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Ripple effect of Ukraine war in South Asia

Published : Tuesday, 23 April, 2024 at 12:00 AM  Count : 378

Ripple effect of Ukraine war in South Asia

Ripple effect of Ukraine war in South Asia

The war in Ukraine has transcended geographical boundaries, sending shockwaves across the globe. South Asia, a region grappling with its own developmental challenges, has not been immune. Here in Bangladesh, and across countries like India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, the conflict is being watched with a mix of apprehension, economic strain, and a cautious approach to the evolving geopolitical landscape.

One of the most immediate impacts of the war has been the crippling effect on South Asian economies. The disruption of global supply chains due to sanctions on Russia has triggered a domino effect, pushing fuel and food prices to unprecedented highs. This is particularly concerning for South Asia, where many countries are net importers of essential commodities like wheat and sunflower oil, heavily reliant on supplies from both Ukraine and Russia. Bangladesh, for example, sources a significant portion of its wheat from these two warring nations. The rising cost of these staples not only puts a strain on household budgets but also threatens food security in the region. Inflationary pressures are mounting, with limited fiscal space for governments to provide adequate social safety nets. This economic hardship disproportionately affects the most vulnerable segments of society, pushing them further into poverty.

South Asian nations are also caught in a complex web of geopolitical considerations. Traditionally, many countries in the region have maintained close ties with Russia, particularly for military equipment and strategic partnerships. However, the invasion of Ukraine has forced a delicate balancing act. India, for instance, has called for a ceasefire and dialogue but has refrained from outright condemnation of Russia. This reflects Indias long-standing strategic partnership with Russia, a crucial supplier of military hardware, and its wariness of jeopardizing that relationship. Pakistan, on the other hand, has taken a more neutral stance, urging diplomacy and a peaceful resolution.

China, another major player with significant economic and strategic interests in South Asia, has maintained a measured approach. While not endorsing the invasion, China has also avoided criticizing Russia directly. This neutrality reflects Chinas own complex relationship with the West and its desire to avoid getting entangled in a new Cold War scenario. However, Chinas growing economic clout in the region presents both opportunities and challenges. South Asian countries could potentially leverage this economic power to mitigate some of the negative economic consequences of the war, but it also raises concerns about growing dependence on a single external power.

The war in Ukraine has also triggered a sense of déjà vu for many South Asians, drawing stark comparisons to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The swift international condemnation of Russias actions stands in stark contrast to the relative silence on the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. This perceived disparity in international response raises questions about the worlds selective outrage and the lack of consistent application of principles regarding territorial integrity and self-determination. Many South Asians express solidarity with the Palestinians, who have faced decades of displacement and violence. The Ukraine crisis has served as a stark reminder of the need for a more even-handed approach to international conflicts and a commitment to upholding international law.

Despite the distance and complexities of the situation, there is a strong undercurrent of hope for peace in South Asia. The region has its own share of unresolved conflicts, and the war in Ukraine serves as a grim reminder of the devastating consequences of armed conflict. Here in Bangladesh, and across South Asia, the hope is for a diplomatic solution that respects the territorial integrity of Ukraine and avoids further escalation. The war has also highlighted the importance of regional cooperation and self-sufficiency in South Asia. By diversifying trade partnerships, investing in domestic food production, and fostering regional economic integration, South Asian countries can become more resilient in the face of future global shocks.
The long-term implications of the Ukraine war on South Asia are still unfolding. The economic strain, the potential for a prolonged conflict, and the evolving geopolitical landscape all pose significant challenges. However, there are also opportunities for regional cooperation and a renewed focus on self-reliance. By working together and adopting a proactive approach, South Asian nations can navigate these uncertain times and emerge stronger.

The writer is a former Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) scholar, holding a B.Tech in Electrical Engineering from NIT Durgapur, India

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