Key issues and challenges faced by Asian countries in the upcoming Asian century

South Asian region is one of the important region in the international system. Most of the powerful countries like USA and china nowadays try to attract the South Asia because without any argument South Asian region is a strategically valuable region.

But when comparing with the other regions in the world, the progress of the South Asian region is very low. Even though 21st century recognized as the Asian century, still there are many burning problems inside this region. The aim of this, is to discuss about the key issues and challenges of the South Asian region facing in the upcoming Asian century.
Before the discussion, this will provides a brief introduction about the South Asian region and the Asian century. And then discuss about the key issues and challenges of the South Asian region.
Through this post I try to discuss the key issues and challenges of the South Asian region in a critical, analytical approach and relating to the present context.
By going through this post you will able to improve the knowledge about the South Asia and its critical background.


Among the other regions, South Asian region is very vital because of its specific characteristics. South Asia is the world’s second poorest region. On the other hand three countries among the most populous countries in the world are situated in this region ( India, Pakistan and Bangladesh). South Asia’s total area is more than 1.5 million square miles. South Asian region has a massive peninsula and it just south in the Indian Ocean. The Arabian Sea by the west and Bay of Bengal by the east, guard the South Asian region.
South Asian region consist of 8 countries. They are,

Sri Lanka

South Asian region has specific geographical features such as rivers (Ganges, Indus, Brahmaputhra), plateaus (Deccan), mountains (Himalayas), Indu gangetic plain etc.
On the other hand South Asian region is rich in higher diversity of religions, cultures and languages. Generally South Asia is a homeland for thousands of religions, cultures and languages.
South Asia is one of the most complex, volatile and politically explosive region.
These are the basics facts about the South Asian region. Actually these facts are not only general facts but very important determining facts of South Asian politics and its future.
Most of the countries, regions introduce various types of concepts, development programs or plans for achieve their interests as a region. Asian century is also such kind of concept. The Asian century is a concept emerged in 1980s and it gained the attraction as a concept with the releasing of the report of Asian development bank in 2011 august predicting massive growth in the region.
Many of the people believe that 19th century pertains to UK, 20th century for USA and 21st century will become as Asian century.
Finally, the Asian century is a project of 21st century for dominance of Asian politics, culture, demography and economic trends.


Over population

Generally, population is a fortune for a developing the above passages South Asia consisted with three most populous countries in the world. But the question is, does the South Asia use the human resource fruitfully for its development.
Basically, South Asia comprises with developing countries. So South Asia has a duty to use this human resource for its development while managing it. Actually as the second world’s poorest region, South Asia cannot bear such capacity of population. But when go through the china, China is the world’s largest populous country. China strategically manages her population while using it productively. Recent years ago china prohibited to deliver more than one baby in a family. Also as one of the global giant china use her population to the development as well as for military.
When discuss about the overpopulation in South Asia, there are several causes for this. Lack of education is very important among them. Currently in South Asia, one child among three children can read basic texts. Even though Millions of children completed their primary education, do not practice the skills of basic numeracy and literacy. On the other hand culture, traditions and customs are the core values of the South Asia. As the result of that the topics like sex education are not consider as common thing. Because of the poor family planning of the partners can lead to unexpected pregnancies. All of these things cause for the over population in the South Asian region.
Because of the over population in the region, nowadays South Asia faces bulk of challenges such as resource consumption, health problems like HIV AIDS, conflict, poverty etc.

Rivalries among members

One of the failures, challenges or issues of the South Asian region is the Kashmir conflict. Currently, the overwhelming tension between India and Pakistan is an obstacle for the whole South Asia. Even though there are many international organizations like United Nations to promote and protect the peace and security, UN also failed to resolve the Kashmir conflict. On the other hand South Asian association for regional cooperation also failed to bring India and Pakistan in to single negotiating table.
The Kashmir conflict is also a big disaster for the SAARC keeps the SAARC as a deactivated device in the integration process. Because of this issue India and Pakistan always look about each other by and suspicious eye. Also Kashmir issue is a key point of both Indian and Pakistani national interests. Specially both countries are nuclear holders and willing to be the regional the other hand other countries like Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka also in a dilemma to choose one among India and Pakistan.
Also there are many human rights violations, terrorism acts in the Kashmir. The people of the Kashmir are suffering from the consequences of the rivalries between two countries. There are many deaths, missing people’s cases, rape cases, children abuses, and other human rights violations. Even though United Nations human rights council issued number of articles related to the Kashmir issue, there is not a positive progress on it.
Anyway the Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan is a big challenge for the South Asian region in the Asian century.

Lack of regional integration

To build up regional cooperation, improve the mutual trust between member states, in 1985 the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation was established. When we compare with other regional organizations like European Union, SAARC is in a very low position. European Union achieved its integration process from economical to political. It could successfully established own monetary unit, own parliament etc. But SAARC could not achieve at least the goals of the SAFTA and SAPTA.
According to the most critics, one of the main failures of the SAARC is Kashmir of the basic objectives in the SAARC is mutual trust. But because of the Indu Pakistan rivalry SAARC cannot promote or protect the mutual trust among member states.
On the other hand SAARC is not strong enough to accelerate the development, peace and security of the region. As an example terrorism is very usual threat to the South Asian region but SAARC couldn’t adopt any action or resolution to prevent the regional terrorism in the region.
Because of these reasons SAARC is very slow in its progress and nowadays it becoming a white elephant.


South Asian region is one of the target of different terrorists. Since the beginning of this century there were massive attacks of terrorism inside the region. Terrorism threatens the stability of the region. Since the last decade there were many terrorist threats in the region such as

Islamist militancy in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh
Maoist insurgency in India and Nepal
Hindu radicalism
Al –Qaeda

Now South Asia emerging as an epicenter of terrorism. The most popular trends of the terrorism in the region are

Suicide terrorism
Media development
Economic targeting
Mass casualty attacks

Al –Qaeda – militant, Islamic organization focused on removing all western influence from countries and fighting a global Jihad

Taliban – violent fundamentalist group from Afghanistan. Focused on implementing sharia law in Afghanistan and Pakistan
Separatist movement – Punjab, Kashmir, Assam, Tripura… all have tried to gain autonomy
Most recently the east Sunday attack in Sri Lanka was announced that South Asia is now a target of ISIS terrorists.
Anyway the terrorism in the South Asian region directly affects for the peace, security and the development. South Asian region didn’t take a fruitful action against the terrorism still today even though it is a huge challenge.

Political fragility

Political fragility is another challenge in the South Asian region. Even though Bharathiya janatha party gained the majority votes in the last general election, most of the other states in this region are suffering from the political instability.
India is the largest democratic country in the world as well as in the South Asia. Currently India is now in a stable situation According to the last general election in India. But when we go through the Sri Lanka, since the presidential election in 2015 Sri Lanka was politically instable. If the political instability of a particular state is very high, security threats can easily access to that country. It clearly shows by the east Sunday attack in the Sri Lanka. On the other way Sri Lanka is unfortunately depend on debt, investments and foreign aids. Due to the political fragility, Sri Lanka is suffering from economic and social weight. In the upcoming elections, the future of the Sri Lanka is completely uncertain due to this turmoil.
Pakistan history also written by the military coups, political assassinations etc. Especially since the 1999 general Pervez Musharraf seized power in coup. After his regime Pakistan deeply suffered from his arbitrary actions. On the other hand Pakistan also suffering from terrorism and border disputes like Kashmir conflict.
Political instability is one of the core problem in Afghanistan. Bad governance is the main cause to the different conflicts including political in the state.
However political fragility is a usual conflict in the region since in the history. As well as it is an obstacle in the upcoming Asian century

Economic development

In 2018 South Asia gained the fastest economic growing region in the world. But when comparing with the other regions there are many unresolved problems related to the economic development in the South Asian region.
Actually economic growth is not completely enough to achieve the higher employment rates enjoyed by the other developing countries especially among the women. The rate of women participation in the labor market is 28%. According to the Martin Rama, World Bank South Asia Region Chief Economist, more than 1.8 million young people will reach working age every month in South Asia. But due to the lack of job opportunities, the employment rate is very low in this region. This has been strong in India, Bhutan and Sri Lanka.
The expected economic growth of Afghanistan was 2.2% in 2018 because of the security and political challenges and reduction in agriculture productions.
The economic growth in Bangladesh remains strong due to the industrial productions and investments. Bangladesh is the South Asia’s garment industry leader
India is the South Asia’s largest economy. India’s GDP growth was 7.6% in 2018.
Bhutan is the world leader in hydropower reserves and its GDP growth was 9.9% in 2018
Due to the natural disasters and reconstruction programs, Nepal’s GDP growth was 5.4% in 2018.
In Sri Lanka, GDP growth is expected to 3.5% in 2019
Anyway there are some events that challenge for the economic development path in the region such as increasing conflicts and fragility risks, impending regional integration efforts, natural disasters etc.
By the other hand increasing per capita income, developing infrastructure facilities, and improve the literacy rate in the region is very important
However even though South Asian region gained the fastest economic growth, there are unresolved economic problems inside the region

External influences

External influences are also one of the key issues and challenges within the South Asian region. Those influences may be come as peaceful means or any other way. One of the external influence in the South Asian region is china.
Through the Belt and road initiative project china try to attract the international community. The warmth of the BOR feel to the South Asian region specially to the Pakistan and Sri Lanka. There are six economic corridors in the BOR project and among them China Pakistan economic corridor is very important to both china as well as South Asia. China Pakistan economic corridor is a collection of infrastructure projects to deepen the china and Pakistan ties. Through the CPEC china is going to connect china’s largest province xingjiang with Gwadar port in Balochistan passing through Pakistan occupied Kashmir and Balochistan.
By the other hand Sri Lanka also a target in the OBOR project. All we know that Sri Lanka is situated in a strategically valued place. The Trincomalee natural harbor and situation in the Silk Road, increases the strategic value of Sri Lanka. Especially in the Mahinda Rajapaksha regime Chinese influence in the Sri Lanka was in a top level. Through the investment of china, Sri Lanka could develop her infrastructure facilities such as Hambanthota port, Nelum Pokuna thereter etc. at the beginning of the Maithripala Sirisena government, President Maithripala Sirisena denied the Chinese support but strategically Chinese government could gain the attraction of the current government leaders.
As the emerging regional power, India does not like to the influence of china because of the historical rivalry between two countries since Sino Indian dispute and on the other hand India does not like to see the china as the regional power.
Generally, Chinese influence is a blessing for an economically suffering region like South Asia. But most of the arguments mention that South Asian region will be a colony of china.
On the other side USA is also a global threat for the region. Recently in the Pakistan prime minister’s visit to USA, Donald trump said that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi requested USA support for the Kashmir issue. This statement stirred up the tension between India and Pakistan. According to the Shimla agreement and the Lahore agreement Kashmir issue is a bilateral conflict between India and Pakistan. Through those agreements both India and Pakistan agreed to resolve this issue by bilateral means. By asking assistance of a third party is just like violating those agreements. Rahul Gandhi also deeply criticized this statement by saying that Narendra Modi betrayed for the agreements. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi rejected the statement of president trump.
Anyway as a peace pigeon, embracing USA will definitely be a threat to the South Asia and most of the countries fear to be a Libya.

Human rights violations

Human rights violations are very common situation in the South Asian region. There are many causes for the human rights violations in the region such as

Lack of education
Customs and traditions
Religious believes

In this region especially in the countries like India, Pakistan and Nepal, there are number of children abuses, rape cases, violation of women’s rights, violations of human rights, violation of political, cultural and civil rights etc. even in today there are many unreported abuse cases in the rural areas in the India. Also still in today, women and girls in Nepal banish them from their family to a hut during their periods.
Due to the poverty most of the children use as child labors and due to this reason, they lose their rights for education. On the other hand child marriages are very usual thing in this region especially in the rural areas in the India. Sometimes people betray for their political right for vote because of their poverty. During the election period politicians use money for gain votes of the poorest people.
There are many killings and violations of right to live in this 2016 according to the Pakistan press foundation, two journalists were India, two journalists were killed, one for reporting illegal soil mining and other one for his writings.
There are many innocent people who are suffering from terrorism acts in the region. Due to the terrorism, the human rights of the people violate usually.
Human rights violations are also can mention as a key issue and a challenge for the South Asian region in the Asian century.


According to this assignment, South Asian region is suffering from various issues and challenges. The main causes for this situation is lack of mutual trust and the regional integration. Generally these key issues and challenges are common to the other regions also but they have well plans and strategies for it.
To resolve and facing those key issues, following recommendations can be mention.
As a region the first step of the South Asia should be enhancing the regional integration strengthening SAARC, this can be achieve.
When strengthening SAARC the other issues and challenges can be resolve. By strengthening the mutual relationships among member states and by boosting SAFTA, South Asian region can resolve the economic, security and the social problems.
One of The most important step is to resolving Kashmir problem. According to my point of view the best option is to reactivate the United Nations trusteeship council and place the Kashmir region under it until they choose the self-governance and practicing democratic principles.
On the other hand South Asian region should have a good and fruitful economic development program to reduce the poverty, develop the infrastructural facilities, enhance the education and health and increasing the GDP growth. By adopting special economic and trade reforms also can achieve the regional economic goals.
Most specially to ensure the regional peace is very vital in the adopting some specific security plans and terrorism acts , this can be achieve.
Anyway by strengthening regional integration, the South Asian region can resolve the key issues and challenges facing in the upcoming Asian century.

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