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A Path For Permanent Peace In South Asia: Is It Possible?

While there are different opinions about which countries make up South Asia, there is little debate over the region’s challenge for permanent peace. Recent wars and assorted conflicts have punctuated the historical prevalence of turmoil.

The reasons for conflicts that have befallen South Asia vary across the centuries. At the core of many of these disputes, have been differences in religion or cultural ideology. It would be easy to contend that peace in the region if ever truly realized, would be temporary at best.

With new peace initiatives on the horizon, let’s look at a brief history of conflict in South Asia and then address the potential for a path to permanent peace in an oft violence-torn part of the world.

What Constitutes South Asia?

South Asia is the southernmost part of the vast continent of Asia. There are a few geographical definitions for the region. Modern definitions of South Asia include eight countries. India is the largest of these eight, which include Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives, and Pakistan.

South Asia has the largest population of five cultures. Over 98 percent of the Hindu population and nearly one-third of the world’s Muslim faith live in South Asia. There is also a vast number of Sikhs, Jains, and Zoroastrians. Over 25 million Buddhists and another 35 million Christians call South Asia their homeland.

Centuries of Conflict

Study the wars and conflicts across South Asia reveals a region plagued by turmoil across millennia. India has dozens of conflicts spread across centuries. There are rare moments of extended peace.

Many of these result from conquests in the name of religious ideology. It may seem ironic that the part of South Asia most notably in today’s news has a limited history of actual wars. Bhutan seems to be spared the tendency for strife, experiencing only Ten Great Campaigns during the latter half of the 18th century.

Nearly all the conflict in Sri Lanka has occurred from the beginning of the 20th century, with over half, including the 26-year Sri Lanka Civil War between 1983 and 2009, having occurred in the last half-century.

Likewise, conflict and turmoil in Bangladesh started with Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. Conflicts and coups throughout the country have remained constant, the most recent a border conflict with Myanmar.

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the two countries most notably discussed because of ongoing, seemingly endless military conflict. Afghanistan has experienced four civil wars since the first official Afghan Civil War in 1928. Three of these multi-year conflicts have occurred since 1989.

Two conflicts referred to as an insurgency are ongoing in Pakistan, one in Balochistan and another in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Both insurgencies started at around the same time in 2004. It is the continued conflict in neighboring Afghanistan that has been most troubling to the region.

The War in Afghanistan has its roots in the Afghan Civil War that started in 1978. After a coup in 1973, Pakistan began to exert a persuasive yet subtle influence to trigger violence with their neighbor. The Soviet Union was a prominent player in the country, prompting a standoff with the United States.

In the early 1990s, the Taliban began to exert influence across Afghanistan. Using their fundamentalist view of Islam, the Taliban created turmoil in the country. They received military support from Pakistan and financial support from neighboring nations.

On a dark day in world history, the view of Afghanistan’s turmoil entered the world stage. The September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States triggered the most notable modern conflict in South Asia. It has produced a time in which peace has been elusive.

Is Permanent Peach Possible in South Asia?

To gain any hope of sustained peace in the region, peaceful resolutions to centuries of ideologically driven turmoil must be reached. There is hope that peace, at least compared to the violence and conflict that has plagued parts of South Asia could be attainable.

The current focus is on Afghanistan and Pakistan, but there have been limited uprisings resulting in violence in other countries as well. South Asia is a culturally diverse region. Many of the spiritual beliefs inherent to certain countries harbor extremes.

It has been these extreme viewpoints that have fostered much of the violence. As long as these factions, albeit limited in numbers, continue to exert a violent agenda, any attainment of peaceful relations will be less than stable.

South Asia has a history of being plagued by violence and war. While other parts of the world are not immune to conflict, cultural diversity has been a driving force behind many of these conflicts. This is something that is not going to change soon.

Many of the peoples in South Asia fall woefully below the global poverty line. A poverty rate that nears 85 percent of the citizens is another problem for peace. Often, the lure of any type of life better than the day-to-day sustainable living conditions attracts people to nefarious organizations.

Healing the wounds of war is only one key to the promise of peace. There should be a sustainable effort to help improve the conditions still evident, situations that are ripe for conflict. The countries that makeup South Asia have a history of violent turmoil and war.

Peace in a visible part of this region has attracted attention across the world. Can any peace attained be sustained? What the future holds for peace in South Asia will be written through progress. To make peace permanent in South Asia, progress must be realized.

Exotic Pets in Pakistan – It’s A Thing

It’s common in every country and culture to admire and even go so far as to revere certain qualities in animals, especially those in the wild. We see the elephant in terms of wisdom and grace, the eagle as a representation of insight and having a higher perspective. And the lion has long been a symbol of courage, strength, and sheer majesty.

Exotic Animals in Captivity

It is often a source of controversy, however, when we humans try to hold wild animals in captivity, particularly when contained in small, unnatural enclosures in zoos or as circus performers. A common house cat may be perfectly content living its entire life indoors, but the territory of a lion in the wild can range anywhere from 20 to 400 square kilometers. Denying them their natural habitat and way of life is pitted against the public’s desire to see and enjoy these beautiful, exotic animals up close. The situation can become especially concerning–not to mention dangerous–when people choose to keep wild animals in their domiciles. 

Exotics as a Status Symbol in Pakistan

If the lion is the king of the jungle, then the man who owns a lion (or several) is someone to behold. Certainly, it is a brave man that is willing to share his home with such a ferocious animal! As a symbol of wealth and power, it has become fashionable in recent years to collect young lion and tiger cubs and raise them as household pets. In increasing frequency, they are being seen in gardens, occupying rooftop cages, out for walks with their owners, or seated beside them in their pricey SUVs as they drive through major, bustling cities like Karachi and Islamabad. In some cases, in exchange for a fee, their owners may offer onlookers the opportunity to take a selfie with their exotics. In such cases, it’s a not a bad idea for the owner not only to carry coverage for the pet, but also an extensive liability insurance policy.

Big cats aren’t the only exotic animals snatched up by the upper crust. It is not unusual to find pythons, flamingos, deer, bears, wolves, and even giraffes occupying private petting zoos in the heart of major cities. The unlawful trade of endangered Sekker falcons is particularly profitable as they can be sold to Arab elites who use them to hunt Hubara Bustards, a large terrestrial bird in Pakistan that is supposed to be protected. 

Big Cats in Pakistani Politics

In Pakistan, the lion rules supreme. And if a lion is not available, then a tiger will also suffice. Thus, the political leader who is compared to a lion or sher is highly regarded, and it is not uncommon for the sale of lions and tigers to spike during election season. Candidates often delight in parading a chained or caged big cat at political rallies. To the Pakistani, it is the ultimate symbol of power.

Wildlife Trade: A Lucrative Business

It is legal to import lions and tigers into Pakistan, although the government does require importers to jump through more than a few hoops to obtain the necessary licenses and permits. The law requires that imported animals be provided an environment similar to their natural habitat. However, once they are brought into the country, there is little regulation with regard to habitat, nor to feeding, housing, and general care. Additionally, the trade of big cats is supposed to be off-limits to individuals, but because Pakistan is run by its separate provincial governments, they are largely silent on the subject. As a result, social media sites are rife with offers from online animal marketplaces, and it is not unheard of for a Pakistani with a well-padded wallet to pay $9,000 for a baby lion cub.