Why South Asia Could Become The Next “Global Conflict Zone” After the Middle East?

South Asia – home to an array of languages, cultures and religions, harbours many interrelated conflicts. Experts highlight conflicts in South Asia between Afghanistan and Pakistan; between Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran; between Pakistan and India over Kashmir and water resources; alleged Pakistani sponsored terrorism in Iran; insurgencies in Balochistan and Sindh inside Pakistan, and Hindu ultra-nationalism in India as well as Myanmar’s Rohingya crisis.

These conflicts have the potential of breaking out into a large-scale war which will have a divisive impact on Euro-Atlantic security.

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According to the EFSAS, contentions which are seemingly unrelated can fuel confrontations and influence opinions in separate countries and have recently proven to exacerbate religious extremism. “The conflict between Muslims and Buddhists in Myanmar has incited elements from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh to broaden the boundaries of their belligerency with religion being its only basis. False and extremist interpretations of religion by nefarious elements to pursue and strengthen their political agendas have erected walls of religious intolerance and hate in South Asia.”

Experts say that constant malicious propaganda from state and non-state actors have raised levels of distrust amongst the countries and its people. One such example is the barbaric attack in Peshawar’s Army School in December 2014, in which about 140 innocent children were killed. Even though the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility, the former President and former intelligence chief blamed India for the attack. Pakistan and India often blame each other for the attacks in their countries despite it being done by internal insurgent groups.

Another example is Bangladesh. Its Jamaat-e-Islami and other radical organizations are huge supporters of the Pakistani Army since the era of East Pakistan. Think Tanks point out that prosecution of these groups by the Awami League has polarized ultra-nationalist and extremists’ ideology further. Then there is the Kashmir issue which is always on the brink between India and Pakistan.

The Kashmir issue has obstructed trade, development and cooperation in the region. Moreover, religious radical elements have been exploiting the Kashmir issue which could have disastrous consequences in the near future as global terrorist organizations have expressed their desire to expand their warzone into Kashmir.

Furthermore, the heavy funding of extremism by the Middle East and the West cannot be overlooked. Experts say foreign funds are provided to organizations to promote the Wahhabi ideology in South Asia. The funds are used to build mosques and madrassas to further strengthen the ideology. South Asia, as per world watchers, has proven to be the hotbed for religious extremism with the presence of militants from Chechnya, Uzbekistan, Middle East, China and Europe bearing witness.

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