South Asia comprises the countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The region is assuming increasing importance in the post-Cold War era. Its significance has grown considerably since 9/11. It is host to one of the world’s most intractable bilateral disputes, Kashmir, between India and Pakistan. It has a substantial Muslim population residing in Pakistan, Bangladesh and India. It has embraced economic liberalization programs leading to stronger links with the rest of the world. Finally, its biggest country, India is the world’s largest democracy, the second-most populous country in the world, a nuclear weapons state with one of the world’s largest military force and now the third-largest economy in the world behind the United States and China in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP).
South Asian countries are currently engaged in the simultaneous task of nation-building, state-building and economic development. This is by no means easy. One of the biggest challenges for these countries is that most of them lack a common unifying identity (ethnicity, religion, language, etc.) to help build the idea of a nation, the result of South Asia’s diverse history. In 2012, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal earned the dubious distinction of being among states that were either critically in danger of ‘failing’ or were already considered ‘failed’. Also, domestic tensions related to group identities tend to spill over into neighboring countries.
My current research agenda focuses on the changes in Indian politics, specifically three distinct transformations, since the end of the Cold War. These include the transition from a dominant-party system to an era of coalition politics, the transition from a planned economy to a liberalized economy and the transition from non-aligned foreign policy to greater engagement with the West. I hope to demonstrate the ways in which these three trends and transformations are interlinked and their future impact on Indian politics.
My work has been published in professional (peer-reviewed) journals like Asian Profile, Contemporary Politics, India Quarterly: A Journal of International Affairs, Indian Journal of Political Science, Journal of Asian and African Studies, Strategic Analysis and World Review of Intermodal Transportation Research. I’ve authored a book titled Indian foreign policy in transition: Relations with South Asia, published by Routledge, UK. I’ve also presented papers at the International Studies Association (ISA)-Midwest annual meeting, Midwest Conference on Asian Affairs (MCAA) annual meeting, Midwest Political Science Association (MPSA) annual meeting, Minnesota Political Science Association (MNPSA) annual meeting and New England Political Science Association (NEPSA) annual meeting.
My research has informed my teaching as well. I teach a course on South Asian Politics, among others, at University of St. Thomas. My primary goal in offering this course was to help students gain an insight into the politics of this region. Course objectives included the comparative study of South Asian states utilizing themes such as political culture, political institutions, government structures and processes, political economy, interest groups and political development and transition. I also discuss economic reforms, democratic consolidation, authoritarianism, insurgencies and ethnic conflicts, political transition and civil society in South Asia.
I advise undergraduate Political Science and International Studies majors conducting research on South Asian politics, including international relations and conflict management. My students have secured research grants and presented their work at regional and national-level conferences and also worked as research assistants for me.
Arijit Mazumdar, Ph.D.