[Note: This post draws from my previous post, Future of Democracy in South Asia.]
Thank you everyone for a wonderful set of suggestions on the Future of Democracy in South Asia project. I thank I have an excellent set of variables and potential approaches. It’s time to begin categorizing these. Let me share some of my initial thoughts, based on your feedback.
I will take Martyna’s suggestion, and divide it into phases, because the outcome of the first phases will determine the path of the later years. But, for simplicity, I’ll keep it to two: the present till 2030, and then 2030-2060.
One of the key tasks in forecasting is to understand how past changes and continuities might translate into future uncertainties (and risks) and certainties. The foremost here is what Chris suggested: climate change. Past changes are relatively certain to have impact on migration, and put strain on, as Chris put it, “inclusive politics.” But the timeline of it is not certain yet … 30 years, 50 years, 100 years?
However, another change-related certainty is: food crisis. This will be due to the loss of arable land because of sea-level rise and/or himalayan glacial melting.
Continuity from the past, I think, will assure two other relative certainties: (1) increase in literacy levels. I think Lubna’s thesis is right on this (although I don’t know whether the education will be “secular” though; I think it will continue being more technical and less critical). (2) increase in per capita income across the region. Overall GDP, however, may get affected by the climate change situation.
The path of anything else other than these seems uncertain to me: size of army, nuclear weapon possession or even use, press freedom (Lubna’s point), human rights performance, external trade / GDP, ethno-nationalism (Denis’s point), terrorism, US role in the region (Murli’s point), or Middle East peace (Lubna’s point).
Of these, I think the path forward for ethno-nationalism is the most complex one to predict. Greater fragmentation might continue, because of regional/local collapses (e.g. warlordism), strains from climate change, reactions to terrorism, unequal economic growth (to wit: India’s northeast or the Naxalite insurgencies in its underbelly), or as a reaction to globalization.
On the other hand, common crises such as climate change or a limited nuclear war (heaven forbid) or common positive trends, such as region-wide economic growth and the establishment of a common market might reduce the political (not cultural) importance of ethnic groups.
Health improvements to me seemed a certainty at first. But sea-level rise and flooding could intensify the incidence of water-borne diseases.
I need to think more about the path of these trends, and the changes/continuities in specific actors that can affect these trends.
I like Martyna’s suggestion: first figure out, what do theories of democracy predict about the empirical cause-effect relationships, and then guess how the certainties and uncertainties might affect those relationships. The consolidation literature is indeterminate with regard to many of these variables, from trade, to terrorism, to economic growth. Some say they help strengthening of democracy and others say it is unclear. I’ll need to look more into this.
Lubna also makes a very interesting point that boundaries are bound to change anyway, so we might as well think about the region as a whole. (Makes it easier for me to rationalize the project.)
So, this is an initial attempt at categorizing some of the suggestions. Please let me know what other crucial variables I’m missing or anything else! Meanwhile, I’ll be doing some background research on some of these to provide the next iteration, so stay tuned.