South Asia is a multiethnic, multireligious and multilingual country with Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains and Zoroastrians. The roots of Indian civilisation interconnect and interlink the region through culture. South Asia means Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is an economic cooperation organisation in the region which was established in 1985 and includes all eight nations comprising South Asia. The population of South Asia is about 1.891 billion, or about one-fourth of the world’s population (24% of the world’s population) and 39.49% of Asia’s population.
It is called the “Sub Continent”, and it is India’s Political sphere of influence with the brotherhood. However, the region is in crisis due to COVID-19 Pandemic, natural calamities like floods, cyclones, the Ukraine–Russia War, supply chain glut, ethnic and religious conflict, fundamentalism of Jihad, the rise of Taliban and ISIS, military coup, food crisis, China’s debt-trap diplomacy and encroachment and more. Here are the countries and the issues.
Firstly Jihad: Islamic fundamentalism is on the rise from Pakistan to Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Maldives. Already Afghanistan is controlled by the Taliban, who have taken the nation to medieval ages. With no recognition from the world except for two or three countries, Afghanistan is in severe poverty. The economy is in the doldrums. As for Pakistan, military rule and unstable government have become a concern for the South Asian region. Out of 22 appointed Pakistani Prime Ministers, none has completed a full term in office. Unity of Jihad Parties and its support by democratic forces is making Pakistan soon become one more Afghanistan, and we can see the economic collapse and instability to the extent of Pakistan breaking as a nation.
The Maldives is a unitary presidential republic with Sunni Islam strictly as the state religion. In the Maldives, many of its soldiers did fight with ISIS in the Middle East, and there was political instability, but the coming days will be difficult due to the lack of tourists and the growth of extremists. Although Bangladesh is secular, more citizens are embracing a conservative version of Islam, and some are pushing for sharia law. Experts say that the rise in conservatism reflects the influence of foreign-financed Islamic charities and the more austere version of Islam brought home by migrant workers in Persian Gulf countries. However, after COVID-19 lockdowns, the return of their workers from abroad in a big way has made the nation to be watched.
Bhutan is a Buddhist state with a constitutional monarchy. The country has been ranked as the least corrupt and peaceful except for China’s high handiness in encroaching it. Myanmar’s politics is dominated by a military Junta, which has sidelined the democratic forces led by Aung San Suu Kyi. Outside interference has put the nation under crisis.
Secondly, Dynasty Politics: Due to dynasty politics, Sri Lanka is in big trouble to survive as a nation. Mahinda Rajapaksa, the eldest of the Rajapaksa brothers, held several top government roles and served first as prime minister and then as a two-term president. With the two brothers at the helm, Gotabaya Rajapaksa as President and Mahida as PM, and several other members of the family holding key positions, the government has been accused of mismanaging the country’s economy. They announced big tax cuts, which affected the country’s balance sheet at a time when it faced shrinking foreign reserves. They also introduced a contentious ban on chemical fertilisers in a push for organic farming, which backfired and left a deep impact on the harvest and the country’s food security. Covid lockdowns worsened the economic woes, as the travel restrictions deprived the country of crucial tourist dollars. Sri Lanka has declared a state of emergency for the second time in just over a month as the government confronts large, continuing protests over a deepening economic crisis. Challenges are in Fuel, Food, Electricity and more. Sri Lanka though a new PM has taken over, is the nation to be watched.
Thirdly, due to supply chain gluts after math COVID-19 lockdowns and now with Ukraine Russia conflict, the region is in big problem. Food insecurity is the order of the day from Pakistan to Nepal and Sri Lanka. Though they could transform and escape the Covid-19 Pandemic, economic effects are severe risks of financial instability such as inflation, rising interest rates and volatile asset prices.
Fourthly, climate change is having a great effect on the region with extreme heat and rain. It is destroying the health and livelihoods of the South Asian working poor. And if global greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow, the combination of heat and humidity could be literally unbearable. It will have an effect on climate, food and economy in the region.
Lastly, the region is going into China’s debt trap. China is trying to use these nations for its narrow political domination. Few South Asian countries like Pakistan, Myanmar, and Nepal have already seen their land encroached. China’s investment is seen in distrust in the region. Sri Lanka Crisis is directly related to China, as few analysts put it. Myanmar is also supported by the Chinese Communist Party. It is getting isolated like North Korea and Pakistan, and it is becoming sidelined in international politics. When China went to illegally build roads in Bhutan, India stood shoulder to shoulder and saved it in Doklam.
Finally, one can conclude that India believes in the “Vasudaiva Kutumbakam” world as one family. It has stood with all South Asian Countries during their trouble. India has given about $4billion dollars for Lanka’s rehabilitation. For Afghan more than $4 billion to construct parliament to dams in Afghan to the food supply. Its Vaccine Maîtri for the region and the world was a great step forward. It wanted every anthodhaya, last man, to get vaccinated, and nobody should be left out in India or in the region or the world.
India is doing its utmost to make the region disease-free, war-free, jihad free, military coup free, and ensure no threat to small, medium or island countries in the region. Its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Everyone Together, Everyone’s Development, Everyone’s Trust’ vision are successfully implemented as Foreign policies. According to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, more than 300 LOCs worth US$30.66 billion have been extended to 64 countries under the Indian Development and Economic Assistance Scheme. Now it is for the region to think and move with India. Otherwise, they would collapse or become a great burden.