South Asia and Contemporary World | Chapter 4 | Political Science |

South Asia and Contemporary World | Class 12 | Political Science |

 

South Asia

The term South Asia denotes the seven countries of this region

1. India
2. Pakistan
3. Bangladesh
4. Bhutan
5. Maldives
6. Sri Lanka
7. Nepal

• South Asia is the region that includes countries lying south of Himalayas and surrounded by Indian Ocean in the South, Arabian Sea on the West and the Bay of Bengal in the East.
• South Asia is a region of many contrasts, many different cultures, religions and dialects. The region is marked by many seasons and various kinds of climates, because of which it has a rich and varied vegetation, minerals and forests.
• From the viewpoint of economy, resources and strategic position South Asia is a very important region of Asia and hence reflects one geo-political space.
• Being skirted by the Indian Ocean, this region links Europe and Africa to Asia and Australia.

Political Systems on South Asia

1. India and Sri Lanka – Both the countries have been able to keep their democratic system intact despite decline in the quality of the administration.
2. Pakistan – After cold war, Pakistan had been under democratically elected governments under Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. But Pakistan relapsed into military dictatorship.
3. Nepal – It had Constitutional Monarchy, but following the Movement for Democracy, the Nepal Parliament in 2006 declared that Nepal would be a secular Democratic State.
4. Bhutan – There was monarchy in Bhutan. In 2008, a new constitution was adopted that established Constitutional Monarchy in Bhutan and the country has turned into multi-party Constitutional Monarchy.
5. Maldives – Formerly, it was under Sultan but in 1968 it declared itself a Republic having Presidential form of government . In 2005 the Parliament of Maldives introduced multi-party system in the country and democracy was strengthened with legalization of opposition otherwise Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) was dominating the politics of Maldives.

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Opinion on Democracy

1. People of South Asia have always aspired for democracy in their country.
2. A survey conducted to know the attitude of the people of this region found out that there’s support for Democracy in these regions.
3. People from all walks of life have supported all the institutions of representative democracy.
4. The experience of democracy in South Asia has contributed a lot to the global democracy and its imagination.

Pakistan

Background

• Pakistan emerged as an Islamic nation in 1947, following the partition. Mr. Jinnah wanted the country to be governed along Western Political Concepts but he did not survive long enough to see that.
• In October, 1958 General Ayub Khan forcibly took the reins of power in his hands and declared himself a Field-Marshal assuming the office of President. He exiled President Iskander Mirza from Pakistan.
• When people started opposing Ayub Khan, he handed over the reins to General Yahya Khan. During his reign the Pakistan Army was guilty of the most barbarous and inhuman atrocities in East Bengal. And then Bangladesh Crisis occurred in which Pak army was defeated by Indian Army and in 1971, the East Bengal emerged as an independent nation called Bangladesh.

Elected Civilian Government
General Yahya Khan handed over his powers to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
• His was a civilian government which remained in power till 1977.
• But then, General Zia-ul-Haq ousted Bhutto and he was executed in April 1979.

Military Government of Zia-ul-Haq
• He promised to hold elections and transfer power to a civilian government but the elections were postponed twice. There was a movement to establish Democracy and Zia-ul-Haq was killed in a plane crash in 1988.

Democratic Governments from 1988-1999
• in the General Elections held in 1988, the Pakistan people’s Party (PPP) emerged victorious.
• Its leader Benazir Bhutto became Prime Minister. But she was dismissed in 1990,
• For about 10 years there was a quick succession of governments and in 1997 Nawaz Sharif was sworn in as the Prime Minister.

Pervez Musharraf’s Dictatorial Regime
• The confrontation between the Military and the Civilian regime ended in a coup by the Army Chief Pervez Musharraf in October 1999.
• Nawaz Sharif was exiled to Saudi Arabia.
• In 2001, Pervez declared himself as President of the country.
In November 2007, he declared emergency in Pakistan and subsequently his popularity declined.
• Benazir Bhutto returned from exile to start a pro-democracy movement in Pakistan but she was assassinated in 2007.

2008 General Elections
• The 2008 General Elections was a clear rejection of Musharraf and his party. It was a verdict for a change.
• PPP headed by Aif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif’s Party (PML-N) agreed to form a coalition government. But the agreement failed and Asif became the President of Pakistan.
• Since 2008, the country has been democratically ruled.

Factors responsible for Pakistan’s Democracy Failure
1. Hold of the Muslim Clergymen– there has always been a hold of the clergymen in Pakistan, because India’s partition was based on Muslim League’s communal agenda.
2. Reliance on the army – since the very beginning Pakistanis have fed on anti-India propaganda. They continued to believe that India was determined to grab Pakistan. They believed politicians are selfish and country’s security should be depended upon army.
3. No international Pressure– the US and other Western powers continued to prop up Pakistan’s military regimes. US has been supplying fighter planes and sophisticated weapons to Pakistan.
4. Stronghold of Terrorism –Pakistan has become a stronghold of terrorists. The terrorists had been enjoying army’s patronage in Pakistan.
5. The lack of Charismatic leaders –Pakistan’s founder Jinnah and another popular leader Liaquat Ali Khan did not survive for long. Their successors were too weak to provide political stability in the country.

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Bangladesh

Background
Bangladesh used to be a part of Pakistan as after partition the people of divided Bengal constituted what was called ‘East Bengal’.
• General Yahya Khan tried to crush his own people. Bengali language and their culture were being systematically destroyed by the Pak rulers.
• They tried to impose Urdu language on the people of East Bengal.
• There developed a strong movement under Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s leadership against cruel and unjust rules. They demanded an autonomous status for East Bengal.
• In December 1970 elections Sheikh Mujib’s Awami League won a landslide victory, instead of honouring the popular verdict , General Yahya Khan arrested Mujibir Rehman and let loose reign of terror in East Bengal.
Millions of people were forced to flee and seek refuge in India. It placed a great burden.

War of 1971
The Government of India had full sympathy for the people for the people of East Bengal.
• In 1971, Pakistan launched massive air attacks on India and India retaliated too. The war continued for over two weeks and then Pak General surrendered unconditionally to India.
• On 16 December 1971 East Bengal emerged as an independent nation named Bangladesh.
• A constitution was drafted establishing faith in democratic principles.

Phase of Political Instability
• In 1975, the Bangladeshi Constitution was amended in which the Parliamentary form of Government gave way to Presidential Government.
Mujibir became country’s first President. He banned all political parties except his own. This led to major political conflict between government and opposition.
• In August 1975, Sheikh was assassinated and the Chief of Army Staff General Ziaur Rahman took the reins of administration in his hands.
• In the elections held in February 1979, Ziaur’s Bangladesh National Party won the majority of seats in the Parliament.
• Political Instability set in when General Ziaur Rahman was assassinated in May 1981 by military in Lt Gen H.M. Ershad’s leadership.
• In December 1983 he became the President of the country but with endless strikes and demonstrations he had to step down in 1990.
There were general elections in 1991 in which Begum Khaleda Zia emerged victorious and since then multi party elections are happening in Bangladesh.

Nepal

Background
• Nepal had been till recently the only Hindu Kingdom in the world, but in 2006, it declared itself to be a secular state.
• King of Nepal exercised unlimited powers. The power to appoint and dismiss the Prime Ministers was also vested with him.
• Later the king became a little more liberal in the exercise of the powers, but the King still continued to have almost full control over the government.
• The people were getting restless. There were pro-democracy demonstrations in Nepal.

Multiparty System and Constitutional Monarchy
• Under the Constitution of 1990 the King gave up his absolute powers. Nepal now became Constitutional Monarchy.
• It also had a multi-party system . The Nepalese Parliament had two chambers, one of which had 195 elected members. Only then of its members were nominated by the King.

Assassination of Nepalese King
• In 2001, King Birendra, the Queen Aishwarya and a number of their family members were assassinated by the Crown Prince Dipendra.
• King Birendra’s brother Gyanendra became the King of Nepal.
• Because of Nepal’s poverty, a weak party system and some harsh measures taken by the rulers , Maoist Movement had arisen in Nepal in late 1990’s
• They operated under the name of Communist Party of Nepal(Maoist). They launched an armed struggle against the King and affluent sections of society.
• Nepal Maoists had the wholehearted backing of China. The Chinese Communist rulers were fanning Nepal’s resentment against India.

Nepal’s March to Democracy
• At this point, there seemed to be a triangular political conflict between the King’s forces, the Maoists and the liberal democrats.
• In 2002, the king abolished the Parliament, in 2005 he dismissed the Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and declared emergency in the country and suspended all political activities.
• All political parties and Maoists came together to struggle unitedly against the King. They formed a United Front for the restoration of multi-party democracy which came to be known as Seven-party alliance.
• In 2006, the King agreed to reinstate Parliament. Girija Prasad Koirala was appointed as Prime minister.
Opposition parties called off strikes. Maoists also agreed to suspend armed struggle for a a few months.

A democratically Elected Constituent Assembly
• Elections to Nepal’s Constituent Assembly were held in 2008. It was to also serve as National Legislature until a new Constitution was enacted.
• In May 2008, the Constituent Assembly abolished Monarchy and resolved to constitute Nepal into a Federal Democratic Republic.
• A new Constitution was adopted in 2015.

Sri Lanka

Background
• Sri Lanka emerged as an independent nation in 1948. There have been democratic governments in Sri Lanka ever since.

Ethnic Conflicts in Sri Lanka
• Sinhalese are in majority in Sri Lanka. Many of them profess Buddhism. Tamils have also lived in vast numbers, they came from Tamil Nadu and settled down in in North-Eastern part of Sri Lanka, they were mostly Hindus although Muslims were also among them.

Main Causes of the ethnic conflict were as follows
1. Sri Lanka Freedom Party propagated that Sri Lanka  belonged to Sinhalese only.
2. The Tamils had many sufferings inflicted on them by the rulers. They were required to have their living licenses renewed every now and then.
3. The Tamils could not obtain Sri Lankan Citizenship, although they had been living in Sri Lanka for years and years.
4. Sinhalese was declared to be the only national or Official language of Sri Lanka.
5. Under the newly enacted land Reform laws, the Tamils were dispossessed of their lands. As a consequence discontent among them gradually began to grow.
• In 1958 ethnic riots broke out in many parts of the country. As attacks on them went on increasing, they began to think in terms of ‘Self-Rule’. In 1972 they raised their demand for a separate ‘Tamil State’ called Tamil Eelam.
•  In 1976 they formed a militant organization called LTTE ( Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam).

• In 1983, the Sri Lankan forces killed hundreds of Tamils, with the result that thousands of Sri Lankan Tamils sought refuge in Tamil Nadu.

Indo-Sri Lankan Accord, 1987
• The Sri Lankan problem is directly related to Tamils of Indian Origin and therefore the Government of India could not remain absolutely silent on this matter.
• An historic accord was arrived at between India and Sri Lanka on 29th July, 1987.

• The Indian Peace-Keeping Force went to Sri Lanka to restore peace and order in the country. But most Sri Lankans were against the presence of Indian Army on their soil.
And the process of withdrawal of the Peace-Keeping Force started in 1989 and concluded in 1990.

Efforts for Solution of Tamils.
India continued to support the legitimate demands of Tamils.
• The European Union took the initiative in promoting peace Talks in Geneva between LTTE and the Sri Lankan Government.
• Scandinavian countries like Norway, Iceland too tried to resolve the conflicts.
• The Civil War in Sri Lanka ended with the killing of LTTE leader in May 2009.

Effects of conflict on the Country
Even though the country had been gripped by ethnic war, it still developed economically.
• It has been ranked high on Human Development Index and above all the nations in South Asia.
• The country’s population is growing at a great pace so is its economy.

 

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