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South Asia Special Issue XIV

Chandra Chari

In the six months since the last South Asia special issue was published in March 2009, an elusive sense prevails, of the region reaching a plateau, almost. The War on Terror and the economic recession in the West which had resonated all across South Asia are still there, but now seem more like muted drums. And, while this may be an altogether premature claim, South Asia does give the impression, all at once, of a region where performance is being put on top of the agenda—against all odds—and resolution of problems which until a while ago had seemed set to beleaguer all these countries indefinitely, suddenly seem to become a possibility.   A brief look at the political landscape of South Asia is in order: In India, the general elections belied the logic of the anti-incumbency syndrome, and the electorate has voted for performance—not rhetoric, not ideology, but simply as a recognition of a party, a candidate, having delivered on promises. Fears of a hung parliament and being held hostage by parties’ support from the outside, have been set at rest. Time will show how the leadership values the mandate but for now, a sense of purposefulness is evident.   The overthrow of military dictatorship and the coming to power of a democratically elected leadership is changing the landscape in Pakistan as well. The ignominious pacts of yesteryears with terrorist organizations seem to be on the way to getting reversed. Barak Obama’s new guidelines for an Af-Pak policy bring Pakistan centrestage to guide its own destiny and to reclaiming that of Afghanistan’s as well. Again, short-term predictions may turn out to be wrong but the lull in the atmospherics is certainly welcome.   The most momentous event in South Asia has been of course the end of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka which had ravaged the country for decades. A bubbling cauldron has been contained with the LTTE crushed and its leader gone; this is not to say that the reverberations will not be continued to be heard, not only in Sri Lanka but in the neighbouring Tamil country as well. But civil wars for whatever cause, as has been shown time and again from the time of the Mahabharata war, can only kill and maim all the contestants, with no side being the winner.   The military having voluntarily gone back to the barracks in an unprecedented move, ...

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