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Anakha asked: What are the major security/geo-strategic challenges in South Asia, and what implications it has had on India's security environment?

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  • Smruti S. Pattanaik replies: Major security and geo-strategic challenges in South Asia can be attributed to fragile democratic structures, weak and unstable governments, growing radicalisation, uncertainty in Afghanistan, and increasing Chinese influence in South Asian region which traditionally is considered as India’s periphery. India shares border with each of the countries in South Asia except Afghanistan.

    Fragile democratic structures and erosion of democratic institutions pave way for extra constitutional intervention (military intervention) and political instability. Ability of the governments to deal with governance issue remains limited. Ungoverned spaces are exploited by non-state actors to challenge the state. The resultant political instability does not remain confined to the boundaries of nation- states and its spill over effect is often felt in India. Ethnic overlaps, porous border and shared ethno-cultural linkages often make conflicts in the region transnational in character.

    Growing radicalisation has emerged as a major challenge in south Asia. Almost all the countries are afflicted with the problem of religious radicalisation. For instance, growing radicalisation in Pakistan not only has implications for Pakistan’s own stability, but also for India and Afghanistan. Some of the militant groups have been able to engage in terrorist attacks against India and Afghanistan through trans-national networks and linkages many a times sponsored and facilitated by state actors. Similarly the problem of radicalisation in Bangladesh threatens its societal and political fabric with serious implications for India. Nexus between the fundamentalist, criminal elements and state actors was apparent in the Chittagong arms haul case where ten truck loads of arms was unloaded for insurgent groups operating in India’s north-east. In Sri Lanka, the rise of ultra-nationalism has made resolution of ethnic conflict extremely difficult. The assertion of rights by various ethnic groups and demand for federal representation in Nepal has made the peace process complicated. In Afghanistan, the post-2014 situation remains uncertain. The strengthening of Taliban as a political force would have consequences beyond the region. India has major economic investments in Afghanistan and remains concern about the rise of Taliban.

    Growing Chinese influence in the region is another major concern for India. In many cases, India’s neighbours have tried to play the China card to blunt India’s regional pre-eminence. China-Pakistan nexus remains a major stumbling bloc for South Asian peace. Unresolved border problem with China also adds to India’s anxiety. All these factors impinge on India’s overall security environment.