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Conflict resolution in South Asia

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image of International Journal on Minority and Group Rights

South Asia has some of the most intractable political conflicts in the world today, and at three levels: international, national and subnational. Many of these have their roots in the region's colonial past, and in the manner in which independence was attained. Conflict resolution in South Asia has three unusual features beginning with the Sino-Indian dispute over their common border along the Himalayas. This major international dispute is sui generis. Second, the principal assymetrical feature of the South Asian political system, the overwhelming dominance of India makes multi-lateral negotiations over issues that involve India's vital interests - save in the case of the dispute over Kashmir - virtually impossible. Third, separatist agitation, politicized religion and ethnic conflicts disturb the peace in many parts of South Asia. In these internal conflicts we confront the difficulties inherent in the resolution of conflicts involving ethnicity and politicized religion - such conflicts are less amenable to mediation than most others, including conflicts between states. A complicating factor in the resolution of these conflicts is the impetus given to separatism in general by the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the emergence of new states in these regions. Potential conflicts of the future in South Asia include disputes over the sharing of scarce resources, especially water and irrigation works; and the problem of refugees and displaced persons arising from the region's many disputes, as well as its problem of severe overpopulation.

Affiliations: 1: University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka and International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Kandy and Colombo, Sri Lanka


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