants.

Internally displaced people are those who have fled their homes but remain within national borders, as opposed to refugees.

Internally displaced Kashmiri Pandits fled the violence in the Kashmir Valley in the early 1990s.

A 1990s study found that all but three of the 60 refugee flows coincided with an internal armed conflict.

Migration, business, tourism, and military operations have accelerated the spread of epidemics like HIV/AIDS, bird flu, and SARS.

The ability of one country to control disease spread affects infections in other countries.

In 2003, an estimated 4 crore people had HIVAIDS, with two-thirds in Africa and half in South Asia.

In the late 1990s, new HIVAIDS drugs dramatically reduced deaths in North America and other industrialised nations.

Others, such as ebola and hantaviruses, have emerged, while old diseases like cholera, tuberculosis, and malaria have mutated into drug-resistant forms that are difficult to treat.

Economic consequences of animal epidemics. During the late 1990s mad cow disease outbreak, Britain lost billions of dollars, and bird flu shut down several Asian poultry exports.

Epidemics like these show how states are becoming more interdependent, diminishing the importance of borders and emphasising global cooperation.

Extending the definition of security does not include any disease or distress.

This will likely render the concept of security incoherent. Anything can cause a security breach.

Even if the threat is unique, it must meet a minimum common criterion, such as endangering the referent's (a state or group of people's) existence.

The Maldives may be threatened by global warming as rising sea levels submerge large portions of the country, while HIV/AIDS threatens Southern African countries as one in every six adults has the disease (one in three for Botswana, the worst case).

In 1994, the Hutu tribe slaughtered nearly five lakh Tutsi in Rwanda. The same as traditional security conceptions, non-traditional security conceptions are context-dependent.

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Cooperative Security

Rather than military confrontation, many of these nontraditional security threats necessitate cooperation.

Military force may have a role to play in combating terrorism or enforcing human rights (and even here, there are limits to what force can achieve), but it's hard to see how it would help alleviate poverty, manage migration and refugee movements, or control epidemics.

Using military force would almost always worsen the situation! It is far more effective to develop strategies that involve international cooperation.

Bilateral (between any two countries), regional, continental, or global cooperation are all possible. It all depends on the nature of the threat and the willingness and ability of countries to respond.

Nongovernmental organisations (Amnesty International, the Red Cross, private foundations and charities, churches and religious organisations, trade unions, associations, social and development organisations, businesses and corporations, and great personalities may all be involved in cooperative security (e.g. Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela).

Cooperative security may require the use of force as a last resort. The international community may be forced to sanction the use of force against governments that murder their own citizens or ignore the plight of their citizens who are afflicted by poverty, disease, and disaster.

Nontraditional security is far better when the international community sanctioned and used force collectively rather than when a single country decides to use force unilaterally.

How India is dealing with these security threats?

Traditional (military) and non-traditional threats to India's security have emerged from both within and outside its borders. Its security strategy is made up of four main components that have been used in various combinations over time.

India has been involved in conflicts with its neighbours in the past, including Pakistan in 1947–48, 1965, 1971, and 1999, and China in 1962.

India's decision to conduct nuclear tests in 1998 was justified by the Indian government as a means of ensuring national security because it is surrounded by nuclear-armed countries in the South Asian region.

In 1974, India conducted its first nuclear test. To protect its security interests, it must strengthen international norms and institutions.

Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first Prime Minister, supported Asian solidarity, decolonization, disarmament, and the United Nations as a forum for resolving international conflicts.

India has also taken steps to establish a universal and non-discriminatory non-proliferation regime in which all countries have the same rights and obligations when it comes to WMD (nuclear, biological, chemical).

It argued for a more equitable New World Economic Order (NIEO). Most importantly, it used non-alignment to help carve out a peace zone outside of the two superpowers' bloc politics.

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which provides a roadmap for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to combat global warming, has been signed and ratified by 160 countries. In support of cooperative security initiatives, Indian troops have been deployed to UN peacekeeping missions around the world.

Meeting internal security challenges: Several militant groups from Nagaland, Mizoram, Punjab, and Kashmir, among others, have attempted to secede from India on several occasions.

India has attempted to maintain national unity by adopting a democratic political system that allows various communities and groups to freely express their grievances and share political power.

Finally, India has attempted to develop its economy in such a way that the vast majority of its citizens are lifted out of poverty and misery, and huge economic inequalities are eliminated.

Democratic politics creates spaces for the voice of the poor and disadvantaged to be heard.

The democratically elected governments are under pressure to combine economic growth and human development.

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What do you understand by the term “Kyoto Protocol”?

The Kyoto Protocol is an international treaty that extends the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) by requiring state parties to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, based on the scientific consensus that (part one) global warming is occurring and that human-caused CO2 emissions are a significant contributor.

The Kyoto Protocol was signed on December 11, 1997, in Kyoto, Japan. It became effective on February 16, 2005.

There are currently 192 parties to the Protocol (Canada has withdrawn from the Protocol as of December 2012).

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