By Molly Igoe
International scholars came to Washington College on Tuesday, Feb. 7 to weigh in on the state of national security during the talk “Global Security Challenges to the US and the World.”
The event was moderated by Professor Muqtedar Khan, who teaches in the department of political science and international relations at the University of Delaware. He introduced the five speakers on the panel as participants of the State Department’s exchange program, where scholars from 18 countries come to the U.S. for six weeks to study various policy areas, including Congress, the democratic process, foreign policy, and national security. He ended by saying that they hope to enlighten people with these different programs.
Ishani Naskar, professor of political science at Rabindra Bharati University, and who specializes in South East Asian affairs, was the first panelist to speak. She focused on India, and began by speaking about the U.S.’s presence in Asia. In terms of the Trump administration’s policy continuity with the Obama administration’s, she believes that the U.S. will remain in Asia, which will thwart the possibility of a regional power taking over, like North Korea or China. To improve on the former administration, Naskar believes that the U.S. will have to reprioritize issues and engage in a retreat from militarism.
In terms of challenges facing South Asia, Naskar highlighted a few: terrorism in Pakistan, which is directly related to Afghanistan’s future, as Pakistan is a breeding ground for terror and anti-state activity; nuclear deterrence of India and Pakistan; and the strategic balancing of the region, comprising of China’s dominance, India as a regional hegemon, and building axes between China and Pakistan vis-a-vis the U.S. and India in a Cold War resurgence.
She then discussed current trade issues between the U.S. and India, which mainly result from trade imbalances between the two countries. There was a $1.7 billion imbalance last year, and the U.S. will likely demand more access to Indian markets, while promoting protectionism that will harm trade prospects. Naskar elaborated on these trade issues, and discussed other issues between the two countries, including U.S.-Pakistan relations, terrorism, and India-Iran relations.
Naskar ended with some recommendations for the Trump administration. She encouraged multilateral trade as opposed to bilateral trade, saying that the world was in the Asian century in terms of trade. She also proposed that, in order to engage with North Korea, China may be a necessary liaison.
The next speaker was Chester Cabalza, associate professor and course director at the National Defense College of the Philippines, a senior lecturer at the University of the Philippines Diliman, and a fellow at the National Defense University, PLA, China. He spoke about the Philippines’ president, Rodrigo Duterte, who is making it his mission to reconcile with China.
He said that, hopefully, sometime this year Dutarte will come to Washington D.C., as President Donald Trump recently extended an invitation to him. In addition, the Philippines is hosting the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit this year, where they will be responsible for setting the agenda. Member countries include Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Laos.
Regarding the Philippines’ relationship with the U.S., Cabalza said that most Filipinos would prefer to side with America over China if they were given the choice. Even with the Phillipines’ strong ties to China, the U.S. is their oldest ally and has more war experience.
He said that hopefully strong relations with the U.S. will continue, and that “our knight in shining armor won’t forget us.”
Yahya Alzahrani is an assistant professor at the College of Strategic Sciences, Naif Arab University for Security Science (NAUSS). He began by discussing the Gulf War and the current fight against terrorism, especially in Syria and Yemen. He also emphasized the importance of addressing the current refugee crisis in Europe amidst all the fear and uncertainty in that region.
In terms of security for countries, levels vary depending on their size, and other factors are taken into account as well. For example, he said, Saudi Arabia is the biggest country in the region with 32 million people, compared with Qatar, which is home to only 600,000. So, security practices and protocol in Saudi Arabia will vary greatly from security in smaller countries like Qatar.
Alzahrani then said two “wheels” are involved in this discussion: the wheel of change and the wheel of adaptation. One example he gave of the wheel of change was the use of social media to change opinions. The wheel of adaptation, he said, was best seen in countries that are trying to fill gaps so they do not depend so heavily on oil.
He ended by saying that these are very important times with Trump’s presidency and Iranian threats, and the need for a comprehensive and educated approach to address issues was vital now more than ever.
Raffaele Marchetti, senior assistant professor in international relations at the department of political science and the School of Government of Liberia Universitia Internazionale degli Studi Sociali Guido Carli di Roma (LUISS) in Rome, Italy, and Jessica de Alba-Ulloa, professor at the School of Global Studies at Universidad Anahuac Mexico both spoke after to conclude the talk.