South Asia is acknowledged by the global major powers as a region of great strategic significance for their respective strategic interests. For India as the regional power with overwhelming preponderance in South Asia regional peace and stability is of utmost importance as a troubled neighborhood distracts her from her more wider and more significant ambitions. Regrettably, as South Asia steps into the year 2008, the perspectives it presents in terms of peace and stability are troubled and turbulent.
Pakistan, a nation which counts itself as a strategic equal of India solely on the strength of her ill-gotten nuclear weapons arsenal and not because of any of the natural attributes of power is today gripped in what can be described as a virtual civil war situation. Pakistan's military dictator and the Pakistan Army which he claims is still under his control even after shedding his uniform are today at odds with the Pakistani people. Armed insurgency is rife in the frontier provinces and civil political unrest is widespread elsewhere. Suicide bombings, sabotage and arson incidents are the staple news that now emanate from Pakistan every day. I have been constantly repeating in my writings on Pakistan that Pakistan's political stability and political dispensations cannot be scripted by its external patrons and that it is the people of Pakistan who must be allowed to decide their political future in terms of restoration of democracy. Unfortunately, the winds are blowing in a retrograde direction generating both political turbulence and armed insurrection.
Nepal has figured frequently as a major topic of concern in my Columns. This concern arises from the negative strategic fallout on India of India's facilitating the backdoor entry of the Nepalese Maoists into the limited political space of Nepalese politics. What has happened in Nepal is that in the process that India adopted the Nepalese Maoists have been allowed to hijack the democracy movement in Nepal and make it synonymous with their own political program which is far from the truth. The present opposition to the Nepalese Maoists which has started emanating from the Rightists who are not in favor of the constitutional monarchy, the Nepalese Army Chief's public assertion that he is against Maoists cadres being absorbed in the Army and the Madhesia movement in the Terai region inherently carry in themselves the seeds of a conflict of political interests with the Nepalese Maoists plans to take over undisputed political control of Nepal. The perspectives on Nepal in 2008 are therefore troubling and portend political turbulence.
Sri Lanka in 2008 will continue to be dominated by the Government's determined efforts to militarily liquidate the LTTE from the areas presently under its control in the North. In a situation where now the LTTE seems to be getting cornered in its lair it can be expected to step up its suicide bombings and political assassinations in the majority Sinhala areas which on the rebound could force the Sri Lanka Government as a response from the people to come out with even more determined military operations against the LTTE and liquidate the threat. Therefore 2008 can be expected to be a troubled and bloody one in Sri Lanka.
Bangladesh though not presently gripped in violence and armed conflict as Pakistan and Sri Lanka is trying to set its house in order. The General Elections are expected to be held next year and the caretaker government seems to be planning for the same. But one year is a long time and though the 'Battling Begums' are being attempted to be made politically irrelevant the run-up to elections next year could become politically volatile.
India as the regional power in South Asia continues to be stable and economically buoyant. However, it has not yet emerged as an assertive power to take control of its troubled neighborhood. Further, India cannot be expected to be strategically assertive in 2008 as with General Elections due in 2009 the present Congress-led coalition government has become a lame-duck government with the Leftists constantly threatening to withdraw support.
South Asia therefore in 2008 does not present any promising prospects. Its troubled prospects will continue to haunt India's political leaders and its policy establishment in the absence of a political will to use India's tremendous power leverages to generate regional stability and peace.