India Insight

South Asia’s failing states

Foreign Policy magazine has just released its 2009 list of failing states or those at risk of failure and South Asia makes for sobering reading.

All of India’s neighbours, except for tiny Bhutan, figure in the list of top 25 states that are faltering, although their rankings have improved marginally over the previous year.

So Afghanistan remains at number 7 in the table of failing states topped by Somalia. Pakistan is ranked 10th, just marginally better than its 9th position in last year’s table which perhaps reflects the belief that the state has begun to fight back the militants who threaten its existence.

(The higher you are on this list, based on 12 indicators measuring state cohesion and performance, the closer you are to failure)

You can see the full report of The Failed States Index 2009 here.

But just to distil it, here are the rankings for South Asian nations as they changed over the past year. Myanmar is ranked 13th which is what it was in 2008.

Quake-prone Kathmandu awaits the next big one

Walking through the maze of narrow, crowded lanes of Kathmandu’s old city is, at the best of times, a harrowing experience.

Motorcycles, rickshaws and cars squeeze their way through the tiny, winding streets lined with dilapidated medieval buildings, Hindu temples and Buddhist stupas.

Mangled lines of power cables dangle dangerously above as you dodge the cows that mingle with traders, shoppers and tourists in the densely packed, bustling streets.

India in a “ring of fire”

As a growing power which aims to rewrite global economic and geopolitical realities, India’s first order of business is to secure its strategic periphery without provoking a backlash from its neighbours.

But the political crisis in Nepal, triggered by the resignation of Maoist Prime Minister Prachanda, is yet another reminder of India’s strategic challenges.

Nepal has for long sat in India’s sphere of influence, but the rise of the Maoists has seen an increasing antipathy in the nascent Himalayan republic towards New Delhi.

Amid chaos, Nepal’s king bows out gracefully

In the end, it was hard not to feel a little bit sorry for Nepal’s deposed King Gyanendra.

Reuters’ Simon Denyer (L) watches as Nepal’s deposed King Gyanendra (R) addresses the media at the Narayanhiti royal palace in Kathmandu June 11, 2008. Denyer is India bureau chief for Reuters, with responsibility also for Nepal and Bhutan.He had seemed an impossibly distant, arrogant figure in the past, but on Wednesday, addressing the press before leaving the palace, in his first and possibly final news conference, he kept his dignity and showed a previously unseen human side.

So it was a pity his swansong — and that of a once-cherished 239-year-old monarchy — was surrounded by chaos, with more than 200 journalists jostling for a view in the palace’s small main hall, constantly pushing and shoving each other.

Another Himalayan kingdom tumbles, but will Nepal miss its monarchy?

Another Himalayan kingdom is falling, a chapter closing on an ancient historical tradition. But will the modern system of democracy do a better job?

Sikkim’s monarchs, the Chogyals, retreated into history when India annexed their territory in 1975. Tibet’s “priest-king”, the Dalai Lama, was forced in exile when China invaded his land in the 1950s.

Nepal’s King Gyanendra looks at an animal sacrifice being performed at a temple in Kathmandu May 12, 2008. REUTERS/Gopal Chitrakar (NEPAL)Now, after 239 years of the Shah dynasty, Nepal is set to become a secular republic on Wednesday .

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