Arab Spring Impacts on South Asia

By Zaheerul Hassan

What is Arab Spring

The ‘Arab Spring’ appeared in the Arab World in December 2010 and covered all most entire Arab World in 2011. However, Egypt has emerged as the most iconic manifestation of it and gave jolt to the leading and powerful nation in the ‘Arab World’. It also shaken the monarchism, hit the nerve centre and forced the rulers either to start with democracy or spend more on the elevation of the life just to please their masses. In fact  the reasons of speedily and  widely spread of the Arab Spring were in Egypt and Tunis were that both the countries  had been under severe authoritarian military rule, no freedom of speech, resentment due to misgovernance and corruption had become endemic. The Egyptian masses were restive and seeking a regime change which could usher in democracy and democratic institutions. It must be remembered that Egyptian elites and Egyptian masses were comparatively more progressive than the rest of the Arab World.

The Tunisian events in terms of street-power being successful in effecting hated regime changes provided a model for the Egyptian masses to mobilise their street-power in bringing the downfall of the Mubarak regime despite bitter opposition and bloodshed at Tahrir Square and other places.

In, Tahrir Square and the street-power of the Arab World in successfully brought the downfall of autocratic regimes became the rallying model and clarion call within Arab countries. Therefore, we can say that the “Arab Spring” has partially successful in serving the regional and strategical interests of the major global actor and predominant external power (United State). It was the United State that prepared the blueprint of the plan and then used the Arab World as its testing laboratory.

Another opinion put the question mark on the success of the “Arab Spring”.  It advocates that the master planner of “Arab Spring” failed to achieve finality of the plan.  Although, the Arab Spring appeared as revolt against monarchical Arab regimes but failed to lessen the danger to Israel. The states prostrate to “Arab Spring” have not caused much negative impact to the religion but of course remained more effective due to triumph political suppression in the masses. Like others regions, South Asian rulers and political elite have also evaluated the Arab Revolt and studied to take steps in guarding against fresh U.S design against other countries.

South Asian Security and Political Environment

The subcontinent of South Asia is dominating Asia and rest of the Globe in population, natural resources and presence of nuclear powers. The continent consists of Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Bhutan, India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Maldives.  China being next door neighbor and major global player can also be included while considering the effects of Arab Spring on South Asia.  Economies of major countries like India and Pakistan revolve around agriculture and industrial sectors. South Asia has nearly continental dimensions with an area spreading to two million square miles. The distance from extreme North to South is approximately the same, just slightly more than 2100 miles (3379) and from extreme North to South is approximately the same, just slightly more than two percent of the total earth surface .   About 1.3 billion people live in South Asian region, which is overall 20 percent of the global population i.e. 6 billion.  Annual population growth of three major countries (India, Bangladesh and Pakistan) ranges between 1.6 to 2.5 percent, which has resulted into 50 percent population increase in each country since 1980. By 2015, South Asian population will rise to 1.2 billion: Pakistan 193 million, Bangladesh 160 millions and Nepal would be touching the figure of 32 millions. Thus it can be stated that increase in population will boost the per capita need.

 Its size, population, resources, economic development, scientific advancement requires colossal amount of natural resources in the shape of raw material, hydro power and water to cater for her agro based industry. It is also mentionable here that most of the population is living below the poverty line.  According to Dr. Abdul Kalam, poverty is a direct correlation between population and ecological exhaustion. In this connection, Homer Dixon stressed that poor countries are more vulnerable to environmental changes hence they are more prone to environmentally induced conflicts.  But the current geopolitical environment has also presented it a target for expending Arab Revolt. As, two regional nuclear powers (India and Pakistan) have not only fought wars over Kashmir and Siachen.  Both nuclear powers, located in a tensed security environment where supper power like U.S. and others NATO are operating against Al-Qaida and others militant Islamic groups. The military escalation in year 2001 is a case in point where an attack on Indian Lok Sabaha leads to heightened tensions between the two neighbors. Again in 2008 India was determined to carry out air raids on Pakistan after the Mumbai attacks. Thus, extremists’ elements of both these governments are quite exposed and sometime can be exploited by the master planners of the Arab Spring.

The presence of U.S forces in Afghanistan again entirely changed the internal political and security dynamic and made it prone to the Arab Revolt.

The political system in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh is open to bribe and corruption due to the involvement of various govt segments and is emerging as major hindrance in the elevation of the inhabitants’ life which resulted into unemployment and deprivation of rights. However, democracy, free media, continuity in conduct of elections and independent courts are main features of the ruling system despite adverse security environment.

Arab Spring Impacts on South Asia

South Asia experienced its own political agitations well before the Arab revolts. Nevertheless, the wave of popular uprisings that shook the Middle-East and North Africa region goes far beyond the region’s boundaries, and also forced South Asian rulers to take measures against upcoming global crisis. The consequences of the wave of Arab protests on Southeast Asian countries carry their load of opportunities and risks for governments, in political, social and economic terms since the political culture is entirely different from the Arab and Middle East. But the impact is not one way, and South Asian experiences could represent a source of inspiration for the Middle East states like Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran.

The South Asian Societies can be segregated and distinguished according to the religions, sects and culture. The religion to religion and sectarian divisions within the religions are few major weaknesses which can be exploited by the drivers of “Arab Spring”.  But South Asian governments are likely to be more adept in responding to potential popular discontent than entrenched Arab autocracies. Here, in South Asia the opposition parties are quite active and effectively covering the gap between ruling elite and the public. The countries like Sri Lanka, Maldives, Nepal, Afghanistan and Bhutan are too some extent slow and tedious, heralds the institutionalization of a political process. But people there are too quite aware of the progress around the region. Sri Lanka has successfully crushed the independent moments of LTTE. Similarly, Pakistani forces are busy in crushing foreign sponsored terrorism in Balochistan.

Moreover, Pakistan has to take steps in elevating the poor residents of its North West and Western provinces.  Again Bangladeshi government has to resolve basic issues with India and should launch some immediate measures for boosting its economy on war footing. She has to stop injustice against the religious people or those who favoured Pakistan in 1971. The hanging of Abdul Qadir Mullah recently by Bangladesh has made it more prone for revolution against Hassaina Wajid government. As whole, the people of South Asian countries hope that the deepening of these processes will consolidate democracy and therefore become irreversible.

For all South Asian countries, an active electoral culture is in place, and citizens do take their electoral rights seriously. They insist on the legitimacy of their leaders through fair and honest elections. This should be construed as a sign of political health, and a staunch adherence to a social contract between government and their subjects. Finally, social movements have been a part of the institutional life of regional countries. The civil society organizations including media have initially faced severe restrictions but now able to make place within the existing political structure. Thus ultimately has appeared as positive impact against the Arab Spring. South Asian governments, it’s military and intelligence organizations are perfectly monitoring the geopolitics of the Arab revolts as well as their fallout as part of a global trend that expresses a lack of confidence in institutions with a mixture of hope and anxiety. The debate over the potential domestic fallout is to some degree coloured by vested interests that have gained in strength and prominence in the wake of 9/11. For those whose budgets are boosted by perceptions of a terrorist threat, the focus is on the rise of the Islamists and Hindu extremists in countries like Bangladesh, India, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The religious forces do provoke their own thoughts to get desired results but education and security elements forces are there to counter the reveled threat of religious extremists. Media has also proved an effective tool against corruption and hence indirectly or directly countering threat of secular despite growing religious intolerance and widespread corruption.

Nonetheless, with the exception of Afghanistan, South Asia is not likely to be effected due to “Arab Spring” because of uprising democracy, Independent Judiciary, free media policy, prosperity, relative peace and stability. Moreover, The United States has to mend its policies towards South Asia since she must understand that her policies of ruling the globe unanimously through causing instability in the targeted region has totally been  collapsed.

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