Conflict and Development: Lessons from South Asia


Dr. M. Shafi Bhat

Centre for International Relations,

Islamic University of Science and Technology, Awantipora, Kashmir



When India and Pakistan joined the club of nuclear powers, this region beacame the focal point of global attention. The focus was on various kinds of conflict in this region. There are pending border and water sharing disputes between the states of the region. Besides, there are conflicts arising out of insurgency, ethnic strife and resource sharing. While  conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan have attracted global attention, parts of India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal have also experienced long-running conflict. This makes the region very turbulent. South Asian people recognise the fact that the region can develop and prosper only if the members of this region co- opeate with each other. It is in this background that the present paper tries to understand the nature of conflict and co- operation among South Asian countries.


The present paper is divided into two parts. The first part attempts to analyze the conflicts in South Asian Region. This is  done by highlighting some contentious issues in the region. The second part of the paper accounts the role of SAARC as a regional organization in avoiding conflict, enhancing co- operation and development among the South Asian countries.


KEY WORDS: Conflict, Development, South Asian, Peace, Co- operation.



Conflict is a clash between two opposing groups, external or internal to the country. An example of external clash is state-to-state conflict, which is on the decline. Internal conflicts have resulted in three times as many deaths as wars between states since World War II (Fearon and Latin: 2003).


There are two types of internal conflict. The first is conflict against the state or civil war. Examples of this are terrorism, which is an extreme manifestation of conflict and reflects a certain degree of organization of conflict. It is carried out by a relatively organized group of non-state actors, and directed against the state. The second category includes people-to-people conflict, or ethnic conflict. Examples of this include localized land conflicts, religious and ethnic riots, homicides or other crimes (Stewart 2008, Varshney: 2002).


These two types of conflict have evolved differently in South Asia. People-to-people conflict has declined. In India, communal and ethnic riots between Hindus and Muslims are on a downward trend but terrorism has increased? It argues that conflict is both a cause and an effect. To break out of the trap, policymakers need to reduce poverty while at the same time restraining conflict to enable the much needed economic growth.



1.       To study what triggers conflict in South Asia?

2.       To highlight the importance of cross-border cooperation between South Asian countries as an integral part of a strategy to reduce conflict in the region.

3.       To study the significance of policy choices and their implementation in preventing an escalation of conflict.



1.       Is conflict a cause or a result of underdevelopment?

2.       Is conflict a problem for development or a failure of development?

3.       What is the role of policy makers in South Asia to reduce conflicts in the region?



Conflict is a clash between two opposing groups. The post- Cold War era did not end the conflicts and tensions in the South Asian region. The most salient and overwhelming of these conflicts is between India and Pakistan. Since the very beginning, India’s relations with Pakistan have been greatly strained because of dispute over borders, distribution of river waters and Kashmir issue. Pakistan’s decision to join the military alliances sponsored by the western countries and thereby to build its military strength also contributed to the estranged relations. In July 1972, after the conclusion of Shimla Agreement a new orientation was sought to be provided to the relationship and the two countries agreed to settle their differences through bilateral negotiation in peaceful manner. Both expressed their faith in peaceful co- existence, non- interference in the internal affairs of each other, respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty of each other. The two countries also agreed to co- operate in economic, cultural and scientific fields, thereafter the normalization process between the two countries set in and it was hoped that the era of co- operation would begin. However, the soviet intervention in Afghanistan and the decision of the U.S administration to supply sophisticated and military equipments to Pakistan created new tensions in Indo- Pak relations.


South Asia includes Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The mighty Himalayas in the north and the vast Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal in the south, west and east respectively provide a natural insularity to the region, which is largely responsible for the linguistic, social ad cultural distinctiveness of the sub- continent. The boundaries of the region are not as clear as in the east and the west as they are in the north and the south. Afghanistan and Myanmar are often included in discussion of the region as a whole. China is an important player but is not considered to be a part of the region. South Asia stands for diversity in every sense and yet constitutes one geo- political space. There are differences as far as political systems in the region are concerned. Despite various problems and limitations, India and Sri Lanka have successfully operated a democratic system since their independence from the British. Bangladesh and Pakistan have experienced both civilian and military rulers with Bangladesh remaining a democracy in the post- Cold War period. Post- Cold War era in Pakistan began with successive democratic governments under Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. However, it suffered a military coup in 1999. It is to be noted here that a democratic government under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif has been formed in 2013 which has promised to strengthen the political system and restore democracy in Pakistan. Till 2006, Nepal was a constitutional monarchy with the danger of king taking over executive powers. In 2006, a successful popular uprising led to the restoration of democracy and reduced the king to a nominal position. Keeping in view the political developments in Bangladesh and Nepal, it can be said that democracy is becoming an accepted norm in the entire region of South Asia. Similar changes are taking place in Bhutan and Maldives, the smallest countries of the region. Bhutan is still a monarchy but the king has initiated plans for its transition to multi- party democracy. Maldives was a Sultanate till 1968 when it was transformed into a republic with a presidential form of government. In June 2005, the parliament of the Maldives voted unanimously to introduce a multi- party system. The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) dominates the political activities of the country. After the legalization of some opposition parties in Maldives after 2005, democracy began to strengthen its roots in the region. What is important is that despite the mixed record of the democratic experiments of the people in the South Asian region, all the people share the aspiration for democracy and support the institutions of representative democracy. A survey conducted in 2007 revealed that there is widespread support for democracy in this region. People vie\w the idea of democracy positively and support democratic institutions.


Military and Democracy in Pakistan:

After Pakistan framed its first constitution, its first President General Ayoob Khan took over the administration of the country and got himself elected. He had to give up office when there was popular dissatisfaction against his rule. This gave way to a military take over once again under General Yahya Khan. During his military rule, Pakistan faced the Bangladesh crisis and after a war with India in 1971, East Pakistan broke away to emerge as an independent country, Bangladesh. After this, an elected government under the leadership of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto came to power in Pakistan (1971- 77). However this government was removed by general Zia ul Haq in 1977. He faced a pro- democracy movement from 1982 onwards and an elected democratic government was established again in 1988 under the leadership of Benazir Bhutto. This was followed by politics that centered around the competition between the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Muslim League (ML). This phase of elective democracy lasted till 1999 when the army stepped in again and General Parvez Musharraf removed Nawaz Sharif. In 2001, General Musharraf got himself elected as the President. The social dominance of the military, clergy and landowning aristocracy led to the frequent overthrow of elected governments and the establishment of military government. Furthermore, the lack of genuine international support for democratic rule in Pakistan has further encouraged the military to continue its dominance.The United States and other western countries have encouraged the military authoritarian rule over the years for their own interests.


Democracy in Bangladesh:

Bangladesh was a part of Pakistan from 1947 to 1971. It consisted of the partitioned areas of Bengal and Assam from British India. The people of this region resented the domination of Western Pakistan and the imposition of the Urdu language. Soon after the partition, they began to protest against the unfair treatment meted out to the Bengali culture and language. They also demanded fair representation in administration and a fair share in political power. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman led the popular protest against the domination of West Pakistan and demanded autonomy for the eastern province. In 1970 elections, the Awami League led by Sheikh Mujib won all the seats and secured a majority in the proposed constituent assembly for Pakistan. But the leadership of West Pakistan refused to convene the assembly. This resulted in the arrest of Sheikh Mujib. Under the military rule of General Yahya Khan, the Pakistani army tried to suppress the mass movement of the Bengali people. This led to a large scale migration to India, creating a huge refugee problem for India. The Indian government supported the demand of the East Pakistan for their independence and helped them financially and militarily. This resulted in the war between India and Pakistan in December 1971 that ended in the surrender of the Pakistani forces in East Pakistan and  the formation of Bangladesh as an independent nation.


Bangladesh drafted its constitution declaring faith in secularism, democracy and socialism. However in 1975, Sheikh Mujib got the constitution amended to shift from the parliamentary to presidential form of government. Since 1991 (when elections were held), representative democracy based on multi-party elections has been working in Bangladesh.


Monarchy and Democracy in Nepal:

Nepal was a Hindu Kingdom in the past and then a constitutional monarchy in the modern period for many years. Throughout this period, political parties and the common masses of Nepal have demanded for more open and responsible government. But with the help of army, the King retained full control over the government and restricted the expansion of democracy in Nepal. In 1990, in the wake of a strong pro- democracy movement, the King accepted the demand for a new democratic constitution. However, democratic governments had a short and troubled career. During 1990s, the Maoists in Nepal were successful in spreading their influence in many parts of Nepal. They believed in armed insurrection against the monarch and the ruling elite. This led to a violent conflict between the Maoist guerrillas and the armed forces. For some time, there was a triangular conflict among the monarchist forces, the democrats and the Maoists. In 2002, the king abolished the parliament and dismissed the government, thus ending the limited democracy that existed in Nepal. In 2006, there were massive country wide massive pro- democratic protests. These pro- democratic forces achieved their first major victory when the King was forced to restore the House of Representatives that had been dissolved in 2002. The largely non- violent movement was led by the Seven Party Alliance (SPA), the Maoists and social activists. However, the  transition  to democracy is not complete.  The Maoists have suspended their armed struggle. They want the constitution to include the radical programmes of social and economic restructuring.


Ethnic Conflict and Democracy in Sri Lanka:

Sri Lanka retained democracy since its independence in 1948. But the democracy in Sri Lanka faced serious challenges because of ethnic conflict leading to the demand for secession by one of the regions. After its independence, politics in Sri Lanka was dominated by forces that articulated the interest of the Sinnhalis. They were hostile to a large number of Tamils who had migrated from India to Sri Lanka and settled there. The Sinnhali nationalists thought that Sri Lanka should not give concessions to the Tamils because Sri Lanka belongs to the Sinhala people only. The neglect of Tamil concerns led to militant Tamil nationalism. From 1983 onwards, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a militant organization, has been fighting an armed struggle with the Sri Lankan army and demanding Tamil Eelam or a separate country for the Tamils of Sri Lanka. The LTTE controls the north- eastern parts of Sri Lanka.


In spite of the ongoing conflict in Sri Lanka, it has registered considerable economic growth and recorded high levels of human development. Sri Lanka was one of the first developing countries to successfully control the rate of growth of population, the first country in the region to liberalize the economy and it has had the highest per capita gross domestic product  for many years right through the civil war. Despite the ravages of internal conflict, Sri Lanka has maintained a democratic political system.



Indo- Pak Conflict: Biggest Barrier to Development and Co- operation in South Asia:

 The post- Cold War era did not meant the decline of conflicts and tensions in South Asia. In addition to the above discussed conflicts, South Asia is facing a severe Indo- Pak conflict which is hampering the growth, co- operation, peace and development in the region.  Soon after the partition, India and Pakistan got embroiled in conflict over Kashmir. The differences between the two led to wars in 1947, 1965 and 1971 and Kargil war of 1999. The arms race between the two countries assumed a new character with both sides acquiring nuclear weapons and missiles in 1990s. Kashmir conflict, Siachen issue, sharing of river water disputes are some issues which are major impediments in the Indo- Pak relations.


Indo –Pak relations are characterized by mistrust, contrasting interests and missed opportunities. Kashmir has come to exemplify the classic case of a territorial dispute between neighboring countries in the modern world composed of nation states. Extended hostile periods have only been sporadically separated by periods of relative peace - interludes that many hoped would prolong into perpetuity. But failures of state, internal conflicts, deep-rooted differences and unavoidable circumstances have meant that these spells of tranquility remain mere specks of light in an otherwise dark corridor, at best offering missed opportunities (Sreenath: 2009).


Indo- Pak Peace Process: An Evaluation:

In studying the Indo- Pak ties, it is simplistic but also convenient to divide them into phases with regard to important junctures in South Asian history. None of the occasions that gave rise to optimism could ultimately become the watershed they were built up to be. The most recent such case was in 2004; following a prolonged period of military standoff, there began a peace process led by Pakistani President Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Atal BihariVajpayee. This phase was significant since it allowed for a more systematic approach to negotiations by adopting the concept of "Composite Dialogue" that covered various issues that have continually hindered progress on even seemingly non-contentious fronts. A move away from a traditionally line of control (LoC) and Kashmir-centric policy, it called for a number of concerns to be brought to the table and economic cooperation to be enhanced.However, the process did expose some important aspects of the relationship. Firstly, it established that progressive talks and meaningful solutions were not just desirable, they were also possible. Secondly, it exhibited a lack of political will, rather the political constraints, in both countries that prevent agreeable solutions from being implemented. This was clear for instance in the case of the Sir Creek and Siachen issues where significant progress through collaboration could not be translated into concrete agreements. Similarly, when a proposed visit to Islamabad by Prime Mister Manmohan Singh, as part of this process, could not materialize, progress was further derailed (Malik:2011).


If one divides the relationship into phases, the current phase succeeding the afore-mentioned period of peaceful, if not altogether successful Composite Dialogue, begins with the terrorist attacks in Mumbai on November 26, 2008. While this signaled an instant breakdown of talks, Pakistan's foreign minister was present in New Delhi at the time in order to help revive the deflated process of dialogue.


It is widely acknowledged that only effective diplomacy, on both regional as well as global levels, prevented the situation from reaching a complete meltdown. However, subsequent suspension of dialogue ensued and that has only recently been revived in 2010. While this does not mean that all communications died out, it did signal an end to an official exchange of views, particularly the Composite Dialogue.


India's stance on Pakistan's alleged State policy of supporting militants and on dealing with certain individuals and groups, whose name has been linked to the Mumbai attacks, is paramount to all other areas of negotiations as far as New Delhi is concerned. Pakistan's priorities remain the more traditional long-standing issues such as Kashmir and water security. Moreover, there is insistence from Pakistan for a more structured rather than uni-dimensional dialogue, since otherwise only superficial talks with no concrete results will emerge. Ironically, some suggest that the current positions are paradoxical since it was actually India that had benefited from the Composite Dialogue process. This nonetheless remains a minority opinion as both countries remain adamant in their positions. After the 16th SAARC summit in Bhutan in April 2010, there has been a revival of sorts that some see as a resumption of the Composite Dialogue for all practical purposes even as the term itself has been avoided. For others, this is simply a continuation of erstwhile stubborn attitudes and signifies no progress on any front. Even as intent for dialogue as the only way forward has been appreciated, there are no solid foundations, proposed framework or clear guidelines as to how talks will proceed (Sana: 2011).


Role of SAARC in Averting Conflicts in South Asia:

The basic aim of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was to support the regional states so that they may emerge as developed countries undermining their long history of enmities. The activities of SAARC also motivated the small states to increase cooperation among them by strengthening mutual relations. In the past, India and Pakistan rarely displayed some collective and cooperative measures’ orientation in their bilateral relations. It is in the above analysis that this section identifies those areas where both the neighbors are constructing bilateral cooperation under the SAARC to address the controversial issues, which may repel hostilities and facilitate the two states to enhance cooperation for development and strengthen friendship and understanding between their people.


Since 1990s, international relations witnessed the growth of a number of regional organizations actively engaged in the fields of peace and security (Peck 2001). These organizations have created security regimes of various kinds and have undertaken preventive diplomacy, mediation, peace operations, post-war peace-building, arms control and disarmament. They also facilitated the termination of violent conflict. For example, in 2008 the African Union (AU) brokered a peace agreement in the midst of civil violence in Kenya; in 2005 the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) mediated an end to the decades-long civil war in Sudan; and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) brokered the Algiers Agreement of 2000, ending the border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. The European Union (EU) and its forerunners were instrumental in creating a security community in which war is inconceivable (Buzan and Waever: 2003), while the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has forged a culture of pacific management of inter-state disputes (Sridharan 2008).


Regional organizations are considered significant not only by the member states that devote resources to them but also by the United Nations and the donor governments that fund these bodies in the South (Klingebiel:2008). The UN’s enthusiastic endorsement of these organizations rests largely on the promise that they can help to create a pacific regional environment because they serve as forums for conflict resolution, build trust through the frequency of interaction among states, encourage and facilitate a collective approach to cross border security issues and encourage their members to adhere to international and regional norms on governance and conflict prevention.


Evolution of SAARC- Historical Background:

Three distinct phases marked the subsequent emergence of SAARC. The first phase engaged the countries’ foreign secretaries and senior officials in preparing a basic framework, starting with the first meeting of foreign secretaries in April 1981 at Colombo and continuing until 1983 (In this region, foreign secretaries are the highest professional officials in each foreign ministry (in European terms, the permanent secretaries or secretaries-general). The second phase began with the convening of the meeting of foreign ministers at New Delhi in August 1983, when the process was elevated to a political level and the Declaration on South Asian Regional Cooperation was adopted. In the third phase, the heads of state or government of the seven founding members met at the first SAARC summit meeting, held at Dhaka in December 1985, and adopted the SAARC Charter. South Asian heads of state and government formally adopted the Charter of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) on 8 December 1985, with Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka as its members ( At the 13th SAARC summit meeting, held on 12–13 November 2005 at Dhaka, SAARC’s membership was expanded to include Afghanistan. SAARC was created for cooperation in the socio-economic fields, based on respect for the principles of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, political independence and non-interference in the internal affairs of members. Cooperation within SAARC was designed to complement both the bilateral and the multilateral relations of SAARC states. All decisions within SAARC are taken on the basis of unanimity, while bilateral and contentious issues are excluded from the group’s deliberations (Article X of the Charter).


The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) came into existence with a number of objectives aimed to improve and develop the region as a whole. Cooperation in the SAARC is based on respect for the principles of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, political independence, non-interference in internal affairs of the member states and mutual benefit. Regional cooperation is seen as a complement to the bilateral and multilateral relations of SAARC members. Decisions are taken on the basis of unanimity. Bilateral and contentious issues are excluded from the deliberations of SAARC.


Aims and Objectives of SAARC:

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) comprising Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka is a dynamic institutionalized regional cooperation in South Asia, basically perceived as an economic grouping to work together for accelerating the pace of socio-economic and cultural development (V.Grower: 1997). The objectives of the association as defined in the SAARC Charter are:

1.       To promote and strengthen collective self-reliance among the countries of South Asia;

2.       To contribute to develop mutual trust, understanding and appreciation of one another’s problem

3.       To promote active collaboration and mutual assistance in the economic, social, cultural, technical and scientific fields;

4.       To strengthen cooperation with other developing countries;

5.       To strengthen cooperation among themselves in international forums on matters of common interest; and

6.       To cooperate with international and regional organizations with similar aims and purposes.


SAARC and Regional Co- operation in South Asia:

Despite the slow progress of regional co- operation in South Asia the actual worlking of the SAARC since its establishment has raised high hopes of peace in the region bedevilled by  multiple conflicts. Though the SAARC as such has not played any active role in resolving differences among its memberes, yet its periodical meetings provide an opportunity for private consultation among the leaders of various member states. In fact, the meetings of Dhaka and Bangladesh provided an opportunity to the leaders of India and Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka to iron out their differences and greatly contributed to the tension between these states. SAARC has not been able to play as effective a role as its supporters would expect it to paly on account of historical bitternesss and numerous current conflicts in this area, but it cannot be denied that its establishment did provide an instrument that might build new confidence by solving non- controversial and non- political problems. If  fact confidence can be built the chances for soloving the political problems of the region (other than by military means) will have considerably improved.


South Asian countries are keen to improve the living standards of their people. The presence of fertile soil, vast hydel energy, forest resources, unexploited wealth of the ocean, presence of raw materials essentilal for development etc are favourable for regional co- operation. The deepening world ecxonomic crisis is also likely to give a boost to the spirit of co- opeartion and the countries of South Asia have come to realise that it is in their mutual interest to pool their knowledge and experience and their past experiences should not be permitted to hamper their mutual co- operation for  economic development.


During the past few years several technical committees have been set up to explore possibilties of further co- operation in various fields viz agriculture, iicence and technology, improvement of infrastructures for excahnge of information and for training technical man- power. These committees have come out with several concrete suggestions which are quite practicable and would work to the benefit of all the members of the SAARC. Apart from promoting government level co- operation the Non- Governbmental Organisations (NGOs) are also involved in a variety of activities to promote mutual understanding by  conducting seminars, work shops, short- term training courses, exchange of information and data, preparataion of the state of art- reports, netweorking of institutions and meetings of conterpart scientists. SAARC has promoted people top people contacts through Audio- Visual Exchange (SAVE). It has set up several regional instoitutions such as SAARC Agricultural Information Centre (SAIC) AT Dhaka to promote co- operation in the field of agricultrure. The establsihment of other regional insitutioisn like Metrobiological Research Centre and Institute of Rural Technology and regional Software Centre are also being seriously cosnidered.  Several other projesct viz co- operation for prevention and reduction of natural disaters, improvement of environment, impact on the region of the green house effect, and establishment of Centre of Human Resource Development have been either approved or are under approval. SAARC has also succeeded in establishing SAARC Food Security Reserve, Agreement and Ratification of Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism, including the provisioin for extradition, Agreement on SAARC Travel Document, enabling members of Parlimaent and Judges of Supreme Court and their families to travel freely within the region withoutb the requirement of visa; Agreement on a draft on regonal convention on prevention of narcotic drugs and  psychotropic substances.  At present there are major areas of discord  among the members of SAARC. Thers is a tension between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, Siachen, Wular barrage and arms race. The relations between India and Bangladesh are strained on the issue of illeghal Bangladesh migration, safe havens in Bangladesh for the north- east insurgent groups, Farakka issue, dispute over New Moore Island and Teen Bigha Corridor and other disputes over maritime and land boundaries. Relations between India and Neapl are strained over tarde and transit facilities, presence of Indian immigrants in Nepal’s terrai region and illegal Nepali immigrants in India. The relations between India and Sri Lanka are strained on Tamilian issue. Likewise, there is strained relatiosnhip between Bhutan and Nepal over Bhutani issue. Unless these issues are resolved  to mutual satisfaction of the contending parties, the required political climate (which is vital for the success of SAARC) cannot be achieved.


Reducing Conflicts in South Asia: Role of Policy- makers:

A speech given by Dr Manmohan Singh, former Prime Minister of India,  to a Conference of Chief Ministers on Internal Security and Law and Order in 2005, sums up the analysis of conflict and development as:


“Whatever be the cause, it is difficult to deny that extremism has huge societal costs. Investments are unlikely to fructify, employment is not likely to grow and educational facilities may be impaired. In all, the society at large and people at large suffer. Delivery systems are often the first casualty. Schools do not run, dispensaries do not open… the threat of Naxalism is geographically spread out to the more backward regions and districts of our country…”


Reducing conflict is a prerequisite to political stability, which, in turn, is the prerequisite for implementing pro-growth policies. Even in a best-case scenario, the presence of low-level conflict constrains the policies governments can implement to promote growth.



Policymakers in South Asia have tried various policies to reduce conflict. The most common approach to deal with insurgencies, terrorism, or internal violence is to use the police forces to establish law and order in the affected areas. The police forces in South Asian countries, however, tend to be understaffed and underequipped. In cases where police forces are insufficient, the armed forces are called in to deal with the insurgency. In most cases, this has not been a successful strategy. Even when these measures are successful in defeating the insurgents, as in Sri Lanka, the human cost associated with military operations is very high.


A different approach to dealing with insurgencies is to conduct negotiations and sign peace agreements with the insurgents. To be effective, this approach needs two conditions:

1.       The government must negotiate in a coordinated way and fulfill at least some of the insurgents’ demands; and

2.       The insurgent group must be genuinely interested in joining the political mainstream. This approach has been tried in some areas of South Asia. For instance, the Indian government has signed peace deals with several separatist groups in the northeastern states, granting them a higher degree of local autonomy in some cases. Similarly, negotiations with some Tamil groups such as the EPRLF have resulted in their integration into mainstream politics.


At the same time as the security-based solution, there are economic solutions. These involve the government expanding welfare programmes to reduce poverty in the conflict-affected areas as a means to undercutting the support for the insurgency. This approach is consistent with economic backwardness as a cause of conflict and has been tried in some conflicts in South Asia, but it has failed because of poor choices of economic policies and poor implementation in conflict regions.


Choosing the Right Policy: A Way Ahead:

Policy choices and their implementation are critical in preventing an escalation of conflict and in post-conflict reconstruction. Economic policies should be geared not just to maximize growth, but also to address the distributional or political factors that led to the conflict. Policy choices must be structured to reduce real or perceived inequality. Aid agencies should work through the existing government institutions, be pragmatic in order to create jobs quickly, and in most cases, work on short-term economic goals first and address medium-term and longer-term efficiency considerations later. This approach calls for humanitarian treatment of conflict-affected people, closure of refugee camps, and reintegration of refugees within society (Rao: 2013).


Cross-border cooperation between countries should be an integral part of any strategy to reduce conflict. Many of the internal conflicts in South Asia have cross-border dimensions. The Taliban in Afghanistan obtain significant support from Pakistan’s border areas. The Maoists in Nepal formed close links with the Maoist movements in India. Many separatist groups in India’s northeastern states have training camps and cells in neighboring countries like Bangladesh and Bhutan. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam and other Tamil separatist groups in Sri Lanka have traditionally enjoyed support from the Tamil Diaspora in India and other countries. In such a context, regional cross-border cooperation is an essential part of any counterinsurgency strategy. Considerable potential exists for regional cooperation in reducing conflict, but this strategy has been underused in combating terrorism in South Asia (P. Upadhyaya: 2014).


Going forward, regional cooperation initiatives, which have so far been underused, are likely to be important in countering terrorism. South Asian governments have taken a variety of different approaches to fight terrorism. Reviewing these approaches in the South Asian and global context, it appears that the armed forces or local militias have not been especially effective in combating terrorism. Strengthening police forces or conducting negotiations to induce insurgents to join the political mainstream appear to be more effective approaches. Social welfare programmes rather than just economic incentives hoping to revive growth can be useful complements to this political accommodation approach. The challenge is to balance these different approaches toward countering conflict, as well as the optimal economic policies to be adopted in post-conflict environments ( A. George: 2012).



In spite of multiple conflicts, the South Asian countries recognise the importance of co- operation and friendly relationship. The SAARC is a major regional initiative by South Asian states to evolve co- operation through multialteral means. A new chapter of peace and co- operation might evolve in South Asia if all the cuntries in the region allow free trade across the borders, which constitutes the essence of SAFTA. Although Indo- Pak  relations seem to be charcterised by  endemic conflict and violence, opver the yaears  there have been a series of efforts to manage tensions and build peace. Sino- India relatiosn have improved significantly from alst few years, but China’s strategic partnership with Pakistan remains a major irritant. The demands of development and globalisation have brought the two asian gaints closer and their economic ties have multiplied since 1991. However, whether South Asia will continue to be known as a conflict prone zone or will evolve into a regional bloc with some common cultural features and trade interests will depend on the people and the governments of the region than involvement of any outside power.


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Received on 26.11.2014

Revised on 12.12.2014

Accepted on 20.12.2014        

© A& V Publication all right reserved

Research J. Humanities and Social Sciences. 5(4): October-December, 2014, 420-427