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Defence & Security

What are Non-State Actors? Role and impact of Non-State Actors in International Relations?

What are Non-State Actors? Role and impact of Non-State Actors in International Relations?


  • GS 3 || Security || Internal Security Threats || Terrorism

Why in news?

  • Reacting to the hijab controversy in Karnataka, the terror outfit Islamic State(Non-state actor) threatened violence against those who dishonor Muslim women.

What are non-state actors?

  • Non-state actors are individuals or organizations that have powerful economic, political or social power and can influence at a national and sometimes international level but do not belong to or allied themselves with any particular country or state.
  • They include NGOs, MNCs, religious outfits, Drug Cartels, Mafias, terrorist groups, etc. they may work in tandem for the peace, stability and development of a country or they may work against the State.

Strategies used by the terrorist to achieve their goals

  • Cyber-Terrorism
    • Unlawful attacks and threats of attacks against computers, networks, and the information stored therein when done to intimidate or coerce a government or its people in furtherance of political or social objectives.
    • It is an unconventional method of terrorism In cyber terrorism, using information technology would radically interrupt the services which are connected with the internet.
    • For example, cyber terrorists can hack into networks’ housing for getting critical information or disable networked emergency systems.
  • Nuclear Terrorism
    • Nuclear terrorism means a different type of use of nuclear material by terrorists. It includes attacking nuclear facilities, preparing nuclear weapons or purchasing nuclear weapons, or funding ways to scatter radioactive materials.
    • The consequences of an attack on a nuclear research center or nuclear power plant could equal or exceed the effects of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the USSR.
  • Narco-Terrorism
    • The attempt by narcotics traffickers to influence the policies of the Government by systematic threat or use by violence.
  • Bio-Terrorism
    • Biological toxins are used to hurt and frighten innocent citizens, in the name of a political or other cause.
    • The S. Center for Disease Control has categorized the viruses, bacteria, and toxins that could be used in an attack.
    • Anthrax
    • Smallpox
    • Plague
    • Botulism
    • Tularemia
  • A new influential non-state actor
    • Decentralized autonomous organizations (DAO)s, sometimes known as decentralized autonomous corporations (DACs), operate according to rules encoded as computer programs have become a very important non-state actor in the current era of technology and AI.

Challenges posed by them for the Indian internal security

  • Human trafficking:while child and women trafficking takes place via Bangladesh and Nepal.
  • Counterfeit currency- Especially from Pakistan.
    • It corrodes the economy from the inside, by facilitating black money and money laundering activities as well as funding terrorism, which itself creates a demand for fake currency, thereby creating a positive feedback loop.
  • Civil Society Organisations: Serious charges of misuse and misappropriation of funds received as grants-in-aid from governments, foreign donors and their involvement in riling up discontentment in the local communities against developmental projects have raised questions about these organizations working as a foreign policy tool of foreign governments
  • Insurgency:North-East suffers from violent movements based upon ethnic identities leading to clashes.
    • China is alleged to support such acts e.g. ULFA members of Assam were given shelter by China.
  • Terrorism:Pakistan has been a major exporter of terrorism to India. Non-state actors like terrorist groups (eg Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad) are a continuous threat.
  • Naxalism:Left-wing extremism affects states like Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and West Bengal.
  • Drug smuggling: Inter and Intrastate trafficking take place, through golden crescent and golden triangle routes.
    • Drug from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran has affected Punjab.
  • Communalism:Propagandas are run and funded by enemy countries and other non-state actors to destabilize India by damaging the socio-religious fabric and ensuring
  • Cyber Security:Recent cyber-attacks by Legion, ATM skimming are examples. Pakistani hackers often hack government websites.

Recent examples of Terror attacks in India and neighboring countries

  • 1993 Bombay bombings,
  • 1998 Coimbatore bombings,
  • 2000 terrorist attack on Red Fort,
  • 2001 Indian Parliament attack,
  • 2005 Delhi bombings,
  • 2008 Bangalore serial blasts, and
  • 2008 Mumbai attacks.
  • On 14th February 2019- a vehicle-bound suicide attack led to the death of 40 CRPF personnel in Pulwama, Jammu, and Kashmir.
  • On 26th February, the Indian Airforce hit a training camp of the group in Balakot, Pakistan.
  • In Bangladesh, in 2016, an unprecedented attack on Dhaka Holey Artisan Bakery in Gulshan city resulted in the death of 29 people including 17 foreigners.
    • Pakistan is teeming with urban terrorism with the regions of Karachi, Peshawar, and Quetta being hot targets.

Reasons for the increase in such attacks

  • Easy Targets – The density of built environment in urban agglomerations and urban mass transport infrastructure results in mass gathering making them easy targets to maximize the impact of terrorist attacks.
  • Easy spread of fear – Since terrorism is ‘propaganda by the deed’, the attention-seeking goal of terrorists is well served in the urban environment where the immediate audience is greatest and where representatives of the print and electronic media are readily available and quite eager to report. Such coverage also magnifies the fear-generating capabilities of terrorist acts.
  • Vulnerabilities due to the internet – Increasing availability of personal data has made individuals vulnerable to terrorism. Such information can be used for radicalization or targeting acts of violence.
  • Attacking the credibility of the government- by attacking high profile symbolic targets to make a point that if a government fails to protect high-value targets, it is obvious that it may not be in a position to protect the normal ones

Terror Financing

  • Lawful activities funding
    • Funding could also be sourced even from the proceeds of lawful activities.
    • Supporters of a militant ideology could well make financial contributions to terrorist organizations from their known sources of income.
    • Such contributions could also be made to some non-profit or charitable institutions acting as a front for terrorist organizations, knowingly or unknowingly.
  • International organized crime makes use of a wide range of methods and networking to transfer funds to launder the proceeds of crime.
  • Hawala- Terrorist organizations also take recourse to bulk cash smuggling and use of informal channels of transfer of money.
  • Drug trafficking-By resorting to or working in concert with cartels involved in drug trafficking, narcotics trade, etc.
  • Smuggling- Funding could also involve counterfeiting of currency, currency smuggling, etc.

The major role of non-state actors in international relations is as follows

  • Changes in the Concept of Sovereignty and Nationalism
    • The emergence of non-state actors and transnational relations has attacked the state-centric international system. It has changed the nature of international relations.
    • Non-state actors have forced a change in the concepts of sovereignty and nationalism.
    • These have affected the role of the nation-states as actors in international relations.
    • The policies, decisions, and actions of the nation-states now bear the increasing influence of the presence and activities of non-state actors.
    • These groups held great power and can influence international relations between states. A group that is currently active now is the Al-Qaeda, Hamas in Gaza.
  • Non-state Actors and the Nation-States System
    • The non-state actors have produced several big changes in the nation-state system as well as in the role of the nation-state in international relations.
    • These have been instrumental in increasing international interdependence and relations, as well as in ordering and expanding relations in this age of interdependence.
    • These have, overshadowed and are still overshadowing the role of the nation-state in some areas, particularly multinational corporations.
    • Example- Taliban In Afghanistan.
  • A New Complexity in International Relations
    • Non-state Actors has made international relations more complex and problematic. These have been the main responsible for the reduced importance of political relations in the international system.
    • Some of these have been acting as harbingers of international peace and security while others have been acting as agents of neo-colonialism and dependency on under-developed countries. These have contributed to the growth of internationalism, and the dilution of nationalism in favor of internationalism.
    • These have also been instrumental in the emergence of several strong peaceful, developmental and ecological movements.
    • The institutionalization of transnational relations through several non-state and inter-government organizations which act as important actors in international relations is a continuing phenomenon of contemporary international relations.
    • NGOs like Greenpeace, Red Cross/Red Crescent, Amnesty International

Framework to tackle terrorism

  • NATGRID: It seeks to become the one-stop destination for security and intelligence agencies to access databases related to immigration entry and exit, banking, and telephone details of a suspect on a “secured platform”
    • CERT-In and NATGRID must be efficiently supported by human resource and budgetary support.

In the age of increasing internet usage, an All India cybersecurity service must be created on the lines of the Indian police service

  • National Cyber Coordination Centre (NCCC) has been established as a cybersecurity and e-surveillance agency in India.
  • Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967
    • Strengthening the provisions in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 to combat terror financing by criminalizing the production or smuggling or circulation of high-quality counterfeit Indian currency as a terrorist act and enlarge the scope of proceeds of terrorism to include any property intended to be used for terrorism.
  • Terror Funding and Fake Currency (TFFC) Cell
    • A Terror Funding and Fake Currency (TFFC) Cell has been constituted in National Investigation Agency (NIA) to conduct a focused investigation of terror funding and fake currency cases.

Mains model question

  • Examine the role of non-state actors in creating challenges to the internal security of India. Also, suggest measures to counter the threats from non-state actors.