India no angel in dangerous neighbourhood

By Reuters Staff
May 26, 2011

By Annie Banerji

Perhaps the finger-pointing at neighbouring Pakistan and the talk of Afghan militancy destabilising the region that New Delhi so often rolls out should be reconsidered. The neighbourhood may well be dangerous, but India is no model pupil.

According to the 2011 Global Peace Index, an initiative of the Institute of Economics and Peace, which evaluates 153 countries based on the level of ongoing conflict, safety and security and militarisation, India is the world’s 135th most peaceful country, falling seven positions from last year.

This year’s rankings, which indicated a decline in the levels of peace for the third consecutive year overall, placed Iceland in the top spot as the most peaceful country and Somalia as the world’s least.

India’s performance is high on some of the indicators, for instance, level of organised internal conflict, political instability, and relations with neighbouring countries, for which reason India is a part of the 20 least peaceful countries in the world along with Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan.

India’s unfortunate state of safety and security not only emerges largely from religious conflict with active groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Students’ Islamic Movement of India, but also Naxalism, an ideology of militant Communist groups. Terror activity is not concentrated in a particular region in India, but it has poisonously seeped into almost all areas of the country.

Starting from the north, with the perennial conflict of Jammu and Kashmir due to political and religious imbalances to the north-east, where there are tensions between state governments, the central government and the tribal people. Central India is infested with Naxalist insurgency, which in the past week caused the death of nine police officers.

After the U.S. successfully carried out its operation in killing Osama bin Laden, India also snapped into a fervid mode putting national security on top of its priority list. Subsequently, it handed over a list of its 50 most wanted fugitives to Pakistan two weeks ago, which unfurled erroneous details of a few people mentioned in the list, much to New Delhi’s embarrassment.

With as many as 800 terrorist cells operating within the country, it is quite alarming to see that India is concentrating more on the terror threats of neighbouring countries rather than resolving internal issues at hand. Naxalism causes a huge number of deaths per year, targeting not only the police, but ethnic and tribal groups.

Had the government set up initiatives to tackle internal threats as well, perhaps India would not have found itself in the unenviable list of the world’s 20 least peaceful countries, beside neighbours it likes to chastise for lacking in peace and stability.

3 comments

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Agreed, but the point that you subtly and apparently unintentionally make here is that the instability within India is actually fanned by the “dangerous neighborhood” either in the name of Islamic Jehad or communist revolution. So by that account, India still gets portrayed as victim of being the “model pupil” in rough neighborhood. There however are some serious homegrown challenges to the peace and security of the people there which do not get the same level of sustained attention and importance from the media as terrorism. Like the safety of women in the national capital or treatment of migrant workers in Mumbai. Politically motivated killings and abductions are still rampant in some states and we have only recently started talking about the acts of so called retaliatory terrorism from some factions of the majority community. People don’t put their trust on the police force which often acts as a law onto itself or more likely as the extended arm of the ruling coalition in the state. If I am doing business in India, terrorism may be only one of the concern at the back of my mind. More pressing concerns however may be safety of my female employees, or fear of backlash for not hiring enough so called “sons of the soil”

Posted by Windturner | Report as abusive

I think some of the reasons behind these conclusions are what need to be considered instead of sweeping statements that India is no model pupil or need to chastise neighbours.

‘”"India’s score remains the same on most parameters used to measure peacefulness. Homicide and crime rates in India, too, are a lot lower than many other countries. The fall in rankings is largely due to an increasing perception of criminality in society,” says Steve Killelea, founder of the Global Peace Index.

Killelea feels the increased perception of violence in India may have a lot to do with the repeated terror attacks on the country in recent times. That India is in a volatile neighbourhood and has issues with countries such as Pakistan and China only adds to the threat perception,” says Killelea. ‘

I haven’t really understood what ‘increased perception of criminality in society’ really signifies. Is it based on economic crimes which have flooded the Indian scene this last year? Then one needs to redefine peace too in this context. Specially when it also mentions that the homicide and crime rates are relatively lower than others.

Please also note that it categorically makes mention of repeated terror attacks and the type of neighbours India has. So while not denying that India is in a volatile area and certainly needs to do more, much more about combating naxalism etc I think the article is more alarmist, if not a tad sensationalised, than reality.

Besides if anyone said Pakistan is more peaceful than Russia, as this study points out; Pakistan 146 and Russia 147, then one really needs to know more about the different parameters and yardsticks used to arrive at these conclusions. General perceptions are different.

Never the less interesting statistics.

Posted by DaraIndia | Report as abusive

I do not know how authentic these studies are. There is no clear information on how the information was obtained, the sources of the information and whether any verification was done at all. Most of these surveys are done by Western countries where they inject their perceived bias and apprehension into these surveys, thereby projecting a demoniacal image of countries that do not entirely agree with their vision of the world. I’d say, based on this survey, Antarctica is the most peaceful place on earth.

If one takes a country like the USA, gun culture is legally permitted. People can own automatic and semi-automatic weapons, grenade launchers and what not. Once in a while people get shot in shopping malls and work places by frustrated or mentally deranged individuals. Safety is a big concern there. People get shot when getting mugged by school kids. Drug gangs have proliferated across big metros. Cops can shoot and kill anyone. They just have to make up the evidence. In places like Australia, racial attacks have increased. Indians are targeted and attacked. If the world is gauged from an Indian standpoint or that of an African, the rest of the world does not appear that safe.

I do not deny India’s own problems. Things were much worse before compared to now. Every country has its criminals. Therefore I am not so worried about these surveys which are amateurish at best.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive