click here for a full listing of the geography
and statistics for the region.
of the Region
Some of the earliest trade between two civilizations occurred between an early Indus valley civilization and the civilizations in Mesopotamia, estimated at 2300 BC. Cotton and textiles were the two main exports, and later civilizations would imports agricultural products, such as rice, from Southeast Asia. For thousands of years, empires and kingdoms rose and fell in the region that today encompasses India, Pakistan, and some parts of other nearby countries. Trade was maintained with China, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, such that Indian goods could be found all over the continents of Asia, Africa, and Europe, in part motivating European explorations across the Atlantic in search of a trade route to India (and leading to Columbus¡¯ naming the native Americans ¡°Indians¡±). Beginning in 1175 A.D., the Muslims invaded India, causing a clash of culture and religion and beginning the feud between the Hindus in India and the Muslims in Pakistan that has carried to this day. Although the Muslims took India by force, they did help to open up even more trade between the Far East and the West, The Mughal empire displaced the Muslims in the 1500¡¯s, about the time that the first Europeans arrived and began to set up trading lanes. The Portuguese dominated trade at first, but the Dutch had taken over by the mid 1600¡¯s, at first trading in spices, but gradually shifting to textiles, as Indian cotton was the finest quality in the world. However, by the 1700¡¯s, the British navy was the equal of the Dutch, and Britain and France fought over who would control trade from India, the British eventually gaining control in 1764. By the early 1800¡¯s, the British governed most of India, yet continuing revolts in the mid 1800¡¯s lead to problems with trade. In the late 1800¡¯s, the British began to industrialize India, boosting its economy, but not overly benefiting the average citizen, and thus provoking even more rebellion.
By 1905, rebellion had dropped British imports to an all-time low, driving the profits of local merchants up, and helping to cement a feeling of nationalism in the Indian people. World War I lead to a huge amount of British losses, and signified the end of their rule in India, as they did not have the manpower to maintain control of the nation. The Great depression weakened British rule even further, and with the outbreak of World War Two, the British gave India its independence. At the urging of Muslim leaders, Britain divided up the territory into several parts so that the modern-day nations of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Pakistan became a part of the Muslim League, along with Afghanistan which had remained under Muslim rule, although it was invaded several times. In the 1950¡¯s and 60¡¯s, India made good progress toward industrializing, also not taking sides in the Cold War, thus trading with anyone they wanted. Several civil conflicts and battles with Pakistan kept the government in a state of flux, limiting the trade that was done because of the constant change in economic policy. Reforms in the 1980¡¯s lead to growth, however, and today India is the biggest economy in the region, trading with nations all over the world, including the U.S., Britain, some Arab nations, and Japan. Because India is semi-industrialized and fairly globalized, her exports include gems, garments, and agricultural products, and imports include petroleum, machinery, and electronic goods. Other nations in the area are less industrialized and less globalized, but still export mainly to the U.S., Pakistan and Afghanistan exporting petroleum and textiles, and importing machinery, electrical equipment, and metal products.
The main gist of the political issues arising in these countries stem¡¯s mostly from the religious history in the area. Like the middle east, local problems arise from the conflicts between two religious groups and from regional land conflicts. Many of the ¡°stan¡± countries (countries whose names end in stan¡ªi.e. Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, etc.) find a lot of turmoil and problems dealing with developing as nations because their economies support so little and they have trouble supporting themselves. Their governments also change very often. Recently, one of the biggest issues of development has been with Afghanistan being invaded by the United States and changing basically into a democratic constitutional monarchy. The future of many of the countries located between Pakistan and Russia (of what used to be Russia) is still quite uncertain politically¡ªfighting still goes on in the region.
India is a nation ruled by a parliamentary democracy with a congress and prime minister. Their main economic markets are in consumer manufacturing and outsourcing of IT (information technology) work for companies in the United States. They also have a huge agricultural export market. Again, they mainly export their goods to the United States. Indian holds a prominent and active seat in the United Nations. Both Pakistan and Indian, however, have recently fallen into trouble with the United Nations and the United States for their Nuclear testing. Both India and Pakistan, though, have come to terms on atomic weapons use (according the Atomic Proliferation treaty created by the United States). Pakistan is actually very similar to Indian. Pakistan is ruled by a military government currently although that is subject to change.
One of the biggest political issues in this region is over a little region called Kashmir. Because of the split of India after independence nearly 50 years ago, there remains a small landmass claimed by three different countries¡ªChina, Indian, and Pakistan. To this day, much fighting goes on in the area and its effects have also influenced or have been influenced by a religious conflict. The split of India into India and Pakistan was mainly to separate Muslim and Hindu people (to end Muslim persecution). Politically speaking, however, this split has also caused many political dilemmas for each respective ruling party because while they must satisfy their people by not advocating the other¡¯s main religion, they must also do what is best for their country. Both countries participate in the world political organizations such as the UN but must deal with more internal terrorist attacks by radical sects of the other¡¯s religion (Hindu versus Muslim).
The smaller countries in the region, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Myanmar, and Nepal all take part of their characteristics from India and/or Pakistan. Wherever they are geography closer to, they share the same basic economies as them. For instance, Bangladesh¡¯s economy is highly dependent on export of consumer products. Many of these smaller countries deal with either exporting products directly to other countries or by re-exporting it through it¡¯s constituent country (i.e. since Bangladesh is closer to India, many of its products would be re-exported through India to the United States). Many of these countries do participate politically on a global scale, but of more effect in terms of politics is local and regional religious conflict between the Muslims and Hindu¡¯s.
Future and Beyond
Not much of the Indian region is progressing in terms of economy; they are still in a transition state, managing current domestic issues to prepare for growth. India is realizing the importance of developing their industries and services, along with attracting more foreign investment. Their greatest obstacles lay in limited infrastructure and the question to open up trade more to the international community. Maldives specialization in tourism and fishing still requires additional aid from agriculture and foreign monetary aid, despite recent marginal growth. Nepal has made small gains in education, infrastructure and improving the health of their people, but dependence on agriculture is dangerous with unstable weather patterns.
On the other hand, other parts of the region are too involved with regional and ethnic disputes that it has hindered their progress in developing their economies. Countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh are categorized as some of the poorest nations in the world with poverty and/or unequal levels of income. Both countries rely on foreign aid for their future, as well as policy reformations in their governments and trade. Sri Lanka¡¯s economy has occasional crises, but in order to ensure their future they must enlist more effective policy reforms and internal peace. Characterized as one of the smallest and least developed countries in the world, Bhutan faces challenges in development due to its rough topography and dependency on agriculture and hydroelectricity. Fortunately, they have taken the initiative to engage themselves in a five-year program to improve their education system, infrastructure, technology, and tourism industry. Myanmar¡¯s future is not very appealing with a predominant agricultural base, mismanaged economy, high rates of inflation and low wages. With limitations of growth placed by the government, bodies such as the EU, Australia, South Korea, Japan and the United States want to place sanctions against the ruling regime. Afghanistan is continuously based heavily on agriculture, even though only about a tenth of the land is arable. With a opium production as a large source of income, the international community is seeking ways to control further developments. With the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan is engaged in diplomatic relations with their neighbors. Obviously, improvement in various areas can be made for a healthier economic future, especially settling regional differences, diversifying sources of income, and reforming policies.
Did you know?
India is one-third the size of the United States
Pakistan is under a military rule, but a nominal democracy was established in 2001
Nepal contains Mt. Everest, the tallest peak in the world at 29,035 ft.
India's population is over one billion
63% of Bangladesh's labor force is in agriculture
Nepal is about the size of Arkansas
48% of the population of Pakistan speak the pricipal language, Punjabi
India's monetary unit is the Rupee
Afganistan, about the size of Texas, is mostly covered by mountains