A year of fast and furious politics in south Asia

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    Modi won a landslide victory in India, while Pakistan’s army moved into North Waziristan and suffered a bloody attack in Peshawar

    From Narendra Modi’s landslide victory in India to a one-sided and violent election in Bangladesh, from mass demonstrations in Islamabad to campaigning for an early presidential poll in Sri Lanka, 2014 was a year of fast and furious politics for the fifth of the world’s population who live in south Asia.

    Most was more or less democratic. Certainly in India no one complained that the elections, spaced over six weeks in April and May to allow security forces to be redeployed around the country, were fraudulent.

    The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party powered home with a massive majority, though with only 31% of votes cast. The venerable Congress party, in power for a decade and hit by corruption scams, suffered its worst defeat in history.

    Modi’s humble origins contrasted dramatically with those of his main opponent, Rahul Gandhi, the scion of India’s best-known political dynasty. Modi’s promise to bring development for all, promote honest and efficient governance, and restore Indians’ pride in their nation resonated with voters across the vast country. No other nation would force India to step down from a face-off, he had said before election, then surprised many by inviting Nawaz Sharif, the beleaguered Pakistani prime minister, to his inauguration.

    Hopes of a peace of the strong were dashed, however. Two confrontations came swiftly. One was with Pakistan, which saw some of the heaviest exchanges of fire between the respective militaries for many years. A second was with China, over an alleged violation of the disputed border. Neither bodes well for regional security.

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