Foreign Policy Blogs

India's separatist problem

I’ve wanted to touch on a major development in Indian politics: the partition of the state of Andhra Pradesh. Residents of Hyderabad and its surrounding environs claimed, in the most basic sense, that the surrounding rural areas were depriving them of its proper share of economic growth/wealth. After a dramatic hunger strike, by K. Chandrasekhar Rao, which gripped the nation, the government agreed to carve out the new state of Telangana from AP.

As touched on this blog a few times before, the state of India is not a nation-state—it is indeed a multi-ethnic empire, binding together many territories that have shared no common historical narrative. The idea of India is an imagined comunity, and not a particularly strong one at that. Citizens identify closer with their regional state and area than with India as a whole.

Thus, it would not be difficult to see a future where the Telangana row because increasingly common. India’s economic inequality is horrific—and if wealthier citizens and states start believing the poor are holding them back, the entire social fabric of the Indian ‘nation’ could collapse.

Furthermore, the state already faces a Maoist separatist movement/rebellion in its east/northeast (primarily in the northeast), and the issue of Kashmir in the north/northwest is ever looming over stability and peace in South Asia. These internal fractures make it much more likely that the future of India’s political system will have a weak central government that is even less powerful vis-a-vis the states than it is today. Power projection further afield (read: Pakistan) could be used as a way to bind the nation together—it could just as easily tear it apart, as regional areas not affected by any crisis may question why they’re fighting a war for a state (say, Gujarat or Punjab) that they’ve never been to, don’t ever plan on going to, and don’t know anyone else who has gone to.



Andrew Swift

Andrew Swift is a graduate of the University of Iowa, with a degree in History and Political Science. Long a student of international affairs, he is on an unending quest to understand the world better.