2019 was an eventful year in South Asia. From countries in the region dealing with the aftermath of the United States announcing the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan, to the February crisis between India and Pakistan in the wake of the Pulwama attack, to the Indian government’s withdrawal of Jammu & Kashmir’s special status, there were many significant developments that are likely to alter the security dynamics of the region and how regional actors may interact in the future. As the year winds down, we recap some of these events by highlighting the pieces that had the most impact on South Asian Voices (SAV) readers. Here’s a list of SAV‘s top 10 most popular pieces of 2019:

10. Understanding Perception Dissonance in South Asia’s Strategic Environment, Sajid Shapoo, August 16

Perception dissonance in South Asia’s strategic environment creates the potential for conflict escalation and has a bearing on the countries’ nuclear postures. In light of the Pulwama-Balakot crisis in February, Sajid Shapoo employed historical examples in an effort to understand differing Indian and Pakistani strategic calculi.

9. Did Pakistan Successfully Push Back Against the Balakot Strikes?, Umair Jamal, March 8

Umair Jamal wrote of the optics, domestic influences, and strategic thinking at play in the February Pulwama-Balakot crisis from the Pakistani perspective. He argued that Pakistan successfully portrayed Indian retaliatory actions as driven by domestic political concerns and reiterated its previous calls for peace and dialogue.

8. The Pulwama Aftermath: Making Sense of India’s Response, Tanvi Kulkarni and Sylvia Mishra, March 5

In the aftermath of the Balakot strikes, Tanvi Kulkarni and Sylvia Mishra discussed the significance of India employing airstrikes to respond to a terror attack and analyzed the implications of this new response template for future India-Pakistan crises.

7. Wither U.S.-Pakistan Relations: Impact of American Withdrawal from Afghanistan, Umair Jamal, February 3

Umair Jamal examined the significance of the U.S. withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan for Pakistan, arguing that it is likely to portend significant changes to the United States-Pakistan relationship.

6. Who will Bear the Burden of Pakistan’s IMF Bailout?, Shahroo Malik, July 26

Shahroo Malik evaluated Pakistan’s decision to seek a USD $6 billion IMF bailout program, which came with a series of austerity measures. She argued that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government would have to address Pakistan’s structural economic issues so as not to put the brunt of the of the economic crisis on the working class.

5. Evaluating India and Pakistan’s Strategic Narratives, Colonel David Smith, January 22

Colonel David Smith, a distinguished fellow with the South Asia Program at the Stimson Center, reviewed SAV’s series, “Post 26/11: Strategic Direction or Drift?” on whether India and Pakistan are exhibiting strategic direction or drift in their military doctrines, postures, and strategies. He noted that the Indian and Pakistan scholars differed widely in their analysis, with Indian scholars seeing their country in “drift” mode and Pakistani scholars seeing their country as moving in a positive “strategic direction.”

4. The People Behind the Guns: The Relationship Between Cutting-Edge Technology and Escalation, Syed Ali Zia Jaffery, October 21 

In this SAV Review piece, Syed Ali Zia Jaffery assessed Caitlin Talmadge’s recent paper titled “Emerging Technology and Intra-War Escalation Risks,” reflecting on how Talmadge’s argument that emerging technologies play an intervening rather than independent role in escalation applies to South Asia.

3. Is Pakistan’s Nuclear Strategy Stuck in Time?, Salma Shaheen, June 19 

In another SAV Review piece, Salma Shaheen examined Sadia Tasleem and Toby Dalton’s paper titled “Nuclear Emulation: Pakistan’s Nuclear Trajectory,” writing that the paper raises important questions about the limited nuclear dialogue within Pakistan and the need for Pakistan’s strategic community to look to alternative models such as China’s to improve its nuclear doctrine and regional strategy.

2. The Political Impact of India’s Removal of Jammu and Kashmir’s Special Status, Sarral Sharma, August 19 

On August 5, the Narendra Modi-led government withdrew Article 370 of the Indian constitution from Jammu & Kashmir, revoked its autonomy, split it into two Union territories, and fully integrated them into India. Sarral Sharma argued that the move would grant the Bharatiya Janata Party increased political mileage and enable the government to refer to the Kashmir issue as “internal” to India.

1. افغان “اینڈ گیم” اور ایرانی اقدامات کا ادراک (Understanding Iran’s Moves in the Afghan Endgame), April 17 

President Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan left many wondering about the future of the peace process and its many stakeholders. In this Urdu translation of the original English piece, Saurav Sarkar argues that Iran—which has engaged the Taliban in talks since 2015—would likely wield significant leverage over the Afghan political system moving forward, balancing the interests of the Taliban and the Afghan government.


Image: Wikimedia Commons

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