India can lead in building inclusive democracy, peace in South Asia

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By Manju Theresa Mathew        14/3/2018
There are more issues common to the people of South Asia than we can count. India’s geographic location and the country being a stable economic entity in the heart of South Asia can be used favourably to build peace in the region, ravaged by poverty, violence against minority groups and terrorism.
Revisiting our democratic ideals and incorporating principles of social justice according to the needs of contemporary scenarios could promote peace in the region.
South Asia consists of a plethora of minority groups and this makes a functioning democracy important for a socially just living.
Considering the recent issues emanating from violence against Rohingya Muslims to the recent attacks on Muslims in Sri Lanka, it is time to contemplate the role of democracy in promoting diversity.
Democratic principles have also been under attack recently. The current crisis in the Maldives and the Chinese government’s permanent extension of tenure for Xi Jinping denote a tendency to increase centralization of power in the region.
Additionally, the economic success of China has presented itself as a more promising model for development than India. China has a strong influence over Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Maldives and even Nepal in the current situation. Geographically India has a stronger place in South Asia and it is time to use this potential to promote welfare of people in the region.
India’s position as a better functioning democracy of the region can resolve many issues if it can position itself as a stronger model than the Chinese government and ethical functionary for many of the problems unique to the region.
Democracy has in itself the ideals of promoting diversity and social justice. As a region with many minority groups, re-imagining democracy as more inclusive of diversity can promote peace and prevent conflicts. Instead of playing a big brother and, at times, a bully to the smaller surrounding countries, India should invest in crafting a democratic dream that dates back to pre-colonialism when people were not divided and recreate a democracy which values peaceful existence and prosperity over riots and violence.
India’s current record of riots, violence against Muslims and Dalits and the government’s silence on these divisive issues is a hindrance to the broader democratic and social justice vision envisioned above.
Being a stronger democracy, rooted in minority rights and social justice, India can promote the morality of the South Asian region, making it regionally strong against many threats that traverse its boundaries, such as terrorism and climate change. This diversity can also form a substantial resistance against the neoliberal agendas pushed by the West and a practical model for the developing world to follow.
Re-imagining democracy to be inclusive of current problems is what can solve the multitude of issues faced by the world, such as terrorism and global warming, among others.
Once upon a time the NAM (Nonaligned Movement) provided the necessary peace and de-escalated the Cold War. Similarly, imagining our democracy in a more social-justice orientation, inclusive of all minority groups and the many geographic and religious entities, creates a broader vision for building peace and developing justice. India has the potential to make that dream alive.
(The author is a writer/researcher pursuing her Masters in Gender Studies at University of North Carolina, USA. She can be contacted at

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