By Eric Koo Peng Kuan*


New Delhi, 14 March 2005

What exactly is globalisation? Is globalisation a cure for the woes of the world? Simply defined, globalisation means the increased international or inter-societal interaction.

Above all, it is an idea that no entity in the world, be it a state, nation, society, people or tribe may exist in complete isolation from interaction and discourse with other world elements. Thus an important political or social event happening in one state would also affect other states and societies, and therefore likely elicit a state response. A global free market, international non-state organizations like the United Nations, or International Monetary Fund, can be classified as features of globalisation. Globalisation can be regarded as a process, a concept or an existing feature of history such as a war or revolution.

Suddenly, the world seems to have become a smaller place, as a person can read and know about events happening even in a distant corner of the globe. The optimistic term, “global village” coined in the 1990s refers to the world becoming more and more integrated and hence becoming much more akin to the village system, where everyone interacts and depends on each other for survival, and increased co-operation towards mutual interests.

Alongside globalisation however, ethno-nationalist and politico-religious issues have also become more highlighted. The impact of the Internet, and also the media, means that news reporting of events cannot be so easily manipulated by politicians, state governments and powerful societal entities. Instead, public opinion can be more easily voiced and have a larger say in influencing social and political matters.                       

Globalisation is a byproduct brought about through the introduction of two important technological innovations –– the Internet and the cell-phone. The appearance of the Internet and cellphones undoubtedly contributed much to the process of globalisation. Both innovations stemmed mainly out of the need to improve communications for military purposes. By their release into the commercial market, the irrevocable process of bringing nations, organizations and individuals into increased and closer contact with each other, and the formation of online networks, became inevitable.

The spreading of information and ideas are not new in concept. However, the totalitarian nature of certain prior political governing systems, such as fascism and communism, attempts to restrict and control the information flow as their leaders realise the social and political effects and impact on their governed populations. By the inevitability of history, such ideologies are now considered defunct because of the defeats of their centres of power. Information flow inevitably gives rise to a better-informed individual and helps to promote free trade.

But only in the late 1990s, with the onset of technological advance, could this information theory be fulfilled in practice. The Information Age not only changed the political and economic landscape of the new world order, it also revolutionised the nature of modern warfare and security issues. From the Gulf War in 1991 onwards, the world saw the decline of conventional wars and a marked increase in low intensity conflicts involving non state actors like terrorist or militant groups. The latter also made use of the benefits of globalisation to pursue their own agendas through armed conflict and terrorist acts. The Internet and the cell-phone are used for communication and in internationalising and publicising the terrorists’ cause.

The onset of globalisation had not only brought about economic and social benefits, but also heightened the security threat to states and societies. Through the use of the Internet, the pervasive and regressive religious ideology of Islamic radicalism is spread to the masses. In the late 1990s, unrest and social violence in Indonesia was partially attributed to Islamic radicalism taking root among the masses, and partly because of a greater awareness of concurrent events happening elsewhere in the world. Terrorism, insurgencies, and militancy have replaced largescale interstate wars to become the foremost security threats in the world today. 

The impact of globalisation and international affairs has brought about a heightened consciousness in regionalism in South East Asia, and a gradual change in the political mindset of non-interference. Events happening in another part of the world will directly or indirectly cause an effect on internal affairs within a state because of the interlinked nature of globalisation. The joint maritime patrolling effort of the Malacca Strait by three ASEAN states –– Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia, alongside an external regional player –– India, set a precedent for such increased co-operation between states.

Interstate co-operation is all the more necessary in dealing with difficult social problems like the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus outbreak in 2003, the bird flu virus outbreak in late 2004, which affected the food industry and economy, and the Indian Ocean Tsunami disaster in December 2004. Through pooling of resources and international publicising via the Internet and media, states can react in a more efficient and effective manner when faced with unexpected contingencies.

Globalisation is set to transform the world in unprecedented ways in the 21st century. What states, societies and individuals should be aware of, is how to maximize the benefits brought about by the onset of increased global contact. Creative ways must be adopted in fighting terrorism at the international level. Old mindsets and strategies must change. Two recent important events –– the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in New York City on September 11, 2001, became turning points in history in marking the progress of the world from the Industrial to the Information Age.

Globalisation, and its two attendant features, the Internet and the cellphone, certainly had a vast impact on international security, and in doing so, also influenced events in South East Asia as well.

*The writer holds a Master of Science in Strategic Studies from the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies (IDSS). He currently writes commentaries and analytical articles on international affairs, security issues and terrorism for newspapers.


Disclaimer   Copyright