South Asia is assuming increasing importance in world politics in the post-Cold War era. Its significance has grown considerably since 9/11. It is host to one of the world’s most intractable bilateral disputes, Kashmir, between India and Pakistan. It has a substantial Muslim population residing in Pakistan, Bangladesh and India. It has embraced economic liberalization programs leading to stronger links with the rest of the world. Finally, its biggest country, India is the world’s largest democracy, the second-most populous country in the world, a nuclear weapons state with one of the world’s largest military force and the fourth largest economy in the world behind the United States, China and Japan in terms of GDP (purchasing power parity) (Hagerty 2005). By virtue of its size and population, India is the dominant entity in the region and is in a position to influence its smaller neighbors (Ayoob 1989; Hagerty 1991). Given the asymmetry in size and power, its smaller neighbors are understandably apprehensive and suspicious of India’s intentions. As a result of these two factors, India’s relations with its South Asian neighbors (i.e., Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal) have been affected by several disputes and problems. The South Asian region is important to India and vice-versa. Although India’s relations with the other countries of the South Asian region have been the subject of study for decades, most of these studies have been limited to exploring singleissue areas (e.g., Kashmir dispute) and do not discuss the impact of recent developments in the post-Cold War period. These recent developments include India’s economic rise, the recent democratic transitions in many South Asian countries and greater US engagement in the region following 9/11. This book is an effort to address these issues and examine their role in India’s interactions with its neighbors. This book is not simply a study of India’s past and present foreign policy but also analyzes ongoing political changes and developments in India’s neighborhood. The first factor/variable (India’s economic rise) outlined above is chosen keeping in mind that all South Asian countries desire to speed up the process of development. India’s economic rise is gradually changing its relationship with its neighbors and there is potential for greater cooperation between the states of the region. Trade liberalization at the regional level would likely contribute to national economic growth and development. Economic development is associated
with the emergence of a middle class, which desires political rights. This is crucial to the eventual rise of democracy (Lipset 1959). Trade liberalization fosters democracy and hence there is a causal link between trade openness and democratic governance (López-Córdova and Meissner 2008). To the extent that trade liberalization empowers non-state actors within South Asia, it should have a
positive impact on democracy. Trade and commercial links not only lower prices and increase choices for consumers but also promote political rights and civil liberties through the transmission of new ideas, tools and technology. The twin goals of development and democratic consolidation for South Asian countries may therefore be achieved through regional trade liberalization. In addition, the gradual transition to democracy underway in many South Asian countries is likely to have a positive impact on economic growth and development, hence the choice of the second variable/factor (democratic transition). As Amartya Sen (1999) points out, a democratic political system is crucial to the process of economic development because it helps one understand and fulfill economic needs. Democracies are also unlikely to wage wars against other democracies hence contributing to a more peaceful world. For the purpose of this study, democratic transition/democratization is described as the end of the non-democratic regime, the inauguration of the democratic regime, and then the consolidation of the democratic system (Huntington 1991: 9). However, the process is usually complex and prolonged. In the South Asian region, the process appears underway, but democratic consolidation will take time. Post 9/11, deeper US engagement with the countries of the region has had an impact on how these countries relate to each other. Some scholars have pointed out that India’s improving relationship with the US has made it more confident and less prone to using coercive methods to address regional concerns (Cartwright 2009; Jain 2010; Kapur and Ganguly 2007; Mitra 2009). There is enhanced cooperation between India and its neighbors on the issue of terrorism, facilitated in some cases by the US. Finally, US presence has been cautiously welcomed by India in light of growing Chinese influence in South Asia. At the same time, US presence in the region can be leveraged by smaller countries to check India’s regional aspirations. The political, economic and diplomatic support provided by the US to some of the smaller countries during the process of democratic transition has proved invaluable. The US is helping to develop the rule of law, independent media, grassroots activism, good governance and transparency in the region (Rocca 2005). According to US policymakers, these are crucial to addressing extremism, security and development in the region. As such, greater involvement of the US in the region since 9/11 is identified as the third variable/factor. The three chosen factors are therefore related to each other. The other major development affecting the region is the phenomenal rise of China. Even though the rise of China is not one of the variables/factors being considered in this book, China’s rise has implications for South Asia. As rising powers, both India and China strive to influence their neighbors, leading to an overlap in their perceived “spheres of influence.” The strategic rivalry between the two Asian giants is currently being played out in South Asia. This rivalry is inevitable as both compete for resources, foreign investment and markets. Each of the subsequent chapters includes a discussion of China’s involvement in South Asia and its implications on India’s relations with its neighbors. Also included in these chapters are discussions on some of the emerging trends
associated with China’s growing involvement with region and whether this involvement helps or hurts the process of regional integration in South Asia. However, these developments deserve a more detailed treatment, which is beyond the scope of this book. As such, the following chapters include a relatively brief examination of the impact of China’s rise on South Asia. The goal of this book is to answer the three-fold research question: What is the nature of the relationship between India and other South Asian countries? What patterns are observed in the historical interactions between India and its South Asian neighbors? Most importantly, has India’s economic rise, the recent democratic transitions in several countries in the region and greater US engagement in the region following 9/11 affected the nature of the relationship and altered the historical patterns of interactions? The book is intended to:
• Identify the broad tenets of India’s policy towards the other countries of South Asia and the domestic factors that impact India’s policy in the region.