South Asia: Economics of Security

"The Economics of Security" explores the threat of extremist violence in South Asia, especially Pakistan, and its possible remedies. Rather than emphasize the military struggle for control of the region, this project examines the problem through the lens of political power and economic development.

That is the approach increasingly favored by local lawmakers, security experts, development consultants and theologians. They seek employment for the poor young men who flock to extremism, alternatives to the opium trade for the farmers whose black-market products help finance the madrassas, and new social doctrines to break down the politics of class.

Yet economic solutions are hardly devoid of politics. Trade agreements, infrastructure projects, or investments in resources—all essential for economic growth—will require regional collaboration, between nations with checkered diplomatic histories and conflicting economic ambitions: Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and China.

Economic cooperation between Pakistan and India is particularly crucial. Their mutual hostility fuels militant movements, whose long tail reach is felt from Mumbai to Kabul. For India, reliant on foreign investment, trade, and tourism, the impact is economic as well as military. Indeed, diplomatic signals from the newly reelected government suggest India may now see regional security as key to its own economic survival, and regional economic partners as a source of future growth. As a result, it may be more willing to support regional development.

Through conversations with policymakers, academics, volunteers, military commanders, economists, central bankers, business leaders, clerics, teachers, and ordinary citizens, this project sets out to understand the economic life of South Asia and how it might be possible to quell the violence.

Pakistan: Conceptualizing Corruption

As I've written previously, the Pakistani government has been taking some heat. On Wednesday night, the controversy finally came to a full boil, and officials are still scrambling to keep the pot from bubbling over.

Pakistan: "Pakistan is more united" than ever--Gallup

The other day, I posted an interview with Gallup's Pakistan chief, Dr. Ijaz Gilani, in which he explained how electoral data belies the conventional wisdom that the present government is on the verge of political collapse. In the second half of our discussion, he applied a similar counterintuitive approach to substantive policy problems, namely the economy, counterterrorism, and civil war.

Where the first half of our chat focused on inside baseball, this one is pretty self-explanatory. But still, two significant implications:

Pakistan: Will he stay or will he go?

When I started on this trip, I planned to post 1-2 videos a week. For the first month, that's not been possible, because Islamabad has pretty much outlawed videotaping anywhere in the city. I've been stopped and ID'ed and questioned several times while trying to snap still images, and even inside buildings, officials are unwilling to go on camera. Since Tuesday, however, I've been in Karachi, where the rules are a little more lenient. Hopefully more visual aids will follow.

The Golden Mean in Pakistan

Political reformers in Pakistan have long argued that economic growth would bring about a decline in the militancy that today threatens to tear the country apart. While economic deprivation is undoubtedly a cause of political instability, recent history suggests that growth alone is not a solution.