South Asia continues to be in the throes of conflict in the months ahead. A brief survey of the numerous grievances bloodied by violence bloodshed will highlight this trend. Afghanistan remains a key area of concern in South Asia. The trends and patterns of conflict increasingly mirror imaging Iraq is not very encouraging either.
Despite the many successes achieved by peace keepers such as killing of Mullah Dadullah, the principal protagonist in Southern Afghanistan and over 75 Taliban in Operation Silicon the intensity of suicide attacks, IEDs and disruption is spreading to new areas. There is not much hope in neighboring Pakistan as well. The arc of instability is engulfing its Western borders with the entire belt of Southern and Eastern Afghanistan, Balochistan, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and North West Frontier Province representing a war zone, where outside forces including the Pakistan government are increasingly targeted by a network of fighters whose supply seems unlimited and leadership resolute.
Behtullah Mehsud, Jalaluddin Haqqani and Mullah Omar lack the flamboyance of Dadullah but they are elusive and have shown a high penchant for survival. The Pakistan Army would do well to regain control of the areas which it has seceded to these forces over the past two years; else the wages of escapism will come home to roost in Islamabad.
The internal political situation in Pakistan is also a cause of concern. Through the steel frame, the Army continues to steady the ship, it lacks perception of how forces of modernism and democracy can raise a ground swell of dissent which can snow ball into a street side revolution that can easily spiral out of control. Either way it is a difficult situation for the ruling hierarchy.
India is going through a wave of sectarian conflict in Punjab and Rajasthan which burst into flames over issues of power, employment and politics cloaked in the garb of religious sanctity and job reservations. The power of democracy and sagacity of sane leadership will hopefully douse the flames before they conflagrate.
Terrorism however is not a linear phenomenon thus Kashmir, Assam and Central India will see strikes by groups inimical to state interests be it the Hizbul Mujahideen, the ULFA or the Naxals.
The threat also looms large in the many pockets of communal tension be it Mumbai or Hyderabad as domestic rebels in concert with forces from outside such as the LeT and the HUJI retain the capacity to strike, testing the patience of communities. So far the strand of harmony has withstood the challenge, how long this will be maintained remains to be seen.
Neighboring Bangladesh has little political activity but reports of regrouping of terrorist outfits are a cause for alarm. Maverick unknown groups as Jadid could unleash suicide bombers from their ranks disrupting the process of restructuring undertaken by the Caretaker Administration. Indo Bangladesh relations appear to be on the upswing, which has to be translated in the DGFI giving notice to North East groups suspected of operating from the Bangla hinterland to leave or face the consequences of extermination.
In Myanmar, the junta refused to release Aung Suu Kyi, the irony of real politic of a frail 61 year old woman challenging a state armed with tanks and artillery guns and supported by its neighbours to the hilt including China and India will not be lost on historians in the future.
In Bhutan, mock elections have thrown up the Druk Yellow Party of traditionalists in the fore front, with the rivals fighting an agenda of modernization winning just a solitary seat.
Nepal's simmering polity seems to have cooled at least for the time being. Some plain talking by the Prime Minister with Maoist leadership has led to their reconciliation to the processes of democratic functioning. But Parliament remains in suspension and many splinter groups such as the JTMM, the Madhes Tigers and the YCL continue to create mayhem. Reining in these should be a priority for the government and firm action alone will bear fruit.
Sri Lanka is on the verge of a full blown war as the government mulled repealing the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) which though on paper provides at least a semblance of hope for peace. But hardening of stands on both sides has left little hope of a non violent end to the fratricidal war and bloody fighting in the North with LTTE suicide attacks in the south seems the way ahead.
So will the leaders of South Asia who presented such a brave face in the SAARC summit just a month back stand up, get out of their air conditioned offices and be counted to bring this mayhem to a halt by taking some hard decisions mixed with statesmanship and wisdom. Tolerance towards the people but intolerance of violence, and ruthless implementation of law and order should be the way ahead.