A corner of failed states

A corner of failed states

Top of the charts is a happy expression when it comes to music. In the Index of Failed States, however, the higher your rank, the greater your peril. By that measure India is truly in parlous company. The 2010 index shows that for a high growth economy, India is perhaps unique in this respect: It has the highest number of failed or failing states in its neighbourhood.

The index has been developed by the Fund for Peace, an independent research and educational organization. The 2010 index ranks Afghanistan at number 6 and Pakistan at number 10. There are 177 countries in the list. India stands at number 79 and China at 62, making India slightly better off than its northern neighbour. The index is based on 12 indicators including demographic pressure, economic decline, poor public services, factionalized elites and external intervention. Each indicator spans from 0 (most stable) to 10 (least stable). The scores for the 12 indicators are added to get a total for a country. The higher the score, the less stable a country.

While Afghanistan and Pakistan are examples of failed states, India’s other neighbours are only slightly better off. Myanmar stands at 16 and Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal are clustered at ranks, 24, 25 and 26, respectively.

All this should be a cause for concern and action. If all of South Asia is in trouble, India cannot escape the flames and danger come in different shapes. To take two examples, the threat from Bangladesh comes from illegal migration; that from Pakistan, from state-sheltered terror. Nepal and Sri Lanka pose other challenges. While there may be shades and nuances in understanding the situation, the index is not far off the mark.

Is there anything that is common among these states? In the welter of data, one key difference stands out, marking out two groups of countries. Economic challenges and demographic pressures are problems for the entire region. But if there is one threat that distinguishes the troubled from the failed, it is security. A look at the indicators for the behaviour of armed forces and external intervention shows that Afghanistan and Pakistan are quite distinct from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. The last three face serious security challenges, but they are better off than the other two, where the situation is dire. India needs to wake up and take charge.

South Asia: A troubled part of the world? Tell us at views@livemint.com