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Our Research Themes

In its programmes/activities, CSA’s emphasis has been on issues of contemporary relevance.  The major themes addressed are:

Conflict Resolution and Peace Building

The end of World War II has not ended wars in the world.  In fact an undefined global war is being enacted.  In the last decade alone, two and a half million people have died in conflicts all over the world, and another thirty one million have been displaced, have lost their homes and have had to flee from their villages and communities.  It is a sad but true reality that conflict is intrinsic to South Asia.  No South Asian country has been free from conflicts over the last five decades.  India’s internal conflicts are well known.  Pakistan and Bangladesh have witnessed conflicts.  The problems in Afghanistan have already invited  world attention.  Nepal, counted as a tourist paradise has gone through a bloody political turmoil.  Even a peaceful country like Bhutan has witnessed this phenomenon.  Sri Lanka’s ethnic problem has already caused 70,000 deaths and 800,000 displacements.  The situation has been no better in the South Asian neighbourhood.  The Central Asian states, Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia are also in similar conflicts.

Conflicts which are internal to a state, originate from many sources.  While international terrorism may be one source, the older and lasting sources are ethnic, religious, development related and ancient animosities.  The process of nation making is in itself a conflict prone enterprise.  Sustained peace after the end of conflict is required.  The way a conflict is resolved is itself a major factor on which the peace that follows can be built.  Peace, therefore, requires an architecture that must be built on the foundation of conflict resolution.

Conflicts always result in human suffering in the form of refugees or internally displaced persons.  The need to look into these issues compassionately was appropriately highlighted to the citizens of Chennai, academics and Government officials through a joint seminar with UNHCR on 25th September 2004.  The theme of the Seminar was Fostering Cooperation Towards Addressing Refugee Concerns.  The participants included Mr Lennart Kotsalainen, the Chief of Mission of UNHCR in India and Maldives and many other experts on the subject.  A seminar on Conflict Transformation and Peace Building in South Asia was organized in collaboration with Stella Maris College, Chennai on 18th August 2006.  Many academics from India as well as two students participated and presented papers.  Apart from others, a large body of the student community attended.

A number of roundtable meetings which directly or indirectly dealt with conflict resolution and peace building have been organized with international experts.  The list of speakers includes Dr Michael Krepon, Founder President, The Henry L. Stimson Center, Dr (Ms) Joan Rohlfing, Senior Vice President, Nuclear Threat Initiative, Ms Teresita C. Schaffer, Former US Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Head, South Asia Program, CSIS, Washington, Dr Francine R. Frankel, Founding Director, Center for the Advanced Study of India, University of Pennsylvania, Dr Stephen P. Cohen, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution and Mr B.G. Verghese, columnist and author.

The internal security situation in India is a major concern because of various types of internal conflicts.  The ongoing problems in Jammu & Kashmir, Northeastern part of India and the naxalite problem spread over many states are serious, deserving immediate attention.  In due course, CSA proposes to organize brainstorming sessions and workshops to address some of these conflicts.

Conflict in Sri Lanka

CSA encourages a continuing and sustained engagement on issues linked with conflict resolution and peace building in Sri Lanka.  Peace in Sri Lanka is a strategic security need for India.  With this in view, the CSA has so far organized a series of seminars and a number of lectures and discussions.

One of the major events on the ongoing conflict in Sri Lanka was a public lecture by Mr Chris Patten, the then Commissioner for External Relations, European Union on 27th November 2003 on Conflict Prevention and Peace Building with special reference to Sri Lanka.  He emphasized the need for a political solution and also recognized the crucial importance of multilateral institutions in preventing conflict and dealing with causes of conflict.

A seminar on the theme of Conflict Resolution and Peace Building in Sri Lanka was organized on 10th & 11th December 2004 at Chennai.  Ten prominent experts concerned with the subject, four from Sri Lanka and six from India participated.  The Deputy High Commissioner of Sri Lanka at Chennai took keen interest in the seminar, had informal discussions with the organizers and participants, besides chairing one of the seminar sessions.

Another seminar on the theme of Federalism and Conflict Resolution in Sri Lanka was organized at Colombo on 10th and 11th May 2005.  The keynote address on this occasion was delivered by Mr. DEW Gunasekara, Minister of Constitutional Affairs and National Integration, Government of Sri Lanka.  The purpose of the seminar was to highlight various facets of federalism which could help the intellectuals, political parties, academics and others in Sri Lanka.   This initiative was appreciated as a very bold step in opening up another avenue of debate in Sri Lanka in addressing the roots of the conflict.  Mr Lakshman Kadirgamar, the then Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka met the Indian participants in the Seminar.  A month earlier, Ms Teresita C. Schaffer in a roundtable discussion at Chennai, on being told about the proposed CSA seminar at Colombo was surprised and appreciated the bold and timely effort by CSA.  Mr Gunasekara himself during his address stated, “In Sri Lanka, Federalism was anathema to some, foreign to some others and allergic to many”.  Prominent personalities of Colombo like Mr Jayantha Dhanapala and Mr Ponna Wignaraja participated and chaired the sessions.  Four experts from Sri Lanka and six from India presented papers covering various facets of federalism.

Seminar in Colombo in May 2005

The third seminar on Sri Lanka on the theme of Peace Building in Sri Lanka: Challenges and Opportunities was also organized at Colombo on 15th and 16th February 2006, just preceding the February 2006 Geneva Peace Talks.  The peace process had been affected by several internal and external factors, some posing serious challenges while others presenting opportunities for possible progress.  Various facets of challenges and opportunities were analysed by four Sri Lankan and five Indian experts.  Mr Bradman Weerakoon, a veteran bureaucrat and later a member of the SAARC Eminent Persons Group on Human Rights delivered the keynote address.  The Indian High Commissioner, Ms Nirupama Rao attended the inaugural session and also had informal discussions with the participants and organizers of the Seminar.

As part of its Sri Lanka focus, the CSA invited in April 2006 Prof. G.L. Peiris, M.P., (later Minister of Export Development and International Trade, Government of Sri Lanka) in April 2006 to give a series of lectures on the conflict in Sri Lanka.  He was the Chief Negotiator for the Sri Lankan Government and was responsible for signing of the Oslo Peace Accord.  In all, four lectures were organized, one at Chennai and three at New Delhi on 17th, 19th and 20th April 2006.        

Conflict over Fisheries in the Palk Bay Region has been the cause of misery and suffering to a large fishing population in Tamil Nadu and Northern part of Sri Lanka.  CSA, therefore, sponsored a project to study the problems and suggest practical approaches to solve them.  The study has been published as a book and has been made available to concerned officials in India and Sri Lanka.

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Civil Society and Governance

Good governance is central to the wellbeing of the citizen.  Equally, security is an important dimension which links civil society and governance. A broader understanding of security encompasses issues relating to good governance which have a direct bearing on the citizen.  Civil society operates in the space between the citizen and the government.  A better understanding of the linkages between civil society and governance is thus needed.   

Accordingly, the CSA put together several experts – sociologists, bureaucrats, academics and others – to examine the relationship between governance and security at a seminar on the theme of Civil Society & Governance in Modern India organized on 5th & 6th October 2006.  Among the issues discussed were the role of citizens in good governance, promoting fraternity through uniform civil code, models for governance in the troubled periphery, diminishing accountability in civil society & government, ground level assessment of civil society & governance, challenges of globalization to civil society and governance and social inequalities in Indian society.  This effort was highly applauded by the citizens of Chennai and the press gave a wide coverage. 

Continuing on the theme of Civil Society & Governance, two well received lectures were organized on 31st July 2006 on the subject of Religion, Civil Society & Governance.  Mr Akram Elias, President, Capital Communications Group Inc., USA spoke on the American experience and Dr Rowena Robinson, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai spoke on the Indian experience.  Amongst the other diplomatic personalities, Mr David T. Hopper, US Consul General in Chennai participated and spoke on the occasion.

The CSA proposes to spend more energy and effort on functioning of civil societies in South and Southeast Asian countries and accordingly it has planned to organize a series of International seminars and workshops to cover the experiences of civil societies in these countries in tackling the problems of human rights & security, improving governance, upliftment & empowerment of the poor, peace and conflict resolution, environmental security and social justice.

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Human Security

The term “Security” has traditionally been perceived and understood from a military perspective and even more so from that of the state.  There is however a growing awareness of the need to view other and non-traditional dimensions of security which affect the lives of the citizens.  The concept of Human Security which encompasses the wellbeing of the citizens has been accepted as more relevant to the present times.  As a consequence, Human Development indices are now the primary barometers of human security, Security is a matrix of components which add up to the comprehensive security of both the state and citizen.  These security components include external and internal threats besides economic, environmental, societal and political threats.  These combine to place the citizens’ focus on freedom from fear, danger and threats.

The Indian citizens’ perceptions on the totality of security available to them provide an insight into the new and wider ideas of security.  In order to assess the citizens’ perceptions of security, CSA commissioned a study in 2003 to understand and interpret the common man’s perceptions on various dimensions of security threats.  In addition to macro level security threats from external and internal sources, the micro aspects of security included dimensions such as environmental security, political security, societal security, personal & physical security and economic security.  The sample for the study had 2024 respondents drawn from four metros and nine mini metros across four geographic zones and were further categorized by gender (two categories), income levels (four categories), and socio-economic classifications (four categories).  The initial data collected from the respondents were subjected to detailed statistical analysis and interpretations which are expected to aid policy makers in framing effective responses to these perceived threats.  This is the first analysis in India specifically on public perceptions of security.  A better understanding of public perceptions on the wider meaning of security will assist in effective policy planning, development programmes and monitoring of their outcomes.

While the need for understanding the comprehensive nature of security is clearly established, the syllabus and course coverage in Indian colleges and universities on security do not take these new concepts into account.  The CSA in collaboration with National Center of International Security and Defence Analysis (NISDA) organized a seminar on 22nd and 23rd September 2006 on the subject of Essential Components of National Security in which experts from all over India suggested changes to be brought about in the curriculum.  In continuation of the major conclusions of this seminar, a follow up joint seminar is being organized at University of Pune during the later part of 2007 to finalise the recommendations to be presented to University Grants Commission and all the universities in India.

Since CSA is concentrating more on Peninsular India, the issue of Socio-Economic Security of Peninsular India was taken up for a major study.  There has been a widely held belief that southern or Peninsular India is well ahead of the rest of the country in developmental, growth and infrastructure terms.  It is also believed that Peninsular India is poised for a breakaway pattern of growth and social development.  This report, a collaborative effort by the CSA and the Centre for Policy Alternatives Society, subjects these assumptions to factual and data-based analysis.  The conclusions of such analysis cast serious doubts on the prevailing impression of Peninsular India’s future.  On all major indices of growth, development, infrastructure and social stability, a different picture emerges which should impose caution on analysts and cause concern to policy makers and political leadership alike.  The study has been published and made available to policy planners at Central and State Governments in Peninsular India.

Health is an important component of Human Security.  The roundtable with Dr Kumara Rai, Director, Communicable Disease Department, Southeast Regional Office of the WHO, enlightened the participants on security related aspects and concerns about SARS.  The seminar on Disease Surveillance, Challenges and Responses in Peninsular India was reassuring as the experts gave their assessments about the capabilities of various existing health organizations and arrangements to tackle any spread of communicable diseases in Southern states of India. 

Sir Michael Arthur, KCMG, UK Deputy High Commissioner in India delivered a lecture on Environmental Security on 3rd February 2006.  The High Commissioner highlighted the urgent need to strengthen bilateral and multilateral partnerships between nations to tackle environmental security issues, especially those related to climate change and use of energy.  Mr N. Ravi, Editor, The Hindu chaired the session.  Lt. Gen. (Retd) V.R. Raghavan welcomed the gathering.

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Security Linkages to Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia

Historically, there have been close cultural, economic, linguistic and ethnic linkages between Peninsular India, Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia.  Considerable quantum of maritime trade takes place through this region.  The countries in this region have shared values and common problems and hence there is a need for closer association, greater interaction, better understanding and mutual cooperation to ensure peace and development.  The CSA has accordingly given due importance to this aspect and has provided a forum for the experts in the region to put across their views, ideas and opinions.

The Seminar on the theme of Security Dimensions of India and Southeast Asia organized in November 2004 analysed issues like security dimensions and concerns of the countries in the region, maritime threats and related security issues, regional cooperation and economic issues including regional linkages and globalization.  Apart from experts from Indonesia, Singapore and Sri Lanka, speakers from India included academics, researchers and senior retired bureaucrats and diplomats.

The Seminar held in October 2005 on the theme of India and ASEAN: Non-traditional Security Threats had a speaker each from Malaysia and Philippines, two from Singapore and eight from India.  The sub themes addressed were Economic Security, Environmental Security and Ethnicity & Security.  The issues tackled by different speakers highlighted the transborder and regional effects of such threats and the need for greater levels of communication, understanding and joint actions.

More such regional seminars and workshops in collaboration with Institute for Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore and Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore are envisaged in due course. 

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Gender Equality and Women’s Rights

Considering the importance of the subject, two major seminars were organized to consider the problems and associated issues in detail and spread awareness and sensitize people.  Good press coverage helped in spreading the message wider.

The first seminar was organized in August 2004 on the theme of Women and Legal Security.  Justice (Mrs) Prabha Sridevan of Madras High Court delivered the keynote address and many legal luminaries, social workers, academics and senior serving police officials participated and addressed many ground level practical problems.

The second seminar on the theme of Women and Comprehensive Security was organized in November 2004 and Dr Vasanthi Devi, Chairperson, Tamil Nadu State Commission for Women delivered the keynote address.  The issues addressed were violence against women at home & outside, violence in time of conflict, state policy and media intervention.  Leading activists, social workers and researchers from all over India participated.

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