Class 12 Political Science Chapter 5 Contemporary South Asia NCERT Notes

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Chapter 5 Contemporary South Asia Class 12 Political Science NCERT Notes provide a thorough overview of each concept, making them an invaluable tool for exam preparation. This can help them feel more confident going into their exams, and ultimately help them succeed.

Contemporary South Asia Class 12 Contemporary World Politics Textbook Political Science NCERT notes are very useful in making you memorize things easily and quickly. The purpose of these notes is to provide you with concise, step-by-step important points that will help clarify complex concepts.

Chapter 5 Contemporary South Asia Contemporary World Politics Class 12 Political Science CBSE NCERT Notes


When India and Pakistan joined the club of nuclear powers, South Asian region suddenly became the focus of global attention.

The focus was on the various kinds of conflict in this region: there are pending border and water sharing disputes between the states of the region.

There are conflicts arising out of insurgency, ethnic strife and resource sharing which makes the region very turbulent.

In this chapter, we try to understand the nature of conflict and cooperation among different countries of the region.

What is South Asia?

The South Asia includes the states, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives and Afghanistan.

It also includes mighty Himalayas in the north and the vast Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal in the south, west and east respectively.

South Asia stands for diversity in every sense and yet constitutes one geopolitical space. There is considerable scope of mutual cooperation in the region. The first South Asian Summit was held in 1985 at Dhaka and it was there that the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) formally came into existence.

In 1983, the foreign ministers of seven South Asian countries held a meeting in New Delhi. At this meeting a coordinated program was formulated for these countries. Afghanistan became a member of SAARC in 2007. China is a formidable power but is not a part of this region.

Political Systems in South Asia

In terms of civil liberties available to the people of South Asian countries, the track record of most of these countries is highly disappointing:

  • Only Sri Lanka and India have been able to operate democracy successfully since their independence while Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Maldives etc. have seen ups and downs in democratic stability.
  • Pakistan began the post-cold war period with successive democratic governments under Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif respectively. But suffered a military coup in 1999 and has been run by military regime. Till 2006, Nepal was a constitutional monarchy since July 2008 and it has PM with council of ministers with the government and it has become a multi-party system.
  • The Maldives and the other island nation was a Sultanate till 1968 when it was transformed into a republic with a Presidential form of government. In June 2005, the Parliament of the Maldives voted unanimously to introduce a multi-party system. The Maldivian Democratic party (MDP) dominates the political affairs of the island.

The demand for democracy has gained momentum in the region in recent years.

People in all these countries share the aspirations for democracy and there is widespread support for democracy in all these countries.

All the people belonging to different status and religions, view the idea of democracy positively and support the institutions of representative democracy.

They prefer democracy over any other form of government and think that democracy is suitable for the country.

The Military and Democracy in Pakistan

Pakistan emerged as an Islamic nation in 1947, following the partition of India. The founder of Pakistan, Mr. Jinnah wanted the country to be governed along Western political concepts but he did not survive for long.

After framing of its first constitution, General Ayub Khan got himself elected in 1958 and ruled the country for nearly 11 years.

Due to mass dissatisfaction he had to leave office and it led to military takeover of Pakistan under General Yahya Khan.

During his period in 1971 war broke out with India over the issue of East Pakistan leading to the creation of Bangladesh.

From 1971-77 elected government under Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto came to power.

The Bhutto government was removed by General Zia-Ul-Haq in 1977. General Zia promised to hold elections and transfer the power to a civilian government.

General Zia faced a pro-democracy movement from 1982 but he died in a plane crash and an elected government was established in 1988 under the leadership of Benazir Bhutto who was the leader of People’s Party of Pakistan (PPP).

After that there was competitive democracy in Pakistan between Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Muslim league till 1999. In 1999 there was a military coup led by General Pervez Musharraf with the overthrow of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

In 2001 Musharraf got himself elected as President.

In December 2007, Benazir Bhutto was assassinated by suicide bomber of Al-Qaida. Her brutal murder in December 2007 has once again delayed the election scheduled for January 2008 leading to the preponderance of military regime under Musharraf once again.

Bhutto’s husband Asif Ali Zardari has been elected as the President and Musharraf has been forced to resign.

Since 2008, democratically elected leaders have been ruling Pakistan.

Factors that have contributed to Pakistan’s failure in building a stable democracy

The social dominance of the military, clergy and landowning aristocracy has led to the frequent overthrow of elected governments, and the establishment of military government.

Pakistan’s conflict with India has made the pro-military groups more powerful who advocate that political parties and democracy in Pakistan are flawed and is ruled by selfish minded people and chaotic democracy.

The lack of genuine international support for democratic rule in Pakistan has further encouraged the military to continue its dominance.

The US and other Western nations supported military dictatorship in Pakistan because:

  • They believe that the threat of ‘global Islamic terrorism’ can be countered by stabilising military rule in Pakistan.
  • They also believe Military rule to be the preserver of Western interest in South Asia and West Asia.

While democracy has not been fully successful in Pakistan, there has been a strong pro-democracy sentiment in the country. Pakistan has courageous and relatively free press and strong human rights movement.

Democracy in Bangladesh

When India was partitioned in 1947, East Bengal and parts of Assam had joined Pakistan. This area known as East Pakistan with Pakistan till 1971. The people of this region resented the domination of Western Pakistan and the imposition of Urdu language.

After the Independence they started demanding proper treatment to Bengali language and culture and adequate representation in political power.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman led the popular struggle against Western Pakistani domination.

In 1970 elections, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Awami League won all seats in East Pakistan and secured a majority in the proposed Constituent assembly for the whole Pakistan.

However, the West Pakistani leadership did not convene the assembly and arrested Sheikh Mujibur and put him behind bars.

The military regime of Yahya Khan suppressed the mass movement of the Bengali people which led to large-scale migration of refugees to India.

India supported the movement for creation of a separate state militarily and financially which led to an open war between India and Pakistan in 1971.

The war resulted in the defeat of Pakistan and creation of Bangladesh. The Constitution of Bangladesh affirmed its faith in democracy, socialism and secularism.

It adopted a Presidential system of government in 1975. Sheikh Mujibur abolished all other parties except his Awami League which led to tensions and conflicts.

Sheikh Mujibur was assassinated in a military uprising in August 1975. The new military ruler Zia-Ur-Rehman formed his own Bangladesh National Party and won elections in 1979.

He was assassinated and another military coup was led by Lt. Gen. H.M. Irshad in 1979. It led to widespread protests in favour of democracy in Bangladesh. Pro-democracy movements forced him to give up power in 1991. Since then representative democracy based on multi-party elections has been working in Bangladesh.

In 2007 due to political instability, widespread corruption and growing strife between Bangladesh National Party and Awami League it led to imposition of emergency.

In 2009, interim government had elections in which Sheikh Hasina of Awami league had won landslide majority and became Premier making the return of democracy in Bangladesh.

Monarchy and Democracy in Nepal

Nepal had been till recently the only Hindu kingdom in the world but in 2006 it declared itself to be a secular state. Its political power kept on flip-flopping between absolute and constitutional monarchy.

For long, the king had with the help of army retained absolute control and limited expansion of democracy.

In 1990 the King accepted the demand for a new democratic constitution in response to pro-democratic movements.

In 1990s the Maoist rebels led an armed aggression against the monarch and ruling regimes.

In 2002, the king dismissed the elected government and implemented absolute Monarchy.

In 2006 there were massive countrywide pre-democracy protests which led to the first major victory when the king was forced to restore the House of Representatives that had been dissolved in April 2002. This was led by the Seven Party Alliance (SPA), the Maoists, and social activists.

The Maoists rebels have joined the interim government led by GP Koirala and in 2007 Nepal shifted to democracy.

In 2008, elections were held in Nepal in which even the Maoists took part. The Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal or Prachanda became the new PM of Nepal in 2016.

Since 2018 KP Sharma Oli is the Prime Minister and Bidhya Devi Bhandari is the President of Nepal. Monarchy has been abolished in Nepal and the Narainhiti Palace has been converted into a museum.

Ethnic Conflict and Democracy in Sri lanka

Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948. It has retained democracy since independence but it has faced serious strife based on ethnicity even leading to secessionist movement. After independence Sri Lanka’s political regime was dominated by the majority Sinhalese community.

The Sinhalas were hostile to Tamils who had migrated to Sri Lanka and were denied political, civil, social and economic rights. This neglect of Tamil took the form of militant organisation called Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 1983.

1983 onwards LTTE has been fighting an armed conflict including aerial attacks in 2007 for separate ‘Tamil Eelam’ or Tamil country in the north eastern part of Sri Lanka.

Since the Tamils are of Indian origin, there is a considerable pressure on the Indian government to help these Tamils.

In 1987 an Accord was signed between India and Sri Lanka by which Indian Peace Keeping Forces (IPKF) were sent to Sri Lanka to improve relations between Tamils and Sri Lankans.

Sri Lankans regarded this as an interference in their country and IPKF was withdrawn in 1989.

In the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009 Sri Lankan Army launched major offence against LTTE reducing it to a few square kilometres and LTTE has been disbanded.

Inspite of ethnic strife, Sri Lanka has attained economic growth and high levels of human development.

It has controlled its growth rate, is the first country in the region to liberalise its economy and achieved a high Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

India-Pakistan Conflicts

India and Pakistan have a common history and cultural heritage, yet the Pakistan government has usually been hostile to us. The story of both the countries is vast and overlaid with prejudices and emotions.

After the partition the two countries got embroiled over the fate of Kashmir. Wars between India and Pakistan in 1947-48 and 1965 failed to settle the matter. The 1947-48 war resulted in division of the province into Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) and the Indian provinces of Jammu and Kashmir divided by LOC.

In 1971 there was a war between India and Pakistan over the question of liberation of Bangladesh (Former East Pakistan). In 1971 the war continued for about two weeks and then Pakistan’s Army General surrendered unconditionally to India and the Bangladesh liberation forces. The Shimla Agreement helped in the normalisation of relations between the two countries.

Conflict over the Siachen Glacier also led to a costly war between the two countries. Pakistan sent troops in large numbers with a view to strengthening its hold over the glacier. India retaliated because Pakistan acted against us. In 2005 our PM visited this area and declared it to be a zone of peace.

Arms race between the two countries assumed a new character with both states acquiring nuclear weapons and missiles to deliver such arms against each other in the 1990s. In 1998, India conducted nuclear explosion in Pokhran and Pakistan responded by carrying nuclear test in Chagai Hills.

India and Pakistan also had problems over sharing the river waters. Until 1960, they were locked in a fierce argument over the use of the rivers of the Indus basin.

Prime Minister Vajpayee tried to improve bilateral relations with Pakistan by undertaking the Bus Yatra to Lahore and signing the Lahore declaration. But what India received in return was the Kargil intrusion an undeclared war between India and Pakistan.

Its spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is alleged to be involved in various anti-India campaigns in India’s north-east operating secretly through Bangladesh and Nepal. The two countries are not in agreement over the demarcation line in Sir Creek in the Runn of Kutch.

Areas of Agreement

Both the countries have agreed to start a bus Service between Amritsar and Lahore and to religious places such as Nankana Sahib.

The SAARC nations including Pakistan, signed the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA).

In September 2006, the two countries reached agreement on instituting a joint anti-terror mechanism and resume the comprehensive dialogue.

India an its Other Neighbours

India and Bangladesh

The era of cordial relations between India and Bangladesh weakened after Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s murder in 1975. There have been disagreements and disputes between the two countries on number of issues.

Issues of conflicts

Bangladesh had differences over several issues including the sharing of the Ganga and Brahmaputra river waters. India had been urging Bangladesh for cooperation in harnessing the Brahmaputra so as to control its flood potential.

Indian government is unhappy with Bangladesh’s denial of illegal immigration to India. This problem is related not only to land and employment in the states of Assam, Tripura and West Bengal, it poses a threat to India’s security as well.

Bangladesh’s support for anti-Indian Islamic fundamentalist groups.

Bangladesh’s refusal to allow Indian troops to move through its territory to north-eastern India.

Its decision not to export natural gas to India or allow Myanmar to do so through Bangladeshi territory.

Bangladesh is increasingly being used as a transit point by drug dealers and the drug mafia, which dispatches heroine and opium from Burma, and other countries of the Golden triangle, to different destinations.

An era of cordiality

Economic relations have improved considerably in the last 10 years.

In 1972 both states signed a friendship pact and an agreement on trade. Bangladesh is part of India’s look East policy that want to link up with south-east Asia via Myanmar.

On disaster management and environmental issues, both the countries have cooperated regularly.

Efforts are on to broaden the areas of cooperation further by identifying common threats and being more sensitive to each other’s needs.

India and Nepal

India and Nepal share an extremely intimate relationship. Both the countries share a common culture and signed a Treaty of peace and friendship in 1950.

Indian government has often expressed displeasure at the warm relationship between Nepal and China.

Leaders and citizens of Nepal feel that Indian government interferes in its internal affairs, has designs on its river waters and hydroelectricity and prevents Nepal, a landlocked country, from getting easier access to sea through Indian territory.

Despite differences in trade, scientific cooperation, common natural resources, electricity generation and interlocking water management grids for the two countries together.

There is a hope that the consolidation of democracy in Nepal will lead to improvements in the ties between the two countries.

India and Sri Lanka

The relations between India and Sri Lanka are centuries old. Both the countries have shared a common history of colonial exploitation. Both the states were part of the non-aligned movement and agreed on working towards cordiality, co-existence, cooperation, decolonisation, and disarmament.

The governments of India and Sri Lanka have difficulties mostly over ethnic conflict in the island nation.

Indian leaders and citizens find it impossible to remain neutral when Tamils are politically unhappy and are being killed.

After the military intervention in 1987 the Indian government now prefers a policy of this disengagement vis-à-vis Sri Lanka’s internal troubles. Signed a free trade agreement with Sri Lanka which strengthened relations between the two countries.

India’s help in post-tsunami reconstruction in Sri Lanka has also brought the two countries closer.

A memorandum of understanding on Cooperation in Small Development Projects has been signed.

India and Bhutan

India enjoys a very special relationship with Bhutan.

The efforts made by the Bhutanese monarch to weed out the guerrillas and militants from north-eastern India that operate in his country have been helpful to India.

India is involved in many hydro-electric projects of Bhutan and is principal provider of developmental aids to Bhutan.

There is the free movement of goods and persons between the two countries.

India and Maldives

India shares cordial relations with Maldives.

In 1988 when some Tamil militants from Sri Lanka attacked Maldives, the Indian Air Force came along and protected Maldives from the invasion. In November 1988 speed boats carrying 80 armed militants of the People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam landed in Maldives and along with allies who had infiltrated the country, began taking over the government.

The plot planned in Sri Lanka by the Tamil nationalist group what is believed to be an attempt by a Maldivian businessman and politician opposed to the region of the President of Maldives to gain control and sought a safe heaven and base for his activities.

India has contributed to island’s prosperity, tourism, fishing and development.

Peace and Cooperation

South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) formed in 1985 is a major regional intiative by the South Asian states to evolve cooperation through multilateral means.

Objectives of SAARC

  • Promote the welfare of the people of South Asia and improve their quality of life.
  • Accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region by providing all individuals the opportunity to live in dignity and realise their full potential.
  • Promote and strengthen collective self-reliance among the countries of South Asia.
  • Contribute to mutual trust, understanding and appreciation of one another’s problems.
  • Promote active collaboration and mutual assistance in the economic, social, cultural, technical and scientific fields.
  • Strengthen cooperation with other developing countries.
  • Strengthen cooperation among themselves in international forums on matters of common interest.
  • Cooperate with international and regional organisations with similar aims and purposes.

SAARC members signed the South Asian Free Trade Agreement which promised the formation of free trade zone for the whole of South Asia.

New chapter of peace and cooperation might evolve in South Asia if all countries in the region allow free trade across the borders.

Agreement was signed in 2004 and came into effect on 1 January 2006. SAFTA aims at: lowering trade tariffs by 20% in 2007.

But some of our neighbours fear that SAFTA is away for India to invade their markets and to influence their societies and politics through commercial ventures and commercial presence in the countries.

Analysts in India feel that SAFTA is useless since India already has bilateral pacts with Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan.

Although India and Pakistan have been at loggerheads they have undertaken a series of Confidence Building Measures CBMs to reduce the risk of war.

People to people contacts have also been launched to reduce tension between the two states.

Opening of bus routes, rail routes, easing of visa restrictions and increased trade between two parts of Punjab and Summit level meetings have been certain positive developments towards peace and cooperation in South Asia.

Suggestions to make SAARC effective

The work on creating a South Asian free trade agreement should begin in earnest soon.

The FICCI (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry) called for the liberalisation of visas for doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers etc.

Long term multipurpose visas should be granted to traders and tourists.

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