Pandemic as a threat to national security

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Pandemic as a threat to national security

Monday, 25 May 2020 | Gautam Kumar Jha

Thankfully, all the casualties that the world has been witnessing have not permeated the defence community in a major way so far. But, what if the defence community is targetted by an enemy country? Or if the virus falls into the hands of terrorists?

A pandemic like COVID-19 can be a threat to the national security of a country which is not prepared to tackle such a disaster. The impact of the pandemic can be even more severe if such a virus is not natural but biologically altered by a country for its personal gains. The pandemic caused by COVID-19 is a result of the increasing conspicuous consumption in society. The ever-increasing need in almost every field of human consumption has given birth to a situation where the definition of a new-normal never stops. 

The greed of individuals is reflected in the proliferation of new products to be marketed with great conviction that inadvertently control the behavioural pattern of the majority of the consumers of the globe. One principal reason for this are the global commodity chains that have fostered greater movement of goods and people across continents. The impact of the contagion on the world economy is huge because the global North often seeks to subsidise its commodity consumption by outsourcing it to countries with weak labour laws and economies of scale with low manufacturing costs. Hence, China’s crisis became the world’s crisis even before the disease hit Europe and America. The present pandemic has proved that every human effort is defeated when it is a question of how to balance between natural and artificial eco-systems, given the increasing fluctuations in the climatic disorder.

One of the possible answers can be reducing the ever-increasing  need, consumerism and production and the establishment of sustainable infrastructure where humans and nature can complement each other. For the last four decades the whole world was on the path of globalisation, where every country understood the needs of the other and a symbiotic trade system was established. This resulted in alleviation of poverty, betterment of healthcare facilities and better lifestyles globally, to a certain degree. However, these developmental indices have been realised at the expense of natural resources. The increasing demand for foodgrain invited abundant use of pesticides that finally permeated into the human body, causing fatal diseases.

Similarly, the demands for security and defence-related products have further harmed nature, impacting the air, water and soil. However, the massive production lines in China have not only impacted the global community but the country itself has faced the negative impact of global greed and consumerism. A World Bank and Scottish Environment Protection Agency report says that around 7,60,000 people die prematurely each year in China because of air and water pollution.

This increasing imbalance in nature has been reflected in such  catastrophes and the possibility of their recurrence cannot be denied if the global community does not wake up.  No one can deny the fact that the COVID-19 virus originated from Wuhan province of China and the Wuhan Institute of Virology does research on most dangerous pathogens. There is a huge wet market for animals and seafood located in Wuhan. The bush meat, which may be termed as a cultural preference, may be detrimental for humans and is often a source of such pandemics.

No one can also deny that China hid the initial outbreak and failed to warn the world community of the severity of the virus, despite the fact that it knew how contagious it was and Wuhan is well-connected with the capitals of many countries around the globe.

As a result, the pandemic has affected 53,32,323 people and there have been 3,40,590 casualties till now, globally. However big this count may be, the economic and emotional implications of the outbreak are unfathomable. There is a global lockdown amid chaos and fear and there is a threat to the current world order. At times like this, the question of national security becomes very important. 

Thankfully, all the casualties that the world has been witnessing have not permeated the defence community in a major way so far. But, what if the defence community is targetted by an enemy country? Or if the virus falls into the hands of terrorists? The 9/11 attack on US soil 20 years ago redefined the security infrastructure of the global community and so far, more or less every country’s security design has been impacted by terrorism.

The spread of the Coronavirus has raised a big question on global security and now every nation has to redefine its security. The search for biological weapons by the US in Iraq in 2002 and further consequences were based upon the programme of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction from 1962 to 1991, aimed at attacking Iran, the Kurds and other purposes. There has been biological espionage between the West and the Soviet Union and so on.

In this manner, as confronted by the outcomes of the Coronavirus on most of the world networks, there is a need to again restore an elective power which might resemble the NAM, reboot the United Nations Organisation and reclassify worldwide security.

(The writer is Assistant Professor, JNU)

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