Attrition: Bloody South Asia


October 2, 2010: In South Asia (including Afghanistan), the most violent countries over the last decade have been Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Pakistan. All have frequently suffered over a thousand dead a month due to organized violence. India, while the most populous nation in the region (with over two-thirds of the region's people), has the lowest rate of violence. Most of the dead are the result of religious violence, and most of this is from Moslem radicals. About 40 percent of the deaths were the caused by tribal separatists and communist groups.

While 80 percent of Indians are Hindu, there are many sects. But there is little violence between the sects. The non-Hindu population is about 65 percent Moslem, with the remainder consisting of over a dozen different religions. There are hundreds of different ethnic groups. Remarkably, violence between ethnic and religious groups has been quite low, causing fewer than 250 deaths (on average) a year. But Islamic terrorism has become a growing problem, and now causes the majority of incidents, and deaths.

The cause of major violence is usually a minority (religious and tribal in Afghanistan and Pakistan, ethnic in Sri Lanka, religious and political in India) seeking to impose their will on the majority. While not as widely reported as Afghanistan, Sri Lanka has been the bloodier conflict for the last decade, only settling down last year, with the defeat of the rebels.

In the last quarter century, it's Afghanistan which has been the more violent place (with over a million dead, about ten times the death toll in Sri Lanka.) Running a close second to Afghanistan and Sri Lanka is Pakistan, which is actually the eastern half of the violence in Afghanistan. The same tribal elements (Pushtuns) are fighting on both sides of the border. Most of the 40 million Pushtuns in region are in Pakistan, with only about a quarter in Afghanistan. Most of the religious extremists are in Pakistan as well, and that complicates the situation in both countries (because the Pakistani government is a parliamentary one, and the Islamic conservative parties, while in the minority, are often essential for putting together a ruling coalition).



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