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Political (Dis)Order in South Asia – 2022-23

The political heat map shows the year ahead – 2022-23 with political instability in South Asia ranging from volatile – three countries Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar - contested in four – including Afghanistan, Nepal, Maldives and Bangladesh and Stable in Two – India and Bhutan. The fact that a president had to flee his country is the indicator of vulnerability of Sri Lanka which denotes that parliamentary majority does not lead to stability unless leadership works in the interest of the people. The state of economy will dictate whether the Rajapaksa acolyte – Ranil Wickremesinghe will be able to bring about order in polity.

In Myanmar a politico security situation has manifested post a military coup with extension of emergency for another six months and preparation for elections in 2023. Whether these will happen and be inclusive is uncertain for now, prevalence of violence is a concern. The most popular party National League for Democracy is unlikely to participate as the top leadership of the party including Aung Suu Kyi has been incarcerated by the military.

Pakistan’s instability arises from multiple factors including economic, institutional imbalance and a weak and corrupt polity. Amongst political parties the old order is being threatened by the likes of now deposed former Prime Minister Imran Khan, however what emerges is unclear due to disruptive pattern of politics practiced by the former cricket captain and his party – Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf (PTI) and the outsized role of the Pakistan Army.

In the contested states, Afghanistan is yet to recover from the collapse of the Republic to evolve an inclusive governance and there are no indications that the present Defacto Authority the Taliban are willing to even look at some form of exclusion. Thus, how the situation pans out remains to be seen with multiple rebellions against the Taliban likely to have a politico security profile.

The other three nations – Nepal, Maldives and Bangladesh fall in this group due to elections that are to be held in November 2022, 2023, and 2023/2024 respectively. However, politicking has already commenced and heavy contestations, personal vindictiveness and a general disorder is evident though the form and degree varies.

No single party is expected to get majority in the House of Representatives elections in Nepal which may lead to manoeuvring with India and China likely to play a role. Maldives is on the cusp with the popular ruling Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) showing signs of factionalism and here two the regional alignments with New Delhi and Beijing may come into play. In Bangladesh the Awami League has subordinated the opposition to such an extent that the main concern is of an inclusive poll with possibility of wide scale violence. India and Bhutan remain in the political stability over the next two years though the latter will be going through polls.

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