Post-Colonial Legacy: an Impediment to Regional Development in South Asia
Post-Colonial Legacy: The south Asian region, once known as the Indian Sub-continent, is home to multifarious issues. 94% part of this region was once ruled by the British from 1857 till 1947. During this reign, the British officials’ motives were primarily limited to extracting the enormous resources of the Indian sub-continent. And, they did so. The British government pulled out all kinds of resources with great efficiency.
This, itself, leads to many problems like economic stagnation in this region, increased poverty level, decrease in the share of India in global economic flow and the like.
Additionally, the British government devised plans to let this region in a pathetic situation. For this purpose, they carry out intellectual extermination of the Indian mass. This intellectual extermination divides the rulers and the ruled into the ‘Occident and Orients’ (Said 1978). I believe that, in the contemporary era, this is the biggest problem in the South Asian region. This post-colonial legacy plays a seminal role in all other problems prevailing in this region. Let’s bandy how post-colonial legacy adds to other problems of South Asia.
“Post-Colonial Legacy: an Impediment to Regional Development in South Asia”
Knowledge is power and power is knowledge (Foucalt 2016). This nexus from Foucault serves as a baseline for British colonial raj in Sub-continent. The Accidents were well aware of this Foucaultian Nexus. So, they target the minds of the Orients all across the world including Sub-continent. The aboriginal people of the South Asian region are still innocent to understand this intellectual suppression.
They are still following the outdated educational mechanism introduced by the colonizers back in 1883. They, the occidents, devised the educational system which was favouring the status quo – the British. We, the natives of the Sub-continent, are still following that particular mechanism. Ah, we are too innocent. Now, one might wonder how all these dots are interlinked. Well, everything, smallest than smaller and greatest than greater, starts from THINKING. Until one will not start thinking; (s) he cannot commence anything else.
The educational mechanism, we are following, does not encourage the students to think. Rather, it dismays one from thinking and incites the students to stay subordinate. This is not something that can be ignored. I believe that this is the root cause of all the problems prevailing in this region and without adequate consideration of this problem; we, the aboriginals of the sub-continent, cannot eradicate the rest of the problems. So, the post-colonial legacy put a bang-up hindrance on our way to prosperity.
Extremism: An issue with the potential of annihilating our identity
Apart from intellectual extermination, another problem in the South Asian region is extremism, religious and/or ethnic. The root causes of this curse can be traced back to British Colonial Raj in the sub-continent. Let’s descend a bit into the pre-colonial era. Before the British arrival in the sub-continent, the natives were living peacefully under the Mughals’ rule within united India.
There were not any kinds of religious and/or ethnic conflicts between them. The Hindus and Muslims – the major religious communities – were living together instead of their varying religious beliefs. Then, the British arrived. The numero uno ill will be perpetrated by the Occidents was the division of natives into two distinct religious and ethnic groups.
The Two Nation Theory, put forward by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the formation of Congress and Muslim League, the Khilafat Movement, the Hindutva, and all other strings were the cards of Occident to divide the natives, I believe. The colonizers were quite successful in their mission and the region was divided into two contending parties.
This division gave birth to the extremism in sub-continent. So, the occidents sow the seeds for extremism, nourished by the political leaders for political gains and religious clerics for ensuring their control, which is in full bloom in the contemporary era. Thus, we can say that the curse of extremism in the South Asian region is also a product of the post-colonial legacy.
Security Dilemma: a never-ending race of weaponization
Security Dilemma: A situation where power acquisition of one state leads to insecurity (real or perceived) of another and consequently, the other state also indulges herself in power maximization. This is a common feature of the South Asian region where two nuclear powers – Pakistan and India – are engaged in the proliferation of weapons which ultimately, ends in a security dilemma between these two states.
This [constructed] security dilemma generates a struggle between these two states solely in terms of weapons. This left them with giving inadequate concern for other issues, like issues related to human security, in their states. Now, what is the relation of security dilemma with post-colonial legacy? Well, it is quite simple. The security dilemma is the product of a post-colonial mentality.
It is not something that is sustained due to historical experiences, as many claimed. The history of India and Pakistan is not strained to a level of hostility shared by France and Germany in past. India and Pakistan can also do it if they can cross the threshold for cooperation despite their strained historical experiences. But, they cannot because they own a post-colonial mindset.
Problematizing the Region: from Frontiers to Borders
Border conflicts are another common feature of the South Asian region. This problem was not there before the arrival of the Colonizers. The Colonizers arrive and divide this region for sake of meeting their vested industrial interests. They were not aware of regional complexities like the presence of ethnic tribes across both sides of the frontiers.
Even, they do not bother, I would say. Consequently, the border conflicts result in full-fledged war between the regional states including Pakistan and India, Pakistan and Afghanistan and India and China. All these wars were due to the complex cartographic division of borders by the Occident. Traditionally, the region was divided by frontiers – a fading boundary between states.
The concept of borders was alien to this region but the British imposed it on the natives without their concern. The British divided this region for harnessing maximum revenue without understanding the ethnic, religious and socio-ethnic bonds shared by the people from either side of the frontiers. This system of division was (and is) not acceptable to the natives.
Democracy: an unfit political model for South Asia
Finally, another leading problem in the South Asian region is inherited democratic culture. Yes, I said DEMOCRATIC CULTURE. You might wonder about this claim. Let me try to clear the riddles in your mind. The South Asia region, chronologically, is ruled by Gupta Empire (320BC-620AD), Regional Indian Kingdom (650-1100AD), Delhi Sultanate (1206-1526AD), and The Mughals (1526-1857AD), and then the British landed (Wikipedia 2022). All these reigns were [strictly] autocratic.
It means that the South Asia region remains under autocratic reign for about 2400 years. It’s a quite long arena. Now, how can the South Asian region, a region experiencing autocracy for such long, digest democratic culture? The democratic culture was only imposed on this region in 1947.
As mentioned, before 1947, this region was under autocracy. So, democratic culture, when imposed in 1947, was ALIEN for this region. Post-Colonial Legacy: an Impediment to Regional Development in South Asia.
The point is its compatibility with this region. Metaphorically, it’s like giving someone, with zero driving skills, a brand new Ferrari. The results, in case you give Ferrari to a person who doesn’t even know driving, would be shocking, indubitably. In this case, we cannot blame Ferrari for the consequences.
Rather, the layman is responsible for everything. Analogously, the case is with democratic culture in the South Asian region. Again, I am not urging that democratic culture is bad per se. Democracy is one of the best forms of government, certainly. But, it’s not feasible within the South Asian region.
In a democracy, the general public is allowed to choose the best lawmakers for them. They are allowed to cast vote in favour of their favourite candidate. Many more options are there for the public.
For adequately exercising the voting power; one needs to be educated enough. But, unfortunately, the mass of the South Asia region isn’t educated enough, I believe. Due to the innocent nature of the mass, they [usually] elect inept and crooked elites as their representatives. Eventually, this segment of society only works for their ill will interests.
Consequently, national and regional development remains a fantasy of the mass. I will not go into details about this for sake of parsimony.
Briefly, I would say that the results of such a choice are quite pertinent to the political happenings of Pakistan in the recent past. The political happenings in Pakistan are just a minor string signifying the respect for democratic values in Pakistan.
While closing the curtains of discussion, I can state that the South Asian region faces multiple problems. A [constructed] security dilemma, ethnic and religious extremism, an outdated and useless educational system, and most importantly, the democratic culture are a few important ones, worthy to be mentioned.
All these problems are, somehow, related to the post-colonial legacy of this region. Interestingly, no one ever thinks from this perspective. But, it’s a need of the hour, for all of us in general and for our lawmakers in particular, to use this prism while highlighting the issues of this region for sake of regional development.
Counterfactually, we cannot abolish our post-colonial legacy but, we can strive for overcoming the effects of this [disastrous] post-colonial fortune. Overcoming the effects of the post-colonial legacy is inevitable for the development of this region.
This article is written by Khushdil Khan, he is a student of International Relations at the National University of Modern Languages, Islamabad.