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Civil Wars in South Asia - State, Sovereignty, Development

"51tYLOOHJL._SX322_BO1204203200_"" alt=""51tYLOOHJL. SX322 BO1204203200 "" />South Asia is on the boil with major civil or internal wars having domestic and global consequences. The conflict in Jammu and Kashmir continues to make headlines while those in the Northeast and central India simmers with sudden strikes on the security forces by the insurgents and Maoists. There appears to be no clear resolution of the civil war and occupation in Afghanistan, even as Nepal and Sri Lanka work out their very different post war settlements. In Bangladesh the 1971 liberation war remains a political faultline. This volume demonstrates the importance of South Asia as a region. It has become necessary to deepen the study of civil wars and armed conflicts inevitably opening up questions of sovereignty, citizenship and state contours. This book originated in a workshop on civil war in South Asia held in Delhi University in 2010 which has been edited by Aparna Sundar and Nandini Sundar. While Aparna is Associate Professor, Azim Premji University in Bengaluru, Nandini is Professor of Sociology at the Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi. The Pakistan-Afghanistan border is often referred to as one of the most dangerous places on earth. Conflicts continue to remain unresolved in Kashmir as well as Northeast India and in Myanmar's hill regions. Even as Nepal and Sri Lanka work out their very different post-war settlements, the underlying causes of civil war remains unaddressed. The long settled civil wars such as the one resulting in the creation of Bangladesh continues to fester in both Bangladesh and Pakistan. This book has endeavoured to use the lens of the civil wars to focus on larger questions of economic development, state capacity and sovereignty in South Asia. Answers are being sought for the specificity of these processes to explain the civil war and conflict in general terms. Mass displacement has been a major issue. The partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 remains the emblematic moment for more than 12 million displaced people. Citizens continue to flee their homes or forcibly shifted as a consequence of civil war. Partition of India constitutes a foundational civil war in South Asia. Afghanistan has topped the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for the last 32 years with 6.2 million refugees in 1990 which is the most massive population flow not only in South Asia but anywere in the world. In 2009 the fierce climax to the three decade long civil war between the militant Liberational Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Sri Lankan army led to massive deaths and the displacement of thousands into camps. During the same year in Pakistan two million civilians were displaced during army action in Swat and South Waziristan. In India one lakh civilians were displaced in Chattisgarh between 2005 and 2010 in the wake of the state sponsored vigilante counter insurgency operation against the Naxalites or Maoist guerillas. This has proved to be less strategic than the hamletting practised in Mizoram between 1967 and 1980 which affected 80 per cent of the population and made Mizoram the most urbanised state in India. Similar displacements occured in Nepal during the civil war and have been continuing in the hill regions of Myanmar for several decades. The dominant explanation given for the onset of civil war include greed, grievance, ethnic differences and poverty. The scholars studying civil war ""see no reason why there should be one overarching variable for the onset or termination of civil war; even when they can be fitted into one type, this is often at the risk of ignoring the complexity of factors that make up any such war."" Greed that best explains the onset of war in Afghanistan is not the local rent seeking by various militias, but the cold war desire to control strategic regions which led to the CIA support for the mujahideen and Osama Bin Laden in the first instance. While poverty and lack of development are widely accepted as correlated to civil war, the nature of the relationship is contested. In the most common formulation it is the lack of development that creates conditions for civil war as low income levels create inadequate opportunity which in turn results in rebellious, unemployed youth readily joining insurgent groups. In post war Sri Lanka the government announced a ""Northern Spring"", ostensibly aimed at bringing growth and development to the North and reintegrating Tamils into the national mainstream. The ground evidence, however, shows that much of the new economic growth in this region is the result of resettlement and home building in areas in this region colonised for the families of Sinhala soldiers who fought in the war or for various military enterprises. Studies reveal Pakistan is not a failed state in the sense of Congo or Rwanda. It is a dysfunctional state and has been so for almost four decades. At the heart of this dysfunction is the domination by the army and every period of military rule has made things worse. This has prevented the emergence of stable political institutions. In central India it is the extension of a corrupt and repressive police force which was one of the grievances that helped fuel support for the Naxalites. On the other hand, parts of India such as the western ganglands of Uttar Pradesh have the highest number of gun wielding civilians with mafia like dons who run their own regimes of instance justice. These are often folded into state structures of authority rather than opposed to them. If the police was used to control populations rather than resolve their problems with crime, the army was used 'in aid of civil power'. A law like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which gives the army the right to shoot to kill on mere suspicion in ""disturbed areas"" needs to be set against a range of other provisions and laws which give impunity to the police.  In its security policy based on covert warfare through Islamist militants in neighbouring states, Pakistan not only empowered militant clerics in the border region with Afghanistan but made them vital and strategic allies. This in turn has created a genie which has now come to bite as the writ of the Pakistani state in large swathes of FATA has collapsed leading to frequent bomb blasts, suicide attacks and kidnappings of innocent civilians.The changing rules of positive international law are indeed indicative of a new political culture of sovereignty that has shifted from one of impunity to one of responsibility and accountability. The book has ten chapters by scholars which has been classified as (1) wars due to regional, linguistic and ethnic discrimination (Bangladesh, Sri Lanka); (2) wars due to regional ethnic discrimination but also the unfinished business of decolonisation (Kashmir, Northest India, Myanmar); (3) wars for democracy and redistribution (Nepal, central India); and (4) wars intiated or conditioned by the Cold War and the 'war on terror' (Afghanistan and Northwest Pakistan). The book casts common light on these diverse cases along with demarcating civil war as a critical field of study in the politics of South Asia.

Book:Civil Wars in South Asia -- State, Sovereignty, Development
Author:Aparna Sundar and Nalini Sundar
Publisher:Sage Publications


(T R Ramachandran is a senior journalist and commentator.)

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