Developments in the area are characterized by India’s rise as regional power, the antagonism between the nuclear powers India and Pakistan and the situation in Afghanistan.
The transition phase in Afghanistan started in 2011. The Afghan government is expected to take over security responsibilities while the presence of international armed forces decreases gradually. The civilian engagement is supposed to be maintained as well as limited military training support. The security situation, good governance and economic development are the most challenging problems. A new Afghanistan strategy of the EU prioritizes peace, stability and regional security.
India has become a regional power and is, gradually, taking over the role of a global actor. Indian foreign policy focuses on strengthening relations with its neighbours and strategic and economic rapprochement with the major powers. India is striving for a close partnership with Western powers mainly in the joint fight against terrorism and civilian nuclear cooperation. As a regional power, India – increasingly competing with China – tries to act in a stabilizing manner in crisis-shaken neighbouring countries.
Pakistan plays an important role for security and stability in the region due to its geostrategic position and size, especially in Afghanistan. The fight against terrorism and extremism is paramount. Both India and Pakistan aim for confidence-building measures and improvement of bilateral relations in the détente process between the two countries. Bilateral relations are mainly determined by the Kashmir conflict.
Bangladesh is one of the world’s most densely populated countries with approximately 160 million inhabitants living in an area of about 150.000 km2. Due to its geographic situation the country is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and natural disastersThe country’s economy has been growing continuously.Internationally, Bangladesh is seeking cooperation in a regional context, with other Islamic countries and Western states.
The Himalaya-Kingdom of Bhutan pursues the policy of “Gross National Happiness” (in contrast to gross domestic product). Bhutan is a constitutional monarchy and its democratization is promoted by the King. Austria maintains a coordination bureau for development cooperation since 1994 in the capital of Thimphu.
In 2008 Nepal abolished its monarchy, which had persisted for 240 years, and declared a republic at the end of a ten year civil war. The country attempts to advance the peace process by integrating and rehabilitating former rebel fighters and promoting a satisfactory division of power across all parties.
In Sri Lanka, after the military victory by the government over the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), significant progress was achieved in the economic situation, reconstruction, the reintegration of former rebel fighters and in returning internally displaced persons.However, the country is faced with the difficult task of finding a political solution to the decade long conflict between the Tamil minority and the Singhalese majority and clearing up the events during the civil war.
In the Maldives a slow democratization process is ongoing. Democracy is still fragile and dominated by two antagonizing political camps. Against the background of the rise of radical Islamic tendencies, inner party conflicts have also been increasing.