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: Why Af-Pak is really just Pak

It's been a big week here in Islamabad. First off, there have two more bomb attacks, one at the naval compound down the street from where I am staying and one out in Pindi, the next town over. Secondly, Barack Obama finally announced his plans for the war in Afghanistan: 30,000 more troops now; phased withdrawal started in 18 months. Thirdly, Prime Minister Yousuf Reza Gilani completed a tour of Germany and Britain.

Pakistan: A Truce in Balochistan

When Americans hear about violence in Pakistan, they think mostly of the Taliban or of jihadis on the Kashmir border. But the single greatest threat to Pakistan right now is a third insurgency: of ethnic separatists in the Baloch province, who have been pushing for secession for years.

Pakistan: Playing the Spy Card

I'm settled, at last, in Islamabad, and trying to get my head around the transformation afoot here. Certainly, the country has come a long way since I was last here in 2005. One thing that is new is the size and the vibrancy of Pakistani media, in both Urdu and English, in print, on air and online.

Economics of Security: Setting Off

Today, I'm starting on a four-month project to report on the "economics of security," the relationship of economic concerns to political (in)stability in South Asia. In the last week, I've been giving myself a crash course in the latest books and articles on the subject. One argument that I find compelling is the one made by Vali Nasr in his newest book, Forces of Fortune: The New Muslim Middle Class and What It Will Mean for Our World.