NCERT Textbook - Contemporary South Asia Humanities/Arts Notes | EduRev

NCERT Textbooks (Class 6 to Class 12)

Humanities/Arts : NCERT Textbook - Contemporary South Asia Humanities/Arts Notes | EduRev

 Page 1


OVERVIEW
Let us shift our gaze from the larger
global developments in the post-Cold
War era to developments in our own
region, South Asia. When India and
Pakistan joined the club of nuclear
powers, this region suddenly
became the focus of global attention.
The focus was, of course, on the
various kinds of conflict in this
region: there are pending border and
water sharing disputes between the
states of the region. Besides, there
are conflicts arising out of
insurgency, ethnic strife and
resource sharing. This makes the
region very turbulent. At the same
time, many people in South Asia
recognise the fact that this region
can develop and prosper if the states
of the region cooperate with each
other. In this chapter, we try to
understand the nature of conflict
and cooperation among different
countries of the region. Since much
of this is rooted in or conditioned by
the domestic politics of these
countries, we first introduce the
region and the domestic politics of
some of the big countries in the
region.
Chapter 5
Contemporary South Asia
Source: Subhas Rai’s adaptation of  ‘Liberty Leading the
People’, painted by Eugene Delacroix in 1830. Courtesy of
Himal Southasian, (January 2007) The Southasia Trust, Nepal
2020-21
Page 2


OVERVIEW
Let us shift our gaze from the larger
global developments in the post-Cold
War era to developments in our own
region, South Asia. When India and
Pakistan joined the club of nuclear
powers, this region suddenly
became the focus of global attention.
The focus was, of course, on the
various kinds of conflict in this
region: there are pending border and
water sharing disputes between the
states of the region. Besides, there
are conflicts arising out of
insurgency, ethnic strife and
resource sharing. This makes the
region very turbulent. At the same
time, many people in South Asia
recognise the fact that this region
can develop and prosper if the states
of the region cooperate with each
other. In this chapter, we try to
understand the nature of conflict
and cooperation among different
countries of the region. Since much
of this is rooted in or conditioned by
the domestic politics of these
countries, we first introduce the
region and the domestic politics of
some of the big countries in the
region.
Chapter 5
Contemporary South Asia
Source: Subhas Rai’s adaptation of  ‘Liberty Leading the
People’, painted by Eugene Delacroix in 1830. Courtesy of
Himal Southasian, (January 2007) The Southasia Trust, Nepal
2020-21
Contemporary World Politics
66
WHAT IS SOUTH ASIA?
We are all familiar with the
gripping tension during an India-
Pakistan cricket match. We have
also seen the goodwill and
hospitality shown to visiting
Indian and Pakistani fans by their
hosts when they come to watch a
cricket match. This is symbolic of
the larger pattern of South Asian
affairs. Ours is a region where
rivalry and goodwill, hope and
despair, mutual suspicion and
trust coexist.
Let us begin by asking an
elementary question: what is South
Asia? The expression ‘South Asia’
usually includes the following
countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan,
India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan
and Sri Lanka. The mighty
Himalayas in the north and the vast
Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and
the Bay of Bengal in the south, west
and east respectively provide a
natural insularity to the region,
which is largely responsible for the
linguistic, social and cultural
distinctiveness of the sub-
continent. The boundaries of the
region are not as clear in the east
and the west, as they are in the
north and the south. Afghanistan
and Myanmar are often included
in discussions of the region as a
whole. China is an important player
but is not considered to be a part
of the region. In this chapter, we
shall use South Asia to mean the
seven countries mentioned above.
Thus defined, South Asia stands for
diversity in every sense and yet
constitutes one geo-political space.
The various countries in South
Asia do not have the same kind of
political systems. Despite many
problems and limitations, Sri
Lanka and India have successfully
operated a democratic system
since their independence from the
British. You will study more about
the evolution of democracy in India
in the textbook that deals with
politics in India since
independence. It is, of course,
possible to point out many
limitations of India’s democracy;
but we have to remember the fact
that India has remained a
democracy throughout its
existence as an independent
country. The same is true of Sri
Lanka.
Pakistan and Bangladesh
have experienced both civilian
and military rulers, with
Bangladesh remaining a
democracy in the post-Cold War
period. Pakistan began the post-
Cold War period with successive
democratic governments under
Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif
respectively. But it suffered a
military coup in 1999. It has
been run by a civilian
government again since 2008.
Till 2006, Nepal was a
constitutional monarchy with the
danger of the king taking over
executive powers. In 2008, the
monarchy was abolished and
Nepal emerged as a democratic
republic. From the experience of
Bangladesh and Nepal, we can
say that democracy is becoming
an accepted norm in the entire
region of South Asia.
Identify some
features
common to all
the South Asian
countries but
different from
countries in
West Asia or
Southeast Asia.
Is there a fixed
definition of these
regions? Who
decides that?
2020-21
Page 3


OVERVIEW
Let us shift our gaze from the larger
global developments in the post-Cold
War era to developments in our own
region, South Asia. When India and
Pakistan joined the club of nuclear
powers, this region suddenly
became the focus of global attention.
The focus was, of course, on the
various kinds of conflict in this
region: there are pending border and
water sharing disputes between the
states of the region. Besides, there
are conflicts arising out of
insurgency, ethnic strife and
resource sharing. This makes the
region very turbulent. At the same
time, many people in South Asia
recognise the fact that this region
can develop and prosper if the states
of the region cooperate with each
other. In this chapter, we try to
understand the nature of conflict
and cooperation among different
countries of the region. Since much
of this is rooted in or conditioned by
the domestic politics of these
countries, we first introduce the
region and the domestic politics of
some of the big countries in the
region.
Chapter 5
Contemporary South Asia
Source: Subhas Rai’s adaptation of  ‘Liberty Leading the
People’, painted by Eugene Delacroix in 1830. Courtesy of
Himal Southasian, (January 2007) The Southasia Trust, Nepal
2020-21
Contemporary World Politics
66
WHAT IS SOUTH ASIA?
We are all familiar with the
gripping tension during an India-
Pakistan cricket match. We have
also seen the goodwill and
hospitality shown to visiting
Indian and Pakistani fans by their
hosts when they come to watch a
cricket match. This is symbolic of
the larger pattern of South Asian
affairs. Ours is a region where
rivalry and goodwill, hope and
despair, mutual suspicion and
trust coexist.
Let us begin by asking an
elementary question: what is South
Asia? The expression ‘South Asia’
usually includes the following
countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan,
India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan
and Sri Lanka. The mighty
Himalayas in the north and the vast
Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and
the Bay of Bengal in the south, west
and east respectively provide a
natural insularity to the region,
which is largely responsible for the
linguistic, social and cultural
distinctiveness of the sub-
continent. The boundaries of the
region are not as clear in the east
and the west, as they are in the
north and the south. Afghanistan
and Myanmar are often included
in discussions of the region as a
whole. China is an important player
but is not considered to be a part
of the region. In this chapter, we
shall use South Asia to mean the
seven countries mentioned above.
Thus defined, South Asia stands for
diversity in every sense and yet
constitutes one geo-political space.
The various countries in South
Asia do not have the same kind of
political systems. Despite many
problems and limitations, Sri
Lanka and India have successfully
operated a democratic system
since their independence from the
British. You will study more about
the evolution of democracy in India
in the textbook that deals with
politics in India since
independence. It is, of course,
possible to point out many
limitations of India’s democracy;
but we have to remember the fact
that India has remained a
democracy throughout its
existence as an independent
country. The same is true of Sri
Lanka.
Pakistan and Bangladesh
have experienced both civilian
and military rulers, with
Bangladesh remaining a
democracy in the post-Cold War
period. Pakistan began the post-
Cold War period with successive
democratic governments under
Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif
respectively. But it suffered a
military coup in 1999. It has
been run by a civilian
government again since 2008.
Till 2006, Nepal was a
constitutional monarchy with the
danger of the king taking over
executive powers. In 2008, the
monarchy was abolished and
Nepal emerged as a democratic
republic. From the experience of
Bangladesh and Nepal, we can
say that democracy is becoming
an accepted norm in the entire
region of South Asia.
Identify some
features
common to all
the South Asian
countries but
different from
countries in
West Asia or
Southeast Asia.
Is there a fixed
definition of these
regions? Who
decides that?
2020-21
67
Contemporary South Asia
Similar changes are taking place in the two
smallest countries of the region. Bhutan became a
constitutional monarchy in 2008. Under the
leadership of the king, it emerged as a multi-party
democracy. The Maldives, the other island nation,
was a Sultanate till 1968 when it was transformed
into a republic with a presidential form of
government. In June 2005, the parliament of the
Maldives voted unanimously to introduce a multi-
party system. The Maldivian Democratic Party
(MDP) dominates the political affairs of the island.
The MDP won the 2018 Elections.
Despite the mixed record of the democratic
experience, the people in all these countries
share the aspiration for democracy. A recent
survey of the attitudes of the people in the five
big countries of the region showed that there is
widespread support for democracy in all these
countries. Ordinary citizens, rich as well as
poor and belonging to different religions, view
the idea of democracy positively and support
the institutions of representative democracy.
They prefer democracy over any other form of
government and think that democracy is
suitable for their country. These are
significant findings, for it was earlier believed
that democracy could flourish and find
support only in prosperous countries of the world.
Both these graphs are based on interviews with more
than 19,000 ordinary citizens in the five countries of
South Asia. Source: SDSA Team, State of Democracy
in South Asia, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2007
Countries Countries Countries Countries Countries
SDG 3 SDG 3 SDG 3 SDG 3 SDG 3
Life expectancy Life expectancy Life expectancy Life expectancy Life expectancy
at birth (years) at birth (years) at birth (years) at birth (years) at birth (years)
2017 2017 2017 2017 2017
SDG 4.6 SDG 4.6 SDG 4.6 SDG 4.6 SDG 4.6
Adult literacy Adult literacy Adult literacy Adult literacy Adult literacy
rate (% ages rate (% ages rate (% ages rate (% ages rate (% ages
15 and older) 15 and older) 15 and older) 15 and older) 15 and older)
2006-2016 2006-2016 2006-2016 2006-2016 2006-2016
SDG 4.1 SDG 4.1 SDG 4.1 SDG 4.1 SDG 4.1
Gross Gross Gross Gross Gross
enrolment ratio enrolment ratio enrolment ratio enrolment ratio enrolment ratio
(Secondary) (Secondary) (Secondary) (Secondary) (Secondary)
2012-2017 2012-2017 2012-2017 2012-2017 2012-2017
SDG 8.1 SDG 8.1 SDG 8.1 SDG 8.1 SDG 8.1
GDP per GDP per GDP per GDP per GDP per
capita (2011 capita (2011 capita (2011 capita (2011 capita (2011
PPP $) PPP $) PPP $) PPP $) PPP $)
2017 2017 2017 2017 2017
SDG 3.2 SDG 3.2 SDG 3.2 SDG 3.2 SDG 3.2
Infant mortality Infant mortality Infant mortality Infant mortality Infant mortality
rate (per 1,000 rate (per 1,000 rate (per 1,000 rate (per 1,000 rate (per 1,000
live births) live births) live births) live births) live births)
2016 2016 2016 2016 2016
SDG 3.3 SDG 3.3 SDG 3.3 SDG 3.3 SDG 3.3
TB cases TB cases TB cases TB cases TB cases
(per 100,000 (per 100,000 (per 100,000 (per 100,000 (per 100,000
people) people) people) people) people)
2016 2016 2016 2016 2016
SDG 1.1 SDG 1.1 SDG 1.1 SDG 1.1 SDG 1.1
Population living below Population living below Population living below Population living below Population living below
income poverty line (%) income poverty line (%) income poverty line (%) income poverty line (%) income poverty line (%)
PPP $1.90 a day PPP $1.90 a day PPP $1.90 a day PPP $1.90 a day PPP $1.90 a day
2006-2016 2006-2016 2006-2016 2006-2016 2006-2016
HDI HDI HDI HDI HDI
Rank Rank Rank Rank Rank
World 72.2 82.1 79 15,439 29.9 140.0 – –
Developing 70.7 81.1 75 10,199 32.7 164.5 – –
countries
South Asia 69.3 68.7 71 6,485 37.8 206.3 – –
Bangladesh 72.8 72.8 69 3,524 28.2 221.0 14.8 136
India 68.8 69.3 75 6,427 34.6 211.0 21.2 130
Nepal 70.6 59.6 71 2,433 28.4 154.0 15.0 149
Pakistan 66.6 57.0 46 5,035 64.2 268.0 6.1 150
Sri Lanka 75.5 91.2 98 11,669 8.0 65.0 – 76
Source:  United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report, 2018
2020-21
Page 4


OVERVIEW
Let us shift our gaze from the larger
global developments in the post-Cold
War era to developments in our own
region, South Asia. When India and
Pakistan joined the club of nuclear
powers, this region suddenly
became the focus of global attention.
The focus was, of course, on the
various kinds of conflict in this
region: there are pending border and
water sharing disputes between the
states of the region. Besides, there
are conflicts arising out of
insurgency, ethnic strife and
resource sharing. This makes the
region very turbulent. At the same
time, many people in South Asia
recognise the fact that this region
can develop and prosper if the states
of the region cooperate with each
other. In this chapter, we try to
understand the nature of conflict
and cooperation among different
countries of the region. Since much
of this is rooted in or conditioned by
the domestic politics of these
countries, we first introduce the
region and the domestic politics of
some of the big countries in the
region.
Chapter 5
Contemporary South Asia
Source: Subhas Rai’s adaptation of  ‘Liberty Leading the
People’, painted by Eugene Delacroix in 1830. Courtesy of
Himal Southasian, (January 2007) The Southasia Trust, Nepal
2020-21
Contemporary World Politics
66
WHAT IS SOUTH ASIA?
We are all familiar with the
gripping tension during an India-
Pakistan cricket match. We have
also seen the goodwill and
hospitality shown to visiting
Indian and Pakistani fans by their
hosts when they come to watch a
cricket match. This is symbolic of
the larger pattern of South Asian
affairs. Ours is a region where
rivalry and goodwill, hope and
despair, mutual suspicion and
trust coexist.
Let us begin by asking an
elementary question: what is South
Asia? The expression ‘South Asia’
usually includes the following
countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan,
India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan
and Sri Lanka. The mighty
Himalayas in the north and the vast
Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and
the Bay of Bengal in the south, west
and east respectively provide a
natural insularity to the region,
which is largely responsible for the
linguistic, social and cultural
distinctiveness of the sub-
continent. The boundaries of the
region are not as clear in the east
and the west, as they are in the
north and the south. Afghanistan
and Myanmar are often included
in discussions of the region as a
whole. China is an important player
but is not considered to be a part
of the region. In this chapter, we
shall use South Asia to mean the
seven countries mentioned above.
Thus defined, South Asia stands for
diversity in every sense and yet
constitutes one geo-political space.
The various countries in South
Asia do not have the same kind of
political systems. Despite many
problems and limitations, Sri
Lanka and India have successfully
operated a democratic system
since their independence from the
British. You will study more about
the evolution of democracy in India
in the textbook that deals with
politics in India since
independence. It is, of course,
possible to point out many
limitations of India’s democracy;
but we have to remember the fact
that India has remained a
democracy throughout its
existence as an independent
country. The same is true of Sri
Lanka.
Pakistan and Bangladesh
have experienced both civilian
and military rulers, with
Bangladesh remaining a
democracy in the post-Cold War
period. Pakistan began the post-
Cold War period with successive
democratic governments under
Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif
respectively. But it suffered a
military coup in 1999. It has
been run by a civilian
government again since 2008.
Till 2006, Nepal was a
constitutional monarchy with the
danger of the king taking over
executive powers. In 2008, the
monarchy was abolished and
Nepal emerged as a democratic
republic. From the experience of
Bangladesh and Nepal, we can
say that democracy is becoming
an accepted norm in the entire
region of South Asia.
Identify some
features
common to all
the South Asian
countries but
different from
countries in
West Asia or
Southeast Asia.
Is there a fixed
definition of these
regions? Who
decides that?
2020-21
67
Contemporary South Asia
Similar changes are taking place in the two
smallest countries of the region. Bhutan became a
constitutional monarchy in 2008. Under the
leadership of the king, it emerged as a multi-party
democracy. The Maldives, the other island nation,
was a Sultanate till 1968 when it was transformed
into a republic with a presidential form of
government. In June 2005, the parliament of the
Maldives voted unanimously to introduce a multi-
party system. The Maldivian Democratic Party
(MDP) dominates the political affairs of the island.
The MDP won the 2018 Elections.
Despite the mixed record of the democratic
experience, the people in all these countries
share the aspiration for democracy. A recent
survey of the attitudes of the people in the five
big countries of the region showed that there is
widespread support for democracy in all these
countries. Ordinary citizens, rich as well as
poor and belonging to different religions, view
the idea of democracy positively and support
the institutions of representative democracy.
They prefer democracy over any other form of
government and think that democracy is
suitable for their country. These are
significant findings, for it was earlier believed
that democracy could flourish and find
support only in prosperous countries of the world.
Both these graphs are based on interviews with more
than 19,000 ordinary citizens in the five countries of
South Asia. Source: SDSA Team, State of Democracy
in South Asia, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2007
Countries Countries Countries Countries Countries
SDG 3 SDG 3 SDG 3 SDG 3 SDG 3
Life expectancy Life expectancy Life expectancy Life expectancy Life expectancy
at birth (years) at birth (years) at birth (years) at birth (years) at birth (years)
2017 2017 2017 2017 2017
SDG 4.6 SDG 4.6 SDG 4.6 SDG 4.6 SDG 4.6
Adult literacy Adult literacy Adult literacy Adult literacy Adult literacy
rate (% ages rate (% ages rate (% ages rate (% ages rate (% ages
15 and older) 15 and older) 15 and older) 15 and older) 15 and older)
2006-2016 2006-2016 2006-2016 2006-2016 2006-2016
SDG 4.1 SDG 4.1 SDG 4.1 SDG 4.1 SDG 4.1
Gross Gross Gross Gross Gross
enrolment ratio enrolment ratio enrolment ratio enrolment ratio enrolment ratio
(Secondary) (Secondary) (Secondary) (Secondary) (Secondary)
2012-2017 2012-2017 2012-2017 2012-2017 2012-2017
SDG 8.1 SDG 8.1 SDG 8.1 SDG 8.1 SDG 8.1
GDP per GDP per GDP per GDP per GDP per
capita (2011 capita (2011 capita (2011 capita (2011 capita (2011
PPP $) PPP $) PPP $) PPP $) PPP $)
2017 2017 2017 2017 2017
SDG 3.2 SDG 3.2 SDG 3.2 SDG 3.2 SDG 3.2
Infant mortality Infant mortality Infant mortality Infant mortality Infant mortality
rate (per 1,000 rate (per 1,000 rate (per 1,000 rate (per 1,000 rate (per 1,000
live births) live births) live births) live births) live births)
2016 2016 2016 2016 2016
SDG 3.3 SDG 3.3 SDG 3.3 SDG 3.3 SDG 3.3
TB cases TB cases TB cases TB cases TB cases
(per 100,000 (per 100,000 (per 100,000 (per 100,000 (per 100,000
people) people) people) people) people)
2016 2016 2016 2016 2016
SDG 1.1 SDG 1.1 SDG 1.1 SDG 1.1 SDG 1.1
Population living below Population living below Population living below Population living below Population living below
income poverty line (%) income poverty line (%) income poverty line (%) income poverty line (%) income poverty line (%)
PPP $1.90 a day PPP $1.90 a day PPP $1.90 a day PPP $1.90 a day PPP $1.90 a day
2006-2016 2006-2016 2006-2016 2006-2016 2006-2016
HDI HDI HDI HDI HDI
Rank Rank Rank Rank Rank
World 72.2 82.1 79 15,439 29.9 140.0 – –
Developing 70.7 81.1 75 10,199 32.7 164.5 – –
countries
South Asia 69.3 68.7 71 6,485 37.8 206.3 – –
Bangladesh 72.8 72.8 69 3,524 28.2 221.0 14.8 136
India 68.8 69.3 75 6,427 34.6 211.0 21.2 130
Nepal 70.6 59.6 71 2,433 28.4 154.0 15.0 149
Pakistan 66.6 57.0 46 5,035 64.2 268.0 6.1 150
Sri Lanka 75.5 91.2 98 11,669 8.0 65.0 – 76
Source:  United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report, 2018
2020-21
Contemporary World Politics
68
In that sense the South Asian
experience of democracy has
expanded the global imagination of
democracy.
Let us look at the experience
of democracy in each of the four
big countries of the region other
than India.
THE MILITARY AND
DEMOCRACY IN PAKISTAN
After Pakistan framed its first
constitution, General Ayub Khan
took over the administration of
the country and soon got himself
elected. He had to give up office
when there was popular
dissatisfaction against his rule.
This gave way to a military
takeover once again under
General Yahya Khan. During
Yahya’s military rule, Pakistan
faced the Bangladesh crisis, and
after a war with India in 1971,
East Pakistan broke away to
emerge as an independent country
called Bangladesh. After this, an
elected government under the
leadership of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
came to power in Pakistan from
1971 to 1977. The Bhutto
government was removed by
General Zia-ul-Haq in 1977.
General Zia faced a pro-democracy
movement from 1982 onwards and
and an elected democratic
government was established once
again in 1988 under the leadership
of Benazir Bhutto. In the period
that followed, Pakistani politics
centred around the competition
between her party, the Pakistan
People’s Party, and the Muslim
TIMELINE OF SOUTH ASIA
SINCE 1947
1947: India and Pakistan emerge as independent nations
after the end of British rule
1948: Sri Lanka (then Ceylon)  gains independence; Indo-
Pak conflict over Kashmir
1954-55: Pakistan joins the Cold War military blocs, SEATO
and CENTO
1960: India and Pakistan sign the Indus Waters Treaty
1962: Border conflict between India and China
1965: Indo-Pak War; UN India-Pakistan Observation Mission
1966: India and Pakistan sign the Tashkent Agreement;
Six-point proposal of Sheikh Mujib-ur Rahman for greater
autonomy to East Pakistan
1971 March: Proclamation of Independence by leaders of
Bangladesh
August : Indo-Soviet Treaty of Friendship signed for 20 years
December : Indo-Pak War, Liberation of Bangladesh
1972 July: India and Pakistan sign the Shimla Agreement
1974 May: India conducts nuclear test
1976: Pakistan and Bangladesh establish diplomatic ties
1985 December: South Asian leaders sign the SAARC
Charter at the first summit in Dhaka
1987: Indo-Sri Lanka Accord; Indian Peace Keeping Force
(IPKF) operation in Sri Lanka (1987-90)
1988: India sends troops to the Maldives to foil a coup
attempt by mercenaries
India and Pakistan sign the agreement not to attack
nuclear installations and facilities of each other
1988-91:  Democracy restoration in Pakistan, Bangladesh
and Nepal
1996 December: India and Bangladesh sign the Farakka
Treaty for sharing of the Ganga Waters
1998 May: India and Pakistan conduct nuclear tests
December: India and Sri Lanka sign the Free Trade Agreement
(FTA)
1999 February: Indian PM Vajpayee undertakes bus journey
to Lahore to sign a Peace Declaration
June-July: Kargil conflict between India and Pakistan
2001 July: Vajpayee - Musharraf Agra Summit unsuccessful
2004 January: SAFTA signed at the 12th SAARC Summit in
Islamabad
2007: Afghanistan joins SAARC
2014 November: The 18
th
 SAARC Summit in Kathmandu,
Nepal
2020-21
Page 5


OVERVIEW
Let us shift our gaze from the larger
global developments in the post-Cold
War era to developments in our own
region, South Asia. When India and
Pakistan joined the club of nuclear
powers, this region suddenly
became the focus of global attention.
The focus was, of course, on the
various kinds of conflict in this
region: there are pending border and
water sharing disputes between the
states of the region. Besides, there
are conflicts arising out of
insurgency, ethnic strife and
resource sharing. This makes the
region very turbulent. At the same
time, many people in South Asia
recognise the fact that this region
can develop and prosper if the states
of the region cooperate with each
other. In this chapter, we try to
understand the nature of conflict
and cooperation among different
countries of the region. Since much
of this is rooted in or conditioned by
the domestic politics of these
countries, we first introduce the
region and the domestic politics of
some of the big countries in the
region.
Chapter 5
Contemporary South Asia
Source: Subhas Rai’s adaptation of  ‘Liberty Leading the
People’, painted by Eugene Delacroix in 1830. Courtesy of
Himal Southasian, (January 2007) The Southasia Trust, Nepal
2020-21
Contemporary World Politics
66
WHAT IS SOUTH ASIA?
We are all familiar with the
gripping tension during an India-
Pakistan cricket match. We have
also seen the goodwill and
hospitality shown to visiting
Indian and Pakistani fans by their
hosts when they come to watch a
cricket match. This is symbolic of
the larger pattern of South Asian
affairs. Ours is a region where
rivalry and goodwill, hope and
despair, mutual suspicion and
trust coexist.
Let us begin by asking an
elementary question: what is South
Asia? The expression ‘South Asia’
usually includes the following
countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan,
India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan
and Sri Lanka. The mighty
Himalayas in the north and the vast
Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and
the Bay of Bengal in the south, west
and east respectively provide a
natural insularity to the region,
which is largely responsible for the
linguistic, social and cultural
distinctiveness of the sub-
continent. The boundaries of the
region are not as clear in the east
and the west, as they are in the
north and the south. Afghanistan
and Myanmar are often included
in discussions of the region as a
whole. China is an important player
but is not considered to be a part
of the region. In this chapter, we
shall use South Asia to mean the
seven countries mentioned above.
Thus defined, South Asia stands for
diversity in every sense and yet
constitutes one geo-political space.
The various countries in South
Asia do not have the same kind of
political systems. Despite many
problems and limitations, Sri
Lanka and India have successfully
operated a democratic system
since their independence from the
British. You will study more about
the evolution of democracy in India
in the textbook that deals with
politics in India since
independence. It is, of course,
possible to point out many
limitations of India’s democracy;
but we have to remember the fact
that India has remained a
democracy throughout its
existence as an independent
country. The same is true of Sri
Lanka.
Pakistan and Bangladesh
have experienced both civilian
and military rulers, with
Bangladesh remaining a
democracy in the post-Cold War
period. Pakistan began the post-
Cold War period with successive
democratic governments under
Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif
respectively. But it suffered a
military coup in 1999. It has
been run by a civilian
government again since 2008.
Till 2006, Nepal was a
constitutional monarchy with the
danger of the king taking over
executive powers. In 2008, the
monarchy was abolished and
Nepal emerged as a democratic
republic. From the experience of
Bangladesh and Nepal, we can
say that democracy is becoming
an accepted norm in the entire
region of South Asia.
Identify some
features
common to all
the South Asian
countries but
different from
countries in
West Asia or
Southeast Asia.
Is there a fixed
definition of these
regions? Who
decides that?
2020-21
67
Contemporary South Asia
Similar changes are taking place in the two
smallest countries of the region. Bhutan became a
constitutional monarchy in 2008. Under the
leadership of the king, it emerged as a multi-party
democracy. The Maldives, the other island nation,
was a Sultanate till 1968 when it was transformed
into a republic with a presidential form of
government. In June 2005, the parliament of the
Maldives voted unanimously to introduce a multi-
party system. The Maldivian Democratic Party
(MDP) dominates the political affairs of the island.
The MDP won the 2018 Elections.
Despite the mixed record of the democratic
experience, the people in all these countries
share the aspiration for democracy. A recent
survey of the attitudes of the people in the five
big countries of the region showed that there is
widespread support for democracy in all these
countries. Ordinary citizens, rich as well as
poor and belonging to different religions, view
the idea of democracy positively and support
the institutions of representative democracy.
They prefer democracy over any other form of
government and think that democracy is
suitable for their country. These are
significant findings, for it was earlier believed
that democracy could flourish and find
support only in prosperous countries of the world.
Both these graphs are based on interviews with more
than 19,000 ordinary citizens in the five countries of
South Asia. Source: SDSA Team, State of Democracy
in South Asia, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2007
Countries Countries Countries Countries Countries
SDG 3 SDG 3 SDG 3 SDG 3 SDG 3
Life expectancy Life expectancy Life expectancy Life expectancy Life expectancy
at birth (years) at birth (years) at birth (years) at birth (years) at birth (years)
2017 2017 2017 2017 2017
SDG 4.6 SDG 4.6 SDG 4.6 SDG 4.6 SDG 4.6
Adult literacy Adult literacy Adult literacy Adult literacy Adult literacy
rate (% ages rate (% ages rate (% ages rate (% ages rate (% ages
15 and older) 15 and older) 15 and older) 15 and older) 15 and older)
2006-2016 2006-2016 2006-2016 2006-2016 2006-2016
SDG 4.1 SDG 4.1 SDG 4.1 SDG 4.1 SDG 4.1
Gross Gross Gross Gross Gross
enrolment ratio enrolment ratio enrolment ratio enrolment ratio enrolment ratio
(Secondary) (Secondary) (Secondary) (Secondary) (Secondary)
2012-2017 2012-2017 2012-2017 2012-2017 2012-2017
SDG 8.1 SDG 8.1 SDG 8.1 SDG 8.1 SDG 8.1
GDP per GDP per GDP per GDP per GDP per
capita (2011 capita (2011 capita (2011 capita (2011 capita (2011
PPP $) PPP $) PPP $) PPP $) PPP $)
2017 2017 2017 2017 2017
SDG 3.2 SDG 3.2 SDG 3.2 SDG 3.2 SDG 3.2
Infant mortality Infant mortality Infant mortality Infant mortality Infant mortality
rate (per 1,000 rate (per 1,000 rate (per 1,000 rate (per 1,000 rate (per 1,000
live births) live births) live births) live births) live births)
2016 2016 2016 2016 2016
SDG 3.3 SDG 3.3 SDG 3.3 SDG 3.3 SDG 3.3
TB cases TB cases TB cases TB cases TB cases
(per 100,000 (per 100,000 (per 100,000 (per 100,000 (per 100,000
people) people) people) people) people)
2016 2016 2016 2016 2016
SDG 1.1 SDG 1.1 SDG 1.1 SDG 1.1 SDG 1.1
Population living below Population living below Population living below Population living below Population living below
income poverty line (%) income poverty line (%) income poverty line (%) income poverty line (%) income poverty line (%)
PPP $1.90 a day PPP $1.90 a day PPP $1.90 a day PPP $1.90 a day PPP $1.90 a day
2006-2016 2006-2016 2006-2016 2006-2016 2006-2016
HDI HDI HDI HDI HDI
Rank Rank Rank Rank Rank
World 72.2 82.1 79 15,439 29.9 140.0 – –
Developing 70.7 81.1 75 10,199 32.7 164.5 – –
countries
South Asia 69.3 68.7 71 6,485 37.8 206.3 – –
Bangladesh 72.8 72.8 69 3,524 28.2 221.0 14.8 136
India 68.8 69.3 75 6,427 34.6 211.0 21.2 130
Nepal 70.6 59.6 71 2,433 28.4 154.0 15.0 149
Pakistan 66.6 57.0 46 5,035 64.2 268.0 6.1 150
Sri Lanka 75.5 91.2 98 11,669 8.0 65.0 – 76
Source:  United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report, 2018
2020-21
Contemporary World Politics
68
In that sense the South Asian
experience of democracy has
expanded the global imagination of
democracy.
Let us look at the experience
of democracy in each of the four
big countries of the region other
than India.
THE MILITARY AND
DEMOCRACY IN PAKISTAN
After Pakistan framed its first
constitution, General Ayub Khan
took over the administration of
the country and soon got himself
elected. He had to give up office
when there was popular
dissatisfaction against his rule.
This gave way to a military
takeover once again under
General Yahya Khan. During
Yahya’s military rule, Pakistan
faced the Bangladesh crisis, and
after a war with India in 1971,
East Pakistan broke away to
emerge as an independent country
called Bangladesh. After this, an
elected government under the
leadership of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
came to power in Pakistan from
1971 to 1977. The Bhutto
government was removed by
General Zia-ul-Haq in 1977.
General Zia faced a pro-democracy
movement from 1982 onwards and
and an elected democratic
government was established once
again in 1988 under the leadership
of Benazir Bhutto. In the period
that followed, Pakistani politics
centred around the competition
between her party, the Pakistan
People’s Party, and the Muslim
TIMELINE OF SOUTH ASIA
SINCE 1947
1947: India and Pakistan emerge as independent nations
after the end of British rule
1948: Sri Lanka (then Ceylon)  gains independence; Indo-
Pak conflict over Kashmir
1954-55: Pakistan joins the Cold War military blocs, SEATO
and CENTO
1960: India and Pakistan sign the Indus Waters Treaty
1962: Border conflict between India and China
1965: Indo-Pak War; UN India-Pakistan Observation Mission
1966: India and Pakistan sign the Tashkent Agreement;
Six-point proposal of Sheikh Mujib-ur Rahman for greater
autonomy to East Pakistan
1971 March: Proclamation of Independence by leaders of
Bangladesh
August : Indo-Soviet Treaty of Friendship signed for 20 years
December : Indo-Pak War, Liberation of Bangladesh
1972 July: India and Pakistan sign the Shimla Agreement
1974 May: India conducts nuclear test
1976: Pakistan and Bangladesh establish diplomatic ties
1985 December: South Asian leaders sign the SAARC
Charter at the first summit in Dhaka
1987: Indo-Sri Lanka Accord; Indian Peace Keeping Force
(IPKF) operation in Sri Lanka (1987-90)
1988: India sends troops to the Maldives to foil a coup
attempt by mercenaries
India and Pakistan sign the agreement not to attack
nuclear installations and facilities of each other
1988-91:  Democracy restoration in Pakistan, Bangladesh
and Nepal
1996 December: India and Bangladesh sign the Farakka
Treaty for sharing of the Ganga Waters
1998 May: India and Pakistan conduct nuclear tests
December: India and Sri Lanka sign the Free Trade Agreement
(FTA)
1999 February: Indian PM Vajpayee undertakes bus journey
to Lahore to sign a Peace Declaration
June-July: Kargil conflict between India and Pakistan
2001 July: Vajpayee - Musharraf Agra Summit unsuccessful
2004 January: SAFTA signed at the 12th SAARC Summit in
Islamabad
2007: Afghanistan joins SAARC
2014 November: The 18
th
 SAARC Summit in Kathmandu,
Nepal
2020-21
69
Contemporary South Asia
League. This phase of elective
democracy lasted till 1999 when the
army stepped in again and General
Pervez Musharraf removed Prime
Minister Nawaz Sharif. In 2001,
General Musharraf got himself
elected as the President. Pakistan
continued to be ruled by the army,
though the army rulers have held
some elections to give their rule a
democratic image. Since 2008,
democratically elected leaders
have been ruling Pakistan.
Several factors have
contributed to Pakistan’s failure in
building a stable democracy.
The social dominance of the
military, clergy, and landowning
aristocracy has led to the frequent
overthrow of elected governments
and the establishment of military
government. Pakistan’s conflict
with India has made the pro-
military groups more powerful.
These groups have often said that
political parties and democracy in
Pakistan are flawed, that
Pakistan’s security would be
harmed by selfish-minded parties
and chaotic democracy, and that
the army’s stay in power
is, therefore, justified. While
democracy has not been fully
successful in Pakistan, there has
been a strong pro-democracy
sentiment in the country. Pakistan
has a courageous and relatively
free press and a strong human
rights movement.
The lack of genuine
international support for
democratic rule in Pakistan has
further encouraged the military to
continue its dominance. The
United States and other Western
countries have encouraged the
military’s authoritarian rule in the
past, for their own reasons. Given
their fear of the threat of what they
call ‘global Islamic terrorism’ and
the apprehension that Pakistan’s
nuclear arsenal might fall into the
hands of these terrorist groups,
the military regime in Pakistan
has been seen as the protector of
Western interests in West Asia and
South Asia.
DEMOCRACY IN BANGLADESH
Bangladesh was a part of Pakistan
from 1947 to 1971. It consisted
of the partitioned areas of Bengal
and Assam from British India. The
people of this region resented the
domination of western Pakistan
and the imposition of the Urdu
language.  Soon after the partition,
This cartoon comments on the dual role of Pakistan’s ruler Pervez
Musharraf as the President of the country and as the army General.
Read the equations carefully and write down the message of this
cartoon.
If Germany can be
reunited, why can’t
the people of India
and Pakistan at least
travel more easily to
each other’s
country?
Surendra, The Hindu
2020-21
Read More
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