Published:  12:00 AM, 01 January 2016

Political developments in South Asian Nations: A no easy picture

Political developments in South Asian Nations: A no easy picture
It's a normal to watch common patterns in the polity of the countries of a same region. South Asia often seems to stand in exception in this measure. While this is an indicator of the diverse political development in the region, it also effect inter -state relation and regional and trans-regional politics.
When it comes to domestic political developments the rise of AamAdmi Party (AAP) which literally means the Party of the Common Men in Delhi , India casts some glimmer of hope that good thing can happen in politics in the South Asian nations. Political changes keep taking place but clearly the example of the rise and apparent survival of AAP stand apart from others.  The rise of AAP is already much discussed and now the interesting thing is the way it has been cruising forward in 2015 in bringing about meaningful reform despite post-election issues between some senior founding leaders . Even the managed to cope with the departure of two powerful leaders   and concentrate on deliverance and real issues instead of lingering quarrel over election victory spoils.
For example, they made specific pledges on revising electricity and water supply and billing system for fairness in their short first term - they did that. Kezriwal came up with another unique idea to solve Delhi's much debated traffic problem with even and odd number private and official private vehicles on alternative days which would encourage residents and public  servants to use public transport or share a common private transport.  But the interactive method with the commoners that the party developed during its initial gathering of momentum was quite unique - invoking a form of direct democracy almost. But the central strength of the party remains to be its clean image, eradication of VIP culture and simplicity and humility of its approach towards general Delhites which is a sharp contrast to most other parties in India and surely of the same of other countries of South Asia.
AAP also did reasonable well in elections in few more places other than Delhi in few of the recent one or two elections, indicating it has national ambition even in a gigantic state like India and they won't  just be contented of being another provincial party, although they seem to be following a cautious approach when it comes to active expansion. Understandably , they want to create a reputation first in Delhi and then make solid stride to other places. It resembles Zeng Xiao Ping's famous and proven 'crossing the river , touching the stone' approach which quite makes sense.
While in there are few established and theoretically progressive parties in the body politics of most south Asian nations , rise of AAP like new, clean and innovative political force with sound service oriented  ideology would surely be a very good thing to happen in this sphere where positive advancement is not really a consistency. Other optimists in the region may wish to draw and do something from this very encouraging phenomenon.
Imran Khan did comparable thing in Pakistan with his Tehrikh-i-Insaf, although in a different way and in a dissimilar context. He kept trying to put himself and his party as an alternative to conventional politics in Pakistan through various and, often not so convincing, meansin 2015. Pakistani complexity is quite unalike from Indian intricacy as the former's society is more crude, orthodox and violent. Militant Islam, ungoverned tribal belt and foreign intervention all converged to make things much worse. Traditional preeminence of the military as the premier state institute has already distorted the body politik of that nation. And now it seems that only the army can maintain some stability in this vulnerable and volatile nuclear power.The realistic ambition for Pakistan in short and medium term ought to be to maintain a right and lasting equation of power sharing between the civilian political class and the GHQ to ensure some state coherence when is it severely threatened by religious, ethnic, tribal  and sectarian strife and the effect of ongoing crisis in Afghanistan.
But , even to have that much of clout the conventional political forces must have some bit of broad agreement and integrity towards each other. Sometimes Imran Khan seems directionless and out of ideas. His spite against Sharif brothers could be counterproductive in Punjab where PML-N has its proven popularity. More importantly his tendency of creating political stalemate and bringing the county to dysfunction hold the danger of inviting ever ready Pakistan army to overtly step in, yet again, into state affairs. Whatever it might be, for Pakistan, the priority of the international community would be stability and prevention of falling into chaos through implosion; not Democracy as much and perhaps rightfully so.
Political development in Sri Lanka is rather on the brighter side. Replacement of jingoistic Rajapaksa and ascend of moderate Sirisenain the last polls is a belated parallel of Churchill -Attlee saga of post WW II. Now Sri Lankans have given a signal that they no more wantchauvinistic rhetoric - inclusive nation building is more important instead.
Bangladesh's case, in the recent years, is also unique by its own right. The same continued in 2015. Despite the degeneration of electoral Democracy, hopefully for time being, the country is clearly closing down its contentious and lingering unresolved issues of the past. Certain ideological spirit is being redone which were undone in post counter revolution period after 1975. If this transitional phase in the current history of the nation is able to bring a complete closure of the past baggage, the prospectus nation can focus more on socio-economic well being of its people. The  ' Bangladesh Paradox' already exists which is economic growth without political progress. It's just needed to be graduated to the next level to accelerate the country's stride towards entering the  mid income league .
There is a belated mixed progress in Nepali polity. After more than a decade of becoming a republic from a monarchy Nepal was able to adopt a new secular constitution. Despite considerable praise of the new constitution from neutral corners the Indian origin Madeshi people felt they were being marginalized and threw up some protest with some moral support from the Modi govt. Bihar state assembly election .
Despite all these contextual dissimilarities, there are similarities as well especially within India, Pakistan and Bangladesh e.g. widespread corruption, criminalization of politics, absence of any graceful political culture, belligerence towards neighbor  etc. In these areas nothing much has changed in the bygone year. One can hope there are at least someconstructive New Year resolutions in these regards.


The writer is the Head of Operations at BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University.  Email: sarwar558@gmail.com .

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