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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : A long view of the South Asian drama


Source: The Hindu


  • Prelims: Current events of international importance, G20, Global south, Inflation etc.
  • Mains GS Paper II & III: Significance of G20 countries, Bilateral, regional and global grouping and agreements involving India or affecting India’s interests.



  • A defining characteristic of South Asian politics, looks set to increase.
  • India’s Relations with her Neighbors– It was presented at a seminar and published by Strategic Analysis(flagship journal of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), in March 1987).




South Asia:


  • It is the southern region of Asia, which is defined in both geographical and ethno-cultural terms.
  • The region consists of the countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
  • India’s vision of regional economic integration in South Asia is based on enhanced intra-regional trade, investment flows and regional transport and communication links in South Asia.
  • South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and India’s Neighbourhood First Policy are the two vehicles in this process.


Background about South Asia:

  • South Asia’s people are its biggest asset but remain wastefully underutilized.
  • Half its population under the age of 24 and over one million young people set to enter the labor force every month until 2030,
  • South Asia is home to over one third of the world’s stunted children.
  • A child born in the region today can, by the age of 18, expect to attain only 48% of their full productive potential.
  • If the quantity and quality of South Asia’s human capital were to improve, regional GDP per worker could double.


Political scenario in South Asia:

  • Pakistan seems to be undergoing an implosion.
  • Nepal: Successive elections throwing up a hung parliament, prospects of political stability in Nepal remain bleak.
  • Bangladesh: Ahead of elections in an enfeebled Opposition is attempting to revert to agitation.
  • Maldives: A presidential contest that could tilt the balance between democracy and authoritarianism is in the offing
  • Sri Lanka slowly recovers from an unprecedented economic meltdown.
  • India: The run-up to the 18th Lok Sabha election in India next summer will be keenly watched.


Unique Indian values

  • Values underlying the Indian state stood out in contrast to those espoused by several of its neighbors
  • Values such as secularism, democracy, federalism and linguistic autonomy
  • India pursued these values as they were absorbed and internalized during India’s century-long freedom struggle.
  • Absorbing Islam and Christianity: India had endured because of its enormous capacity to absorb, internalize, modify and transform, and yet retain its personality.
  • In the 19th century: Democratic values emerged in western Europe, they were accepted on an eclectic basis in India.
  • Freedom struggle: Local government, free press, trade union rights, liberal democratic multiparty competitive politics, adult suffrage, secular outlook and acceptance of the state as a vehicle of development became planks in the freedom struggle.
  • The representational system of government in India.
  • The totally apolitical functioning of the Indian armed forces
  • Critical role of the Indian press.


Background of India’s development as a union:

  • Some of India’s neighbors, supported by sections of western scholarship: India was never united before the British brought the whole country under a single administrative structure.
  • There was widespread recognition of India and Hindustan as a unity in terms of culture, civilization and even administrative structure.
  • The British Queen, Elizabeth I, granted a charter to the East India Company.
    • The westerners named the ocean around India as the Indian Ocean.


Indian concept of Nation:

  • ‘Aah Setu Himachalam’ (Kanyakumari to Himalayas)
  • SarvaBhauma (Lord of the Earth) who had performed Ashwamedha,
  • The epics of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata
  • The Ashokan edicts
  • Mutts of Adi Sankara


Way Forward

  • The unity and integrity of a nation have to be based on a social contract among the people to be formulated and sustained through representative structures.
  • Nationhood by itself is a secular political concept that has to be based on territoriality and a vision of the society proposed to be built.
  • Nationhood is essentially a struggle between integration towards a universalised and internationalist society or one-world concept and fragmentation based on one group’s differences with the rest arising out of an innate fear of and inability to cope with the world at large.
  • India should grow in economic and technological terms and, as it does, its neighbors will adjust themselves to the Indian reality and stop thinking in terms of invoking China and other extra-regional powers as countervailing factors.
  • India should develop its military power in order to shield itself from the turbulence around it and be ready to respond to the pressures of this age of coercive diplomacy.
  • India’s diplomacy — as distinct from its aid programmes, trade and people-to-people interaction — should place less emphasis on its South Asian neighbors and focus more on its relations with China, Russia, the United States, the industrialized world, South East Asia, West Asia and Africa.
  • India’s neighbors, especially Pakistan, want it to play a very low key role in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.
    • India should exercise extreme patience till such time as its neighbors realize how much it can help them in their nation-building and development.
  • Reciprocity is a basic requirement for cooperation on issues such as river waters and the use of natural resources, but once the principle of reciprocity is accepted, India should go the extra mile and be generous.



The long sustained image of India as a leader of the oppressed and marginalized nations has disappeared on account of its new found role in the emerging global order.’ Elaborate(UPSC 2019) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)