Many countries are experiencing the consequences of the geopolitical gambit taking place overtly and covertly in their territories. They feel the scale of its impact depending upon their resilient strength. The countries’ resilience is determined by their economy, security and political stability. Political stability is vital for a country to gain resiliency and defend sovereignty. South Asian countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan have been always in a state of flux owing to political instability, economic crisis and armed conflicts. However, countries like India, Bhutan and Bangladesh have improved their situation in the recent years.
South Asian countries are rich in human as well as natural resources. The powerful countries definitely use the tactics for their own benefit. Moreover, the strategic geographical location of a country becomes a matter of attraction for powerful countries. The countries like the USA, China and Russia have their own interest, particularly in the area of security and business. Currently, the world powers have shown their security concern while dealing with the issue of business and vice versa. Latest situation of Ukraine is a glaring example in this regard.
South Asia’s importance
Afghani people have become the victims of the rivalry of powerful countries. Sri Lanka is facing economic crisis and Pakistanis are roiled by chronic instability and security challenges. Nepal is still in transition towards materialising democratic achievements. South Asian countries are interconnected each other in terms of security, trade, art, culture and risks of climate change. They suffer common problems and issues such as rights violation, backwardness, poverty, floods and inundation. Frequent visits of high level officials from powerful nations indicate the importance of South Asia. It also indicates that the South Asian countries are situated in geopolitically important location. The officials of powerful nations not only limit their sojourn to just a courtesy calls but also force their strategic projects into the host countries.
The developing or underdeveloped countries can nether neither ignore nor fully accept the strategic goals of the developed countries or big powers. Moreover, one country tries to check strategic moves of another country. They weak nations trapped into a geopolitical play knowingly and unknowingly. However, all interests of the powerful nations are not always detrimental. Some of the agendas like human rights, social justice, technology transfer, poverty reduction, humanitarian assistance and literacy campaign are beneficial for the host countries. South Asian countries should take cautious steps to grasp the opportunity created by geopolitical interests with a balance approach. These countries will be in better position if they collectively pay attention towards the following agendas.
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was established in 1985 with the aim of promoting regional cooperation and integration, but it is almost defunct now after India withdrew its participation in the summit of 2016. Now, it is the high time they revived the SAARC process through dialogue and mutual support. The functioning of SAARC is still relevant to achieve the goals spelt out in its charter. Once the regional forums are revitalised, the countries face little geopolitical pressure. They can work together to reduce poverty through the investment in trade, energy, water resources and tourism. Poverty has been their common enemy. They can benefit from railway connectivity and the landlocked nations like Nepal should strive to have an access to sea.
There shall be less possibility of geopolitical maneuvering if the leadership becomes able to promote peace and stability in the region mired in conflicts, power politics, terrorisms and instability. When there is peace, it will help promote stability and vice versa. Maintaining rule of law is equally important for this cause. People should be empowered in terms of skills, income generation and education. If the people are resilient in many aspects of their life, they shall play catalytic role in making the country prosperous. Present problems of South Asian countries include low income and underdevelopment, massive unemployment, abject poverty and mass migration. So, the countries should chart out a common strategy to overcome these challenges.
Impact of climate change
Tackling the climate change-induced problems should be the common agenda in the region. Floods, landslides, inundation and force migration are byproducts of the climate change. There are many other issues relating to climate and its impacts. So, the leadership and other stakeholders within the region should work together to reduce adverse impacts of climate change. Overall, every international interest is not only put challenges on the particular country and its people, but also gives lots of opportunities if the nations become able to utilise them.
So, the South Asian countries should be able to use geopolitics and their interests as opportunity. They should vie for seizing on opportunity instead of being influenced from the geopolitical strategies. They need to demonstrate their diplomatic aptitude to cash in on the programmes and projects, rolled out by the powerful nations, without compromising sovereignty and right to self-determination.
(Upadhyaya is Associate Editor of this daily.)