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In border claims, reimagining South Asia’s boundaries

Topics Covered: India and its neighbourhood- relations.

In border claims, reimagining South Asia’s boundaries

(Before understanding this article, you need to know the following:

  • State-centrism has given the state structure the propriety to be the sole arbiter of disputes, if any, among communities and regions falling within the territorial limits of nation states.
  • As per this principle, it is the state that articulates, defines, and represents “national” interests in negotiations with other states.)

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Now, What’s the issue?

Border disputes, such as Kalapani dispute, are “handled” rather than “addressed” within the given dispensation of South Asian statecraft.

The main problem here is that the decisions flow from within a state-centric paradigm.

  • People living in the disputed regions and their emotions are not taken into account.
  • Often, territorial boundaries are valued more than lives, livelihoods and the well-being of the people located at the edges of nation states.

What we forget is countries here not only share cultural and civilisational backgrounds but also an “officially” recognised porous border.

Need of the hour:

South Asia is perhaps the most natural regional grouping of states around the world. And, at the same time, it is also the most difficult and contested grouping.

South Asia needs to be rethought, not as a region of states, but as a region of regions.

It is a land where contact zones should exist beyond the limits of territorial boundaries shared by the member-states.

There is a need to go beyond the popular debates revolving around such “troubling” questions such as: how much area has been “encroached” upon by which state and on what basis. 

It is because such questions seem to be troubling to those who are to maintain their lifeworld at those zones.

  • In a certain sense, the people living at the edges of nation states within South Asia do not actually belong to any of the two nation states.
  • Or in other words, they belong to both the states at the same time.

Plurality, differences and inclusivity bring coherence to borderland ontology; they defy the logic of singular, unifying, exclusive identities that the nation states privilege.

Way ahead:

Both India and Nepal, and for that matter, other South Asian countries need to rethink South Asia as a region of regions before they submit to the enticements of a new language of “regional cooperation” — one that is ontologically empty but materially more rewarding.

Region and regional identity are not just issues of “realpolitik” in South Asia; rather, the need is to “officially” accommodate this rather naturally drafted way of doing politics, if we are genuinely concerned about South Asian geopolitics.

Sources: the Hindu.