Asia has its good share of trouble spots. But the region is not alone; from Africa to Europe and from there to North and South America, trouble spots have been growing over the years with little possibility of their solution in the foreseeable future. Most trouble spots in Asia, from South Asia to Southeast Asia and East Asia, centre on social and religious minority communities.
Although much is published in this space, much of the existing literature fails to adequately answer the question as to why ethnic conflicts have remained unresolved for decades. Many factors are often cited as the root causes of the conflicts: low state capacity, poor governance, ethno-nationalism, religious intolerance, poverty and marginalization of minority groups and colonial heritage. We argue that conflicts have remained unresolved for so long for a lack of political commitment and farsighted leadership in the countries concerned. Furthermore, leadership in the developed world and the international community has also directly or indirectly allowed the conflicts to continue for global geopolitical reasons. Western leaders have often failed to mediate to resolve conflicts.
The scope of the book is confined to Asia: China, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. We aim to discuss the following questions:
(1) What role has political leadership played in the failure to bring about long-lasting solutions to conflicts?
(2) Are democratic leaders more effective than dictators in resolving conflicts? Do transitions to democracy require special kinds of leadership skills?
(3) Do the regional and global factors (cross-border or global terrorism) expose the myth of strong national leaders?
Introduction / 1. Political Leadership and Conflict Resolution / 2. Myanmar’s Military and Civilian Leadership and Rohingya Muslims / 3. Indonesia: Autonomy (Aceh) vs Separation (East Timor) / 4. Tackling Muslim Insurgency in the Philippines / 5. Thai Leaders and Malay Muslims in Southern Thailand / 6. Ending Tamil Insurgency in Sri Lanka By Force / 7. Indian Leadership and Insurgencies in Kashmir and the Northeast / 8. The Challenge of Conflicts in Tibet and Xinjiang in China / 9. The Way Forward
Using an excellent selection of case studies, A. S. Bhalla provides a helicopter view of Asia’s trouble spots with a sharp focus on leadership at all levels, rebels, and national government as well as regional and international communities. In doing so, he fills an important niche in conflict resolution scholarship.
This book helpfully focuses on a number of Asian conflicts, some well-known, others less so, and how they were (or were not) resolved. This is important for several reasons: Asia is the rising continent of the 21st century, and many of its countries are beset by internal tensions and outright conflicts sometimes fuelled in part by neighbouring states. The pattern is not likely soon to abate. Therefore, studying both the Asian failures and the successes identified in the volume makes a very useful contribution to the literature, and to practitioners of diplomacy and mediation, relative to a major continent in which the issues are relatively pervasive.
This admirable book should be read by anyone concerned with both the changing nature of international politics and the enduring problems of conflict resolution. Written in clear and accessible prose it makes an important contribution to our understanding of some of the most intractable regional disputes in Asia. The author demonstrates convincingly that while an unstable geo-political situation bears some responsibility, conflict resolution has also repeatedly failed because of poor leadership on both sides of these conflicts and at all levels.
This brilliant book can be summarized as timely, perceptive and wide-ranging. A.S. Bhalla is master of his subject, with deep knowledge of, and sensitivity towards the history and ethnic minorities of Asia, as well as theories and practice of leadership. His comparative approach splendidly explicates the complex ethnic and other problems and issues facing much of Asia. Strongly recommended.
AS Bhalla is a former Fellow, Sidney Sussex College Cambridge, UK . Previously he was Special Adviser to the President of International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Ottawa, Canada; Hallsworth Professorial Fellow, Manchester University.