The South Asian region currently faces a grave security threat due to increasing extremism and terrorist activities. The politics of violence and extremist trends in South Asia can be linked to the contradictions arising as a consequence of faulty national policies.
The nature and political economy of the state have been instrumental in creating the current crisis. The South Asian states tend to operate in the interests of a coalition of classes and ethnic groups, thereby influencing development policies and the distribution of resources. The pace, content and dynamics of the uneven development patterns in South Asia are among the predominant causes of violence in the region. Besides the failure of transition to modernity among these South Asian states, political culture has also led to ethnic solidarities and identification with religion and culture. Interference from external powers and from neighbouring and extra-regional elements (both governments and independent groups) has given a dangerous tilt to the existing volatile situation.
With the marked rise of extremism and increasing terrorist activities, particularly in the past decade, South Asia is among the regions in the world with the highest annual number of fatalities caused by terrorist violence. Ethnic, ideological and political conflicts pose a serious threat to stability and interstate relations. Each state faces multiple concerns ranging from fundamentalists to ethno-political violence, which are consolidating along with the worsening socio-economic conditions.
Terrorism and the rise of extremism has been occurring in South Asia for a variety of reasons, including perpetration by tyrannical and aggressive regimes and rebel groups, social injustice, ideological contradictions, religious beliefs and foreign interference. However, deteriorating socio-economic conditions, government policies and outside interference in all South Asian countries have been the primary factors responsible for the rise of extremism in the region.Terrorism and its political consequences have directly and visibly affected interstate relations in South Asia and have also led to destabilization in the region.
Extremism is the common factor creating instability throughout the region. If they are willing to tackle their problems, the South Asian states will have to revise their policies of self-justification and redress the grievances of the general population. Socio-economic problems and human security issues need to be accorded the highest priority by governments, as these are the main cause of frustration among the masses and particularly among the educated and unemployed youth, who become easy recruits for radical organizations which involve them in their terrorist activities. In addition to individual state efforts to deal with extremism, a concerted regional effort is also required as the problem has an additional external dimension to it.
There is no shortcut to eradicating regional problems since they are the result of a consistent and gradual failure of the state to deal with the issue of public security and grievances, and also the failure of society to curb tendencies of extremism and intolerance. Without formulating a comprehensive approach to deal with the issue of terrorism at the state, society and regional level, the menace of radicalism cannot be eradicated.
Sadia Nasir Butt, 23/06/2004