Think Build ‘Strong and Inclusive’ South Asia


By GP Acharya (KATHMANDU, 28 May 2019) – With the striking victory of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lead National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Lok Sabha Election- 2019 in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is appearing for another term. Presumably, Modi won the election because of the majestic agenda of National Security mixed with a strapping nationalism of Hindutva. Right after the election results, Modi tweeted “Together we will build strong and inclusive India”. Isn’t it high time to think building ‘strong and inclusive’ South Asia, now? Yet, the chances for peace, harmony, cooperation and economic integration, in South Asia, are higher with his conquest. Under Modi, India and Nepal are likely to be closer and Indo-Nepal relation would gain newer and warmer height.

The Concern

South Asia has brought continuous interest and watchful eyeing of the world’s major powers because of its impulsive geo-political situation or perhaps because of the rising enormity of the nuke powers. This sub-continent possesses equal threat from within and outside, so peace and cooperation among the nations would be the best option for maintaining security arrangement. Sustainable economic and security architecture need to be devised under the umbrella of ‘strong and inclusive’ regional integration by concentrating on diverse dimensions- economic, security, socio-political, cultural, religious, technical and ecological among others.

With the democratization of technology, liberalization of economy, globalization of markets, universalization of education systems, advancement of ICT and progression of multi-cultural society; the threat perceptions have also been changed. Terrorist organizations are expanding their tentacles by making unified inhuman groups and gradually marching towards South Asia. The attack in five star hotels in Sri-Lanka and Pakistan is a clear sign that terrorists are threatening global nationals and economy through the land of underdeveloped and developing nations which must be taken as a signaling threat to the rising economies- India and China.  In 2016, Bangladesh also acquainted the similar attack as that of Sri-Lanka.

Terrorist organizations are equipped with advanced technology and are recruiting highly skilled people- scientists to engineers, ICT technocrats to GPS experts, planers to executives, and even 3 years infants to 70 years retired veterans. What if they could acquire chemical, biological, Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) or nuclear weapons? As claimed by Joseph Nye, “Democratization of technology is leading to the privatization of war”, the bitter experience is 9/11 attack in the US where non-state actors threatened the most powerful state in the world. Meanwhile, China and Russia adopted “the diplomacy of sympathy” following the 9/11 attack where as the US engaged in “the diplomacy of aggression” in Iraq which remained the worst ever foreign policy failure in its history. Subsequently, Iraq invasion created greater space to the emergence of supplementary terrorist groups including the IS which is consequently costlier to the entire world.

Nepal needs to get better intelligence in advance whether our warm gesture could be misused by terrorists as we are organizing “Visit Nepal 2020”. Most of the South Asian countries have a kind of ties with Middle-East, especially with Gulf region, because of the huge migrant workers population. Nepal’s open border with India and the rapidly rising emigrant population in the ISIS influenced territory is to be taken seriously. Millions of emigrant population from South Asia including India and Nepal are there. What if the IS could influence these innocent people and induce them as like Bin Laden did to Mohamed Atta who made 9/11 (twin tower attack) an inhuman success?

South Asian leaders must realize that Nepal’s security or lack thereof is going to affect the security of the entire region because of Nepal’s geo-political proximity with all the countries. Terrorism, crimes, religious conflict, drugs and other transnational issues may be injected in this region, especially in Nepal, to make China’s BRI project vulnerable or to induce threat in India. Since, Nepal is projected to bridge China to South Asia on BRI; the geo-strategic position of Nepal has been significantly concerned more than ever. In reality, Nepal wants prosperity, India needs security, China wants economic superiority where as Pakistan needs peace and stability at the moment which are possible only under a ‘strong and inclusive’ security architecture.

When South Asia could cultivate everlasting peace, China and India need not look third world for trading and survival. Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) comprising of Russia, India, Pakistan, most of central Asia and Iran combined together covers nearly half of the world population and one-third of world’s GDP. Hence, South Asian leaders must think above the political rhetoric and act for a “culture of peace” against the “culture of war” with concrete actions all at geopolitical, bilateral, economic and diplomatic levels to devise comprehensive security and economic architecture.

According to a common strand of Rousseau, Kant and Cobden, and Schumpeter and Doyle, “wars are created by militaristic and undemocratic governments for their own vested interests”. South Asia must realize that there is shrewd economic interest hidden behind the “culture of war”. There is interest of oil, gas, natural resources, weapons and arms, and an idea of creating disharmony, destroying Asian civilization, culture, dialogue and peace between the sovereign nation-states.

Since, China and India have both strengthened trade ties realizing the common ground of emerging economies and are already together in numerous organizations- SCO, BRICS, AIIB and BCIM among others. Sooner than later India can find the best possible ways to benefit from BRI and graciously invite China in SAARC. This will enormously strengthen regionalization and security. Given that the member states of organizations- SCO, SAARC, BIMSTEC, BBIN and BCIM among others do not trade as much with each other as they do with rest of the world. Hence, there would be greater trade diversification through inclusive regionalization for which inter-state conflict, gap of trust, diplomatic crisis and suspicion to each other need to be watered down now.

Trust and Tone

Since, South Asia has a significant geo-political and geo-strategic importance in the global political spectrums; both India and Pakistan need to take equal responsibility for peace process that would make this region more important sub-continent for trade, economy, diplomacy and politics.  Realizing the prospects of “Peace to Prosperity”, both India and Pakistan need to step ahead to avail the plethora of opportunities.

Shifting of global environment and the relative decline of US and EU power is a strategic window for India and China to increase their global influence. Since, Europe is in dismay, American power is gradually declining, China is marshaling the clout of soft power, India is also mounting its influence and Nepal stands at a very important location in entire Asia. Then, India and China are the only nations to be future superpowers which together can lead the world ahead. Yet again, all the nations need to project a ‘balanced tone’, politically, diplomatically and economically to respect the core and genuine interests of each other that would help build ‘strong and inclusive’ South Asia.

Acharya is a researcher and analyst who holds an M.Sc. in Computer Science, M.Sc. in Statistics, MPhil in Management (Studied) and M.A. in International Relations and Diplomacy (Research Progress).

@GPAthinker

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