Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, January 18th, 2021

Relation Between Colonialism and South Asian Terrorism


Relation Between Colonialism and South Asian Terrorism

South Asia has seen inter-state wars and intra-state violent movements during most of its post colonial history, but its experience with terrorism by non-state actors is relatively recent as compared to other regions such as the Middle East. In the last decades or so, South Asia has, indeed, emerged as the centre – stage of international terrorism, with horrendous implications for countries - India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. Within South Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan alongwith India have been victims of the decade-long wave of non-state terrorism. For the past over thirty years, Afghanistan has seen successive rounds of warfare, with Pakistan bearing the cost of engagement in each such instance. By creating and conflagrating conflict in the region the terrorist organisations rationally hope to keep its three principal nations divided. This fact alone provides enough incentive for Afghanistan, Pakistan and India and the rest of the South Asian states to unite and offer a collective response to terrorism. What may be most significant for all countries of South Asia is a common goal that connects all terrorist organisations: that of creating inter-state conflict or sabotaging cooperative trends among them. Such trends include the peace process between India and Pakistan, which is derailed each time an instance of terrorism occurs, or the recent improvement in Afghanistan - Pakistan relations, which terrorist organisations have spared no opportunity to sabotage. The emergence of terrorism as the most dominating form of conflict - generating activity in South Asia has put in jeopardy the whole regional quest for peace and progress.
Profile of South Asia
The Indian subcontinent or South Asia incompasses today eight very diverse sovereign states of very different sizes: India, Pakistan Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives and Afghanistan. The terms South Asia and India refer, in the first instance, to a vast geographical space stretching from the Himalayan mountain ranges in the north to the Indian Ocean in the south and from the valley of the Indus in the west to the plains of the Brahmaputra in the east. The subcontinent carries the weight not only of its people but also of their ancient history, stretching back five millennia, and a modern history incompassing the experience of British colonialism compressed in tumultuous developments within the past couple of    centuries.  It has 3 per cent of the world’s area, 23 per cent of its population and 2 per cent of its GDP. Within that, India has 72 per cent of the area, 77 per cent of the population and 75 per cent of the GDP.  The geographical boundaries drawn by the highest mountain ranges in the world and encircling seas and oceans set the whole of the subcontinent apart from the rest of the world. The region South Asia and its peoples present a picture of diversity in unity, indeed of immense diversity within a very broad contour of unity. Among them there is great diversity in natural attributes–imposing hills and mountains, lush green river plains, arid deserts and brown plateaus. The South Asian societies are marked by their plural character in terms of languages, cultures, regions and religions. 
Society and culture of South Asia             
Culture, as Spengler and Toynbee used the word, is the product of long tradition, of shared habits among people living together over generations; it reflects a particular way of life and a particular view of the world. Its characteristic is spontaneity, and it is often said that it cannot be exported or imported. Likewise, the region South Asia share certain things in common and they are the religious – cultural heritage of the ancient and medieval times and the administrative, political, educational, economic institutions. Adherents of major world religions, Hinduism, Islam, and Buddhism are found in the subcontinent. Hinduism with its ancient roots, modern transformation and multiple interpretations plays a vital part in the culture and politics of the subcontinent. The greatest cultural and political achievements of Islam have taken place in the subcontinent, where more than 400 million of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims live today. Each of the three most populous countries of South Asia – India, Bangladesh and Pakistan have nearly 140 million Muslims, next only to Indonesia as the largest Muslim countries in the world.  Buddhism, apart from the formal adherents in the land of its birth, continues to flourish in Sri Lanka and the Himalayas as well as in East and Southeast Asia. South Asia has also significant number of Jain, Zoroastrian, Christian and Sikh minorities.
The withdrawal of empire leaves a legacy of uncertain frontiers and other disputes among the legatee states. It was complicated further by the lack of self – confidence in the leadership elites of the new nations who frequently direct the fears of their citizens against neighbouring nations in a mistaken belief that this will strengthen the spirit of nationalism and inspire internal cohesion. Real problems among neighbours do exist and in the South Asian System we can easily discern two types of dialectical struggles that have in the past influenced the nature of ties in the region. One type of struggle is by India for a regional role of dominance, maturing into, either a sphere of influence or a hegemonic order. Another is primarily influenced by India’s ambitious role, is the struggle by Pakistan and others for autonomy, independence and sovereign existence. Alongwith autonomy security perceptions of the South Asian States remained at the top they, however, have developed stronger economic links with the countries outside the region.
Larger effects of Terrorism
Terrorism has profoundly influenced inter – state relations in South Asia. With the world’s fastest-growing markets, fastest – rising military expenditures and most serious hot sports coupled with a toxic stew of boiling religious, political ethnic, strategic and historical animosities, made all the more volatile by endemic poverty, illiteracy and the sheer agony of daily existence, Asia holds the key to the future international security order. Much of Asia’s terrorist violence is concentrated in its southern belt, which in the past decade emerged as the international hub of terrorism. This southern part of Asia, encompassing Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Chinese ruled Xinjiang and Tibet, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar, is wrecked by terrorist, insurgent, and separatist violence in a manner unmatched elsewhere in the world.  The number of annual fatalities in terrorist – related violence in South Asia far exceeds the death toll in the Middle East, the traditional cradle of terrorism. The entire expanse from the Middle East to South East Asia is home to militant groups and troubled by terrorist violence posing a serious challenge to international and regional securily.  Developments in several parts of the world are prompting scholars and policy makers to re-examine old theories of terrorism. The terrorist slaying has belied the arguments that, ‘Simply killing a lot of people has seldom been a terrorist objective. Terrorists want a lot of people watching, not a lot of people dead. It, in general, challenges the secular fabric sof South Asia

Dr. Rajkumar Singh is Professor and Head of P.G.Department of Political Science, BNMU, West Campus, P.G. Centre, Saharsa-852201. Bihar, India. Email- rajkumarsinghpg@yahoo.com

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