Chapter 13: South Asia
South Asia is the geographical region centred on the Indian subcontinent. This geopolitical space stretches from the Himalaya mountains to the north and the Indian Ocean to the south; it consists of seven states: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Afghanistan, as the eighth member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), has been a member of the South Asian community since 2007, despite its geographical location in south-central Asia. Although Pakistan and India are culturally, linguistically and ethnically diverse, the smaller states of South Asia have their own ethnic identities that have often led to conflict, most notably in Sri Lanka where a protracted 25-year war between the Sri Lankan state and the Tamil minority ended in 2009. Just over 1.6 billion people live in this region, 1.2 billion of whom live in India. The region’s defence expenditures are not excessively high – despite the high level of internal and external security threats, particularly in India and Pakistan. The region’s level of defence expenditures (unweighted) as a share of GDP is just above 2 per cent; the region’s two major antagonists, India and Pakistan, spend 2.5 per cent and 2.7 per cent, respectively, on defence (SIPRI 2013). Notwithstanding India’s economic growth rates, poverty is an endemic feature of the region with more than one-third of the population living below the international poverty line. This high level of poverty has implications for these states’ internal security: the Indian Home Minister, P.
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