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South Asia: new problem of global geopolitics?

24.07.13 Some believe that geopolitical gravity centers are shifting towards the East. The role of the South Asia in the process evokes interest. It should also be taken into account that the region is a home to several countries with significant population and rapidly changing demographic situation India, Pakistan, Bangladesh. China, as a country with global leadership aspirations and greatest human resources in the world, is also located in the vicinity. "Indian miracle and "Afghan syndrome of the embattled region South Asia is the region that rests within the sphere of interest of global geopolitics. Despite the absence of tensions similar to the ones in the Middle East, this region may become one of the "worlds hottest spots in the long run, and there are several reasons for that. Demographic situation in the region is quite complex. India is the worlds second most populous country. Population growth in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri-Lanka, Afghanistan and Nepal is also rapid. South Asia neighbors China, the most populous country in the world. One may easily conclude that demographics of China and India combined will certainly play a vital role in the fate of mankind. Western analysts and strategists attach considerable importance to the demographic factor in terms of the changes in the geopolitical landscape. Thus, already the South Asia is in the sphere of interest of the large powers. China factor has to be considered separately as this country is deemed a key U.S. rival in the global leadership race. Analysts believe that America concentrates most of its power on the rivalry with China. Implications are obvious. Washington will increasingly contest Beijing in geopolitics and politics as well as in economic, cultural, military and information fields. In his aspect, substantial discrepancy exists between the two on a number of parameters. Analysts reckon it while suggesting the prospects and potential challenges the regional countries may face. India is the largest country of the South Asia with promising growth prospects. Countrys economy is estimated to grow on average by 7-7.5% in the next 20 years. Its GDP will exceed 8 trillion USD by 2020, third biggest in the world (See: 2030 (Strategic Global Forecast 2030) ; A.Dinkin 2011, p. 472). Rapid economic growth must be ensured by both the growth of production and expansion of export markets for the Indian goods. India is also recognized as a country with bright prospects for development in the advanced technologies and primarily ICT sector. The countrys ICT sector accounted for 18% (70 billion USD) of the global market. This figure is expected to reach 30% by 2030 (See: Indias International Trade. A Tech Segregated Perspective // www.cc.iift.ac.in; India clocks US 69.7 billion IT exports during FY 2011-12 // www.4malayalees.com). Indias is estimated to retain its population growth until 2020, when it will reach 1.35 billion mark (See: Census pegs Indias population at 1.2 bn. //www.indianexpress.com). Official Delhi is expected to further pursue educational reforms and conduct exchange of experts with the Western world. The

aforementioned enables a conclusion that by 2020, India may become one of the most powerful countries in the world, but of course it does not mean that no challenges lie ahead. There are several factors of risk for the country. For example, stability in the North-Western part of the South Asia may be jeopardized leading to chaos in the Central Asia. On the other hand, there is a risk of deterioration of ties between India and Pakistan. Finally, some hazardous environmental trends may emerge. At the intersection of risks and opportunities Possibility of India being drawn into global geopolitical rivalry also must not be neglected. The position to be assumed by India in the US-China standoff will be crucial for the fate of the region. Delhi is already receiving diplomatic messages from Washington, Moscow and Beijing. During his visit to India, US Secretary of State John Kerry has explicitly expressed his countrys intention to seek comprehensive cooperation with India that included military sphere. Along with India, Pakistan happens to be a country in the global geopolitical sphere of interest. This countrys economy is expected to grow by 4-5% annually, with the middle class emerging alongside. However, Pakistan is set to grow demographically. Its population will reach 250 million (last census 198) by 2020. Such a dramatic growth is likely to cause various social-economic problems. However, Pakistan may experience more geopolitically complex situation. Washingtons pressure on the backdrop of domestic political tensions, acts of terrorism and the spread of religious radicalism creates new hurdles. Moreover, as a Muslim country with nuclear weapons capability, Pakistan is a source of jealousy in certain quarters. While the simmering Kashmir issue remains a bone of contention in its relations with India. Afghanistan still is the source of greatest threat to Pakistan, as Pakistan has had to bear its political, economic and military burden. Influence of other regional countries such as Bangladesh, Sri-Lanka and Nepal upon the regional processes is increasing, although in the social-economic terms, these countries have poor economic performance. Bangladesh is probably the only country with positive economic outlook as its more dynamic demographics are conducive to growth. As post-civil war countries, Sri-Lanka and Nepal are going through reconstruction process. Fighting with Tamils in Sri-Lanka in 1983-2008, and the battle against Maoists in Nepal in 1996-2008 left both countries bruised and battered. But if Sri-Lanka was capable of defeating the Tamils, in Nepal the Maoists had managed to secure seats in the government. Those processes speak of complex internal social-political problems persisting in both countries and also indicate the existence of sources of uncertainty in the region. Finally, to Afghanistan, a country best known to the international community! After the Soviets, NATO was next to be absorbed by the "Afghan quagmire, and now this country presents a grave threat for the region. Today leading countries of the world deliberate on programs to jointly confront religious radicalism emanating from Afghanistan. Pullout of the U.S. troops from Afghanistan in 2014 poses a risk of wider spread of terrorism in a greater geopolitical space. No concrete solutions are suggested. Instead, large powers are seen to employ the "Afghan syndrome to undermine each others position.

Aforementioned only attests to the significance of the South Asia in the global geopolitics. Two trends are ought to be emphasized here. First, demographic dynamics are changing. Intensive population growth creates certain geopolitical, economic and cultural complications. Those factors are likely to affect the policies of large powers with respect to this region. Russia, U.S. and China distinctively stand out in this rivalry. Second, unresolved regional conflicts within the region remain to be a potential source of threat. Interestingly, this threat stems from various contradictions such as territorial dispute between India and Pakistan, Maoists with separatist position on political-ideological and religious issues, ethnic separatism in Sri-Lanka and sheer religious intolerance (Buddhists policy of genocide against Muslims) in Myanmar (on the Bangladeshi border). This palette of threat sources implies broad specter, a feature that increases a risk of geopolitical games to be played in the South Asia. Taking into account globally developing trends, such course of events is quite likely.