South Asia: Back to the Future?
Since the end of the Second World War, South Asia has experienced its fair share ethnic unrest and inter-state conflict. While the partition of India in 1947 led to the creation of sovereign states along religious lines, their construction resulted in the massive displacement of people and conflict between the newly-formed India and Pakistan. Since then, relations between South Asia’s largest and most populous states have remained tense and resulted in all-out conflict on three occasions. Arguably the most dramatic instance of conflict between India and Pakistan was the 1971 war, when India invaded East Pakistan in support of its claims for independence from Islamabad. The resolution of the conflict led to the creation of Bangladesh.
While both countries are members of the Non-Aligned Movement, simmering tensions between India and Pakistan ensured that South Asia became a battlefront of the Cold War. Through its membership of the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO), Pakistan, for example, benefited from arms shipments from the United States and provided Western powers with access to airbases to launch intelligence operations over the Soviet Union. By contrast, New Delhi eventually developed close diplomatic ties with the Soviet Union that not only benefited India’s economic development, but also provided both countries with a degree of leverage against communist China.
Indeed, Indo-Pakistani relations continue bear the hallmarks of Cold War confrontation. The overthrow of the Taliban regime in 2001 provided India with the impetus to redevelop traditionally close ties with Afghanistan. Yet warmer relations between New Delhi and Kabul heighten concerns in Islamabad that Pakistan lacks the strategic depth to effectively counter its larger Indian rival. Accordingly, Pakistan has often sought to offset vast differences in population and military strength by offering moral and material support to the campaign for an independent Jammu and Kashmir. Beyond proxy campaigns, hostilities between India and Pakistan are underscored by rival nuclear weapons programs that have developed beyond the confines of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Yet despite such tensions South Asia forms an integral part of an international system that is experiencing a shift in the locus of power towards the emerging countries of the developing world. India’s vast population and increasing economic prowess makes it a bona fide member of the BRIC group of emerging nations. Indeed, New Delhi is supporting its new-found global status with a more confident foreign policy outlook and extensive redevelopment of its armed forces. In sharp contrast, Pakistan seems mired in the past. According to World Bank estimates, Pakistan is ranked among 43 countries deemed most at risk from the effects of poverty. Factors such as poor governance, the overarching influence of the military and Islamic extremism are often cited as major causes of Pakistan’s economic woes.
In order to understand why Pakistan appears to be going further back into its not-so-distant past while India forges a path in a multipolar world, we begin this week by analyzing how politics, culture and religion holistically promulgate and account for the security dynamics shaping South Asia. On Tuesday we provide a reminder that while India is without doubt an emerging power, a host of internal problems will impact upon New Delhi’s geo-strategic outlook for the foreseeable future. This is followed by further consideration of the social, economic and political problems confronting Pakistan and, indeed, possible solutions. Our week ends by analyzing India’s and Pakistan’s continued involvement in Afghanistan and the Kashmir conflict, before assessing the prospects for enhanced regional cooperation between the two states.
18 Jun 2012 / Audio
Dr Ali Riaz discusses how globalization and the perceived failure of the secular state are just two of the factors influencing the complex interplay of religion, democracy and government in South Asia. More on «Religions, Politics and Culture in South Asia»
19 Jun 2012 / Special Feature
While India is increasingly considered an emerging global power, it remains a country bedeviled by internal problems. These will inevitably impact upon New Delhi’s ability to project power across a multipolar international system. More on «India: Outward-Looking and Inner Turmoil»
21 Jun 2012 / Special Feature
Two of the most restive regions of South Asia continue to influence the strategic calculations of India and Pakistan. And while the projection of soft power by both countries may prove to be a confidence-building measure, its long-term impact upon regional security dynamics remains far from clear. More on «The Proxy Wars: Kashmir and Afghanistan»