Democracy, Development and Discontent in South Asia


Edited by: Veena Kukreja & Mahendra Prasad Singh

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    South Asia, and that included for all practical purposes, Afghanistan and Myanmar (if not Persia and Central Asia) until the 18th/19th centuries, joined world history politically via European, mainly British, colonial conquest. Major parts of the region came under direct or indirect colonial control or impact. The modern age came to South Asia with a rush towards the latter part of the 19th and early half of the 20th centuries. The major politico-economic and socio-political forces churning the region in the post-Cold War era are the currents and cross-currents of geopolitical reconfigurations, civic and religious nationalism, globalism, and supranational regional economic integration. Democratization, like economic development, has managed to register an uneven presence and performance in South Asia and its sustained advance cannot be taken for granted even in India and Sri Lanka, the two countries that have continued to adhere to a vigorous electoral democracy and a semblance of constitutional and judicial politics, despite growing internal and external pressures and violence. India has to its credit the rare achievement of working a parliamentary-federal government with entrenched Fundamental Rights of citizens and cultural minorities and welfarist Directive Principles of State Policy under the Constitution of post-World War II vintage, largely uninterrupted, the 42nd Amendment of the Emergency regime (1975–77) notwithstanding, which was undone by the post-Emergency 44th Amendment. This is a unique feat, at least in the Afro-Asian world, with the solitary exception of Japan. Democracy in Sri Lanka is also unbroken, though the post-Independence parliamentary constitution has had to undergo the trauma of national emergencies and a transition to a semi-parliamentary-presidential regime of cohabitation between a directly elected president and a prime minister and his cabinet put in place by a parliamentary majority. Other countries in the region have a record of limited and intermittent democratic governments, with military-bureaucratic, monarchical, and populist-mobocratic interventions. The process of democratization in the region appears, however, irreversible at the onset of the new millennium in a region with some of the oldest ancient civilizational sites in the Indus, Ganga, and Kaveri valleys, begetting a heritage of composite, multicultural living through the whispering galleries of the past. This history is as colourful as a promising future, only if the present shows the courage and craft of burying the hatchet of semi-feudal feuding, now fraught with nuclear self-destruction.

    South Asia today stands at the crossroads of a new era in the making. Straws in the wind suggest that while nationalism may survive in a moderate form the ongoing capitalist globalization, as it did internationalist communism. The emerging new order in the region will be significantly conditioned by global economic forces and geo-political global and macro-regional Eurasian, Australasian, and African international and security reconfigurations. Indo-Pakistan conflict has been the greatest stumbling block that has stood in the way of the region seeking successfully to re-fabricate itself in the world today where every other region, following the spectacular success of the European community, is experimenting with regional integration, economically to begin with, to reap the benefits of the supranational region as a way station to a rational and equitable global order, in a world where the United Nations family of organizations has suffered a partial eclipse, hopefully a temporary and transitional phenomenon.

    The chapters in this volume take a fresh look at the imperatives of democracy, development, and discontent in South Asia today. This study consists of 10 chapters. An Introduction by the editors provides an overview of the contemporary South Asian scenario bringing in focus its internal as well as external dimensions.

    The opening chapter by M.P. Singh addresses the multicultural identity and democracy in India. India's multicultural national identity and federal democracy are not only historically and contemporaneously constitutive of each other, but are also evolving symbiotically. Indian civic nationalism can be better hermeneutically interpreted through multicultural rather than ethnic national lenses. Political and fiscal parliamentary federal arrangements are particularly appropriate for a country of India's subcontinental cultural diversities and socio-economic and regional disparities. India has found it easier to accommodate linguistic identities than religious communalism, particularly in the colonial context. It is notable that the Indian approach to politics and religion is rather unique. For the state in India is secular, in terms of grant of religious freedoms, but the constitution prompts the state to strive for a common civil code analogous to a common criminal code, and does not expressly put a wall of separation between the state and religion, as in the United States of America (USA) and France. All these factors prepare the ground for a kind of judicialization of politics that would appear also to be in some ways uniquely Indian.

    Saleem Qureshi in Chapter 2 provides a retrospective analysis of democracy and army rule in Pakistan situating the politics of that country in its cultural and historical contexts. By the end of his discussion, he finds it too puzzling how to disentangle what goes in the names of civilian rule and martial law. His graphic conclusion is: ‘Ultimately, it is up to the Pakistanis themselves to decide whether, in a zoological analogy of the zebra being a white animal with black stripes or a black animal with white stripes, Pakistan is a democracy with military disruptions or a militocracy with democratic interludes.’ Qureshi implies that it is difficult to export democracy to Pakistan in the absence of supportive political culture and civil society institutions.

    Veena Kukreja, in Chapter 3, discusses the complex interplay of forces of authoritarianism and democracy in Bangladesh. Since its bloody birth, the country has precariously oscillated between unstable democracy and the tightening noose of authoritarian takeover, inherent in uninstitutionalized institutions of government and political parties, as well as the growing trend of Islamic fundamentalism. Unlike Pakistan, feudal legacies in Bangladesh are less formidable, but the latter does not have a still strong feudal landlordism, nor does it have the stranglehold of the armed forces on the state apparatus on account of a greater social mobilization and politicization of the masses, but the country is haunted by the spectre of a failing state if democratic forces are not consolidated.

    Chapter 4 by Niraj Kumar takes up the issue of the developmental state in India, mainly in comparison with East Asian developmental states democratic, authoritarian, or mixed. He argues that the Indian developmental state has not received adequate attention in East Asian-centric literature on the theory of developmental state in which the developmental dimension has been given greater importance than the democratic one. If anything, some theorists like Leftwitch, relying heavily on Gunnar Myrdal's characterization of South Asian polities as ‘soft states’, have made passing comments on India, without a close analysis, as a ‘failed developmental state’. This chapter makes a persuasive argument that the two phases of India's strategy of economic development—the first socialistic and the second premised on neo-liberal economic reforms—deserves a serious consideration by theorists of the developmental state, as India has tried to combine the goals of democratic development with economic development. And what is particularly significant is that it has a credible performance in both these domains.

    Chapter 5 by Mohammad Nuruzzaman analyses the societal responses to pro-market reforms in Bangladesh. The implementation of pro-market economic reforms in the developing countries, including Bangladesh has rarely been a smooth process. Social responses to reform policies have been rather unfriendly and often violent. This chapter examines popular resistance to pro-market economic reforms in Bangladesh in the decades of the 1980s and the 1990s. It attempts to map out the road to resistance movements, explores the underlying causes that spurred labour resistance to economic reforms, and analyses the success and failures the movements have achieved or recorded both in the organized urban industrial sector and the disorganized rural areas. It arrives at the conclusion that the spate of resistance in the industrial sector in the 1980s and 1990s had the potential to roll back the reform process, but it did not succeed due to workers' disunity, ideological divide between left-wing and right-wing trade unions, lack of organizational network to carry forward the movements, control of pro-globalization big political parties over their respective trade unions, and the dwindling influence of the leftist trade unions in Bangladesh labour politics. Unlike the organized industrial sector, resistance to agricultural reforms in rural Bangladesh is rather dormant. Lack of effective peasant lobbies/organizations, resource constraints to mobilize peasants, centuries-old rural power structure that works against the interests of the poor majority of peasants and political divides between the peasants themselves, cut into the potential of effective peasant resistance to neo-liberal agricultural reforms.

    Lawrence Ziring's illuminating chapter (Chapter 6) deals with the issue of ethnicity, tribalism, and politics of frontier policy in Pakistan. He maintains that the Muslim League was not a welcome expression among the unrecorded majority of Pakistan's population whose loyalties lay elsewhere. Dissatisfaction with the central government was registered in all parts of the country but no less so than among those inhabiting the frontier areas. It is the latter that is the focus of this chapter. The subject of ethnicity and politics in Pakistan, however, is too broad and too complex to be encompassed in a brief article. Attention here is on the Pashtuns, even more so on a portion of the Indo-European linguistic family that inhabits the Pakistani tribal belt, a region almost twice the size of the North West Frontier Province and straddling the Pakistan/Afghanistan border from the Pamirs to the Takht-I-Sulaiman. Here too, the subject is too extensive to incorporate the different Pashtun tribes. The Yusufzais, Afridis, Mohmands, Turis, and others are bypassed for a closer examination of the Wazirs, and especially those Wazirs tribes inhabiting the region known as South Waziristan. South Waziristan is judged a key to Pakistan's integration efforts. It is also the area of principal concern to near and distant observers of the Pakistan scene in this first decade of the 21st century.

    In Chapter 7, Veena Kukreja and Mahendra Prasad Singh take a detailed look at ethnic politics in Sri Lanka. The country has been plagued by chronic and possibly one of the most devastating ethnic conflicts in South Asia. Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multilingual country. However, Sri Lankan governments' discrimination against Tamils in five main areas, namely, land, language, education, employment, and power-sharing sowed the seeds of conflict and contributed to turning the Jaffna Tamils into an alienated segment of Sri Lanka society. The only solution to the festering ethnic conflict in the island republic is a federal option that goes beyond the present political arrangement of executive presidency and the government's offer of devolutionary autonomy to the separatists. But constitutional reform is contingent on the peace process aimed at restoration of normalcy. Unless peace returns, the switchover from the present constitution of executive presidency to the desired parliamentary federalism, with a certain degree of asymmetrical status for the Tamil region, would be unthinkable.

    Sri Lankan, Napalese, and Bhutanese ethnic and class conflicts differ from the Indo-Pak and Indo-Bangla communal boils in the sense that the latter category of problems are more complicated internally as well externally due to rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism at the regional and global planes. Given the political will of the ruling elites of Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bhutan, the former category of ethnic strife is more amenable to an early solution.

    Chapter 8 by Nalini Kant Jha provides an insightful account of the armed rebellion (Maoist insurgency) in Nepal. He contends that armed overthrow of the Nepalese state has been a long-cherished goal of the communist movement in that country. But since February 1996, they have openly declared ‘people's war’ against the Nepalese state. They have virtually rendered the state apparatus ineffective and assumed control over rural areas with their own system of governance. As this endemic domestic violence in Nepal has serious security and political implications not only for Nepal, but also for India, which shares a long and open border as well as close socio-cultural linkages with that country, the present chapter examines the origin, evolution, objectives, strategies, magnitude, and support base of Maoist insurgency in Nepal, its implications for security and stability of India, Nepalese and international response to this challenge, and prospects of the end of this rebellion. Jha recommends that the Nepalese state must simultaneously address the long-term causes of the rebellion by initiating radical socio-economic and political transformation programmes directed especially towards removing the grievances of the downtrodden, underprivileged, and excluded people and communities. The state must dare to seize the socio-economic agenda of the Maoists and implement it with all seriousness. This alone can prevent the rebels from cashing in on the support of the people. All the concerned parties must realize that while the goal of a negotiated settlement may be distant and the route tortuous, the journey can be accomplished if the signposts are clear and roadmap adhered to.

    In Chapter 9, Awadhesh Coomar Sinha offers a historically, sociologically, and economically well-grounded analysis of ethnic conflict in Bhutan and its regional consequences for the micro-region of north-east India within the South Asian macro-region. The author touches upon the sensitivities of India–Nepal–Bhutan relations with an acute sense of observation and analysis. He also cautions that ‘the entire Himalayan region from Kashmir in the west to the north-east Indian states in the east has turned into a zone of conflict. Besides India, the two Himalayan kingdoms are embroiled in the worst type of conflicts not experienced by them in the past.’ This obviously is a challenge to the ingenuity of policy-makers in India, Nepal, and Bhutan to do everything possible to not let the spectre of more failing states in our neighbourhood haunt us.

    In the final chapter, Rajen Harshe takes up the issue of India–Pakistan conflict over Kashmir. In the process of capturing a critical overview of the India–Pakistan conflict over Kashmir, this chapter argues that the causes of this conflict can be traced to the processes of state-formation and nation-building in India and Pakistan that began after the Partition of the subcontinent. Thus, the notions of secular nationalism and two-nation theory were deployed, by India and Pakistan respectively, to integrate Kashmir within their fold. While assessing the viewpoints of the contending parties, the chapter suggests that the resolution of the Kashmir question is dependent on the overall cordiality in India–Pakistan ties. In this context it suggests constructive alternatives to prevent conflicts and ameliorate India–Pakistan relations on the basis of prevailing realities in two ways. Initially it reflects briefly on the possible measures to reconstruct the conflict-ravaged state of Jammu and Kashmir and subsequently it underscores the significance of the hitherto neglected peace-related projects built through trade and development cooperation.


    Editing this volume has been a pleasure at a time when momentous developments have been taking place in South Asia. The chapters, excepting those by Rajen Harshe, Awadhesh Coomar Sinha and Mohammed Nuruzzaman, were specially commissioned for this volume. The former earlier appeared in the South Asian Survey, Dialogue, and Journal of Asian Studies respectively. Awadhesh Coomar Sinha substantially revised his piece. Our thanks are due to these journals for the permission to reprint. We thank to all our contributors for writing and/or revising their pieces at our request and on the suggestions of an anonymous referee and the SAGE Senior commissioning editor, Ashok R. Chandran. We take this opportunity to thank the Chairman of the board of Directors of SAGE, the late Tejeshwar Singh and Vivek Mehra, who always encouraged us in our work. Sugata Ghosh, Vice-President (Commissioning) picked up the threads of our work at SAGE when Mimi Chaudhary left. We would also like to thank Koel Mishra at SAGE who handled the production of our book. Ameeta Narang of IDSA Library deserves our thanks for helping us with some library resources we needed to explore. Kshitij Kukreja was our trouble-shooter in the use of computer and Nand Lal typed the manuscript with exceptional skill and ease.

    List of Abbreviations

    AKRSPAga Khan Rural Support Programme
    ALAwami League
    APHCAll Party Hurriyat Conference
    ASAAssociation for Social Advancement
    BBIN-GQBangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal Growth Quadrangle
    BCP(MLM)Bhutanese Communist Party (MLM) Marxist-Leninist-Maoist
    BILSBangladesh Institute of Labour Studies
    BIMSTECBangladesh-India-Myanmar-Sri Lanka Thailand Economic Cooperation
    BJMCBangladesh Jute Mills Corporation
    BKSALBangladesh Krishak Sramik League
    BNPBangladesh Nationalist Party
    BRACBangladesh Rural Advancement Committee
    CBOscommunity-based organizations
    CIACentral Intelligence Agency
    CISCommonwealth of Independent States
    COASChief of Army Staff
    CPCommunist Party
    CPBCommunist Party of Bangladesh
    CPN-MCommunist Party of Nepal-Maoist
    CSOscivil society organizations
    DYTsDistrict Development Councils
    FAOFood and Agricultural Agency
    FATAFederally Administered Tribal Areas
    GDPGross Domestic Product
    GHPGross National Happiness
    GNPGross National Product
    ICTInformation Communication Technology
    ILOInternational Labour Organization
    IMFInternational Monetary Fund
    IPKFIndian Peace Keeping Force
    ISGAInterim Self-Governing Authority
    ISIInter Services Intelligence
    ITAKIlankai Tamil Arasu Katchi
    JAGODALJatiyo Ganotantric Dal
    JHUJathika Hela Urumaya
    JKLFJammu and Kashmir Liberation Front
    JRBJatio Rakhi Bahini
    JSDJatiyo Samajtantric Dal
    JVPJanatha Vimukhti Peramuna
    JVTjoint verification team
    LDCsleast developed countries
    LDFLeft Democratic Front
    LIClow intensity conflict
    LSSPLanka Sama Samaja Party
    LTTELiberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
    MCCMaoist Coordination Centre
    MFNmost favoured nation
    MJCMinisterial Joint Committee
    MMAMuttahida Majlis-i-Amal
    NAPNational Awami Party
    NAPMNational Alliance for People's Movement
    NCNepali Congress
    NDANational Democratic Alliance
    NSCNNational Socialist Council of Nagaland
    PDPAPeople's Democratic Party of Afghanistan
    PIPFPDPakistan–India People's Forum for Peace and Democracy
    P-TOMSPost-Tsunami Operational Management Structure
    PWGPeople's War Group
    RGBRoyal Government of Bhutan
    RGNRoyal Government of Nepal
    RNARoyal Nepal Army
    SAARCSouth Asian Association of Regional Cooperation
    SAPTASouth Asian Preferential Trade Area
    SAFTASouth Asian Free Trade Area
    SEWASelf-Employment Women's Association
    SKOPSramik Karmachari Oikaya Parishad
    SLFPSri Lanka Freedom Party
    SOEsstate-owned enterprises
    SPASeven Party Alliance
    SSMSarvodaya Shramadana Movement
    TCTamil Congress
    TNATamil National Alliance
    TULFTamil United Liberation Front
    UFDUnited Front for Democracy
    ULFAUnited Liberation Front for Assam
    UNDPUnited Nations Development Programme
    UNHCRUnited Nation High Commission for Refugees
    UNPUnited National Party
    UNPOUnrepresented Nations Peoples' Organization
    UNROBUnited Nations Relief Organization in Bangladesh
    UPFNUnited People's Front of Nepal
    UPPUnited People's Party
    USAIDUnited States Agency for International Development
    VDSVoluntary Departure Scheme
  • About the Editors and Contributors


    Veena Kukreja is Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science, University of Delhi. Recipient of Gold Medal for securing first position in B.A. (Hons.), Delhi University, Kukreja received her M.A., M.Phil. (both first class) and Ph.D. from Delhi University. She specializes in International Relations, South Asia and Pakistan Studies. Her published works include: Military Intervention in Politics: A Case Study of Pakistan (New Delhi: NBO Publishers, 1985), Civil-Military Relations in South Asia: Pakistan, Bangladesh and India (New Delhi: Sage Publications, 1991), Contemporary Pakistan: Political Processes, Conflicts and Crises (New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2003) and co-edited Pakistan: Democracy, Development and Security Issues (New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2005). She has published numerous research papers and articles in scholarly journals.

    Mahendra Prasad Singh is Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Delhi, India. He has authored/edited/co-edited about a dozen books in Indian politics and contributed papers to scholarly journals in India and abroad. His publications include India at the Polls: Parliamentary Elections in the Federal Phase (New Delhi: Orient Longman, 2003 (co-authored), Indian Federalism in the New Millennium (co-edited) (New Delhi: Manohar, 2003), and Coaliltion Politics in India: Problems and Prospects (New Delhi: Manohar, 2003), Indian Judiciary and Politics: The Changing Landscape (co-edited) (New Delhi: Manohar, 2007) and Indian Politics: Contemporary Issues and Concerns (co-authored) (New Delhi: Prentice-Hall of India, 2008), among others. He has also been an active seminarist, attending national and international conferences on India, Canada and the USA. He is on the editorial board of Punjab Journal of Politics.


    Rajen Harshe is Vice Chancellor of Allahabad University. He is an eminent social scientist and a leading scholar of international relations studies in India. He is the author of Pervasive Entente France and Ivory Coast in African Affairs (New Delhi, Arnold-Heinemann 1984 and New Jersey, Humanities Press, 1984), Twentieth Century Imperialism Shifting Contours and Changing Conceptions (New Delhi, London and Thousand Oaks, SAGE Publications, 1997). He has also edited books such as, Interpreting Globalisation: Perspectives in International Relations (New Delhi and Jaipur, ICSSR and Rawat Publishers, 2004) and Engaging With The World: Critical Reflections on India's Foreign Policy (New Delhi, Orient Longman, 2005). Besides, he has published over seventy five papers in major national and international journals and prestigious anthologies.

    Nalini Kant Jha, is currently a Rajiv Gandhi Chair Professor at Allahabad Central University. A twice Fulbrighter at University of California, Berkeley (1992–93) and at Centre for South Asian Studies, School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC (2006), Jha earlier acted as a Dean, School of International Studies, Head of the Department of Political Science and Director of South Asian Studies program at Pondicherry Central University. Having obtained his M.Phil. and Ph.D. degrees from the School of International Studies of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, Jha taught as a Reader at L.N. Mithila University, Darbhanga (Bihar). He has been a Visiting Faculty at several universities such as Department of International Relations at University of Dhaka (2005), and University of Dalhousi, Halifax (Canada), etc. His major works include: South Asia in 21st Century: India, Her Neighbours and Great Powers (New Delhi, 2003); Domestic Imperatives in India's Foreign Policy (New Delhi: 2002); India's Foreign Policy in a Changing World (New Delhi, 2000); Peace and Co-operative Security in South Asia (New Delhi, 1999), etc. He has contributed more than 60 research papers in leading national and international journals.

    Niraj Kumar was a UGC Senior Research Fellow successfully obtaining his Ph.D. degree from the University of Delhi and is presently a Lecturer in the Department of Political Science, Maharaja Agarsen College, University of Delhi. He has contributed a paper to Ideologies and Institutions in Indian Politics (ed. by M.P. Singh and Rekha Saxena) (New Delhi: Deep and Deep, 1998).

    Mohammed Nuruzzaman completed his Ph.D. from the Department of Political Science, University of Alberta in 2003. Currently, he teaches international relations and comparative politics at Okanagan College, British Columbia, Canada. Dr. Nuruzzaman's principal areas of research interests are International Relations theory, global political economy, and the Third World in global politics. He has already published in leading international journals, including International Studies Perspectives, Cooperation and Conflict, Journal of Contemporary Asia, International Studies, Journal of Asian and African Studies etc.

    Saleem Qureshi started with the University of Alberta in 1963. He has served in many capacities over the years, including Associate Dean of Arts, Chair of East Asian Languages and Literature, and Chair of Department of Political Science. He is presently teaching as a professor emeritus in the Department of Political Science, all the while performing teaching duties as a Professor. Professor Qureshi teaches courses in Islamic Politics, Politics of Middle East and South Asia, and Political Development. He has many publications in South Asian Politics including The Politics of Jinnah, and in Middle Eastern and Islamic Politics.

    Awadhesh Coomar Sinha, an M.A. in anthropology (Ranchi) and Ph.D. in sociology (Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur) has taught at Gujarat Vidyapeeth (Ahmedabad), IIT, Delhi and North Eastern Hill University, Shillong in India and was a Smuts Scholar in Cambridge University and a Senior Fulbright Professor in the California University, Santa Cruz, USA. He held position of visiting faculty in a number of Indian Universities such as Karnataka University, Dharward, University of Allahabad, Dibrugarh University, Dibrugarh, and Punjab University, Chandigarh. He researched on the elite in Sikkim, nation-building in Bhutan, small state syndrome in North East India, Urbanization in North East India, Christianity in Nagaland, ethnography of the Himalayas, forest history of North East India and Nepalis in India. His publications include Politics of Sikkim (1975), Bhutan: Ethnic Identity and National Dilemma (1991 and 1998), Sociological History of the Eastern Himalayan Forests (1993), Urbanization in Eastern Himalayas (1993), Himalayan Kingdom Bhutan: Tradition, Transition and Transformation (2003 and 2005) and Nepalis of North East India (2003 and 2007). Two of his manuscripts Politics of Sikkim: Direction and Destiny and Ethnic Identity and Nationality of the Nepalis in India are in press. After holding a series of academic positions in North Eastern Hill University for about three decades, Professor Sinha now resides in Delhi.

    Lawrence Ziring is Arnold F. Schneider Professor of Political Science at Western Michigan University. Author/editor of more than twenty books, his latest release is Pakistan: At the Crosscurrent of History, Oneworld Publications, 2003. He also is the author of Pakistan in the Twentieth Century (Oxford University Press); Pakistan: The Enigma of Political Development (Westview); and The Ayub Khan Era (Syracuse University Press). A long time observers of the Pakistan scene, he served as an adviser to the Pakistan Administrative Staff College and taught at Dacca University. A graduate of Columbia University where he received his bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees, he also has been a member of the Faculty at Lafayette College and Syracuse University.

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