Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Failed States Index 2006

For all the optimism about India’s economic progress, one must keep watching its back – the region seems to be entering an unstable, violent phase, next only to Central Africa in terms of its regional stability.

Why do I sound so grim? Look at the Fund For Peace Failed State Index for 2006 and you will discover almost all of India’s neighbours in Top 25 Failed States in the world. Pakistan at 9, Afghanistan at 10, Myanmar at 18, Bangladesh at 19, Nepal at 20 and Sri Lanka at 25 – do not paint a rosy picture of the region at all.

India itself is at 93, somewhat cosy, but slightly worse than Libya in some of parameters [OK – oil money, I agree!]. Bhutan at 39 also does not look too good – especially when citizens’ quality of life is the professed aim of the state over economic growth.

Does this index say much? Depending on where you stand politically, you may or may not attach great value to such studies. Fact, however, remains that the region IS indeed unstable. To get anywhere near India’s aim of becoming a developed country by 2020, we need to sort our own house in order first; in this case, we mean the neighbourhood.

Am I talking of a solution? There is no easy solution perhaps. This is a nuclear region, with a history of hatred and division. But it is time for Indian policy makers to sit up and work out a clear, balanced and unambiguous policy towards its neighbours. If the region continues to sink in chaos, India will have no choice but to keep spending on military hardware and fences [isn’t that what we thought about Bangladesh?], instead of education and health.

One does not easily become rich in a poor, violent neighbourhood – or at least, let me say, in cases of countries, it does not work that way.  

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