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 Monday, 23 December, 2002, 13:28 GMT
South Asia: Year in review
Indian troops
India and Pakistan massed a million troops

Deteriorating relations between India and Pakistan cast a large shadow over South Asia for much of 2002.

At several points in the year, India and Pakistan looked to be on the point of open hostlities.

Key events
May - India breaks off diplomatic ties with Pakistan
June - Afghanistan's Loya Jirga
October - Pakistan general elections
November - Nepal's king dismisses government
December - Gujarat elections boost India's ruling BJP
December - Sri Lanka peace talks

And the uncertain nuclear doctrines of both nations caused intense international concern.

India began a massive deployment of troops along its border with Pakistan following the attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001.

The build-up was reciprocated by Pakistan until around a million troops stood along the border.

India had held militants backed by and trained in Pakistan responsible for the parliament attack - a charge denied by Pakistan which nonetheless pledged to crack down on terrorism.

War averted

A militant attack on a bus and army camp in Hindu dominated Jammu in Indian-administrated Kashmir in May, sent relations to their lowest point.

India broke off diplomatic ties with Pakistan and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee spoke of it being the time for a "decisive battle".

Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf promised to respond to any Indian attack with "full force".

War was averted, in part due to a flurry of international diplomacy, but also due to India's resolve to hold credible elections in the autumn in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

And the year has ended with a new administration in Kashmir, elected after a violent election campaign boycotted by separatists but heralded as largely 'free and fair' by most observers.

The new government started off with conciliatory words about winning hearts and minds in Kashmir although violence in the territory has continued.

Afghanistan

US-led military operations against al-Qaeda continued after the fall of the Taleban in November 2001.

Such operations ran into difficulty as many Taleban and al-Qaeda fighters were suspected to have slipped over the border into Pakistan's lawless tribal areas, and Osama bin Laden and Taleban leader Mullah Omar continue to prove elusive.
US troops in Afghanistan
US led operation to hunt remnants of al-Qaeda continues

Meanwhile, Afghan leaders assembled in a traditional Loya Jirga (grand assembly) in June to choose a new government and president.

The new government - comprising representatives of the country's main ethnic groups - has started the daunting work of rebuilding Afghanistan, but faces continuing security problems.

Afghan leader Hamid Karzai survived an assassination attempt in September but his aviation minister and one of his vice-presidents were not so lucky.

Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, the year has ended on an upbeat note.

Velupillai Prabahkaran
Tamil Tiger leader Prabahkaran: Heading for peace?

After a 19-year civil war in which more than 60,000 people have lost their lives, a ceasefire between the Sri Lankan Government and Tamil Tiger rebels who had been fighting for a separate homeland has held pretty much all year.

And the two sides have held peace talks, crucially agreeing in December to share power within a federal system.

Pakistan

After three years of military rule in Pakistan, General Musharraf gave power back to a civilian administration this year, after confirming his own position as president in a referendum in which there was only one candidate.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf
A referendum confirmed Musharraf as president

American troops have been working alongside Pakistani forces to search for members of al-Qaeda in Pakistan.

One consequence of this may have been the unprecedented success of Islamic parties, who campaigned against Pakistan's cooperation with America in the "war against terrorism", in October's national and provincial elections.

The year has also seen an increasing number of attacks against Western and Christian targets in Pakistan.

India

It has been an eventful period in Indian domestic politics too.

The main party in India's ruling coalition, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) began the year with a string of losses in state elections, and saw its coalition partner defeated in Jammu and Kashmir in October.

But it has ended 2002 with a strong showing in elections in the riot-torn western state of Gujarat.

The gutted wreckage of one of the cars
Gujarat saw one of the bloodiest riots
Following an attack on a train carrying Hindu pilgrims in the town of Godhra in Gujarat in February, the state was the scene of India's worst religious violence since the destruction of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya 10 years ago.

More than 2,000 people - mostly Muslims - were killed in the rioting and many hundreds of thousands were displaced.

The year has ended with renewed questions about the future of secular politics in India, but many analysts stress that Gujarat should not be seen as a model for India as a whole.

Nepal and Bangladesh

In Nepal, persistent violence since the breakdown of talks between the government and Maoist rebels at the end of last year has claimed nearly 7,000 lives, according to the government.

Daily life is being severely disrupted by the seven-year old Maoist insurgency and the army campaign against the rebels.

Nepal's  King Gyanendra
King Gyanendra's dismissal of the government caused protests
In October, for the first time in Nepal's 12-year history of multi-party rule, the King dismissed the elected government.

A royalist interim government was installed in its place, in what the palace insisted did not amount to a ''royal coup''.

In Bangladesh, the new year will also begin on an uncertain note.

The government has sent the army onto the streets to crack down on crime, but has come under fire for the increasing arrests of opposition politicians and journalists, human rights activists and academics perceived as critical of the government.

A series of bomb blasts in the town of Mymensingh early in December have forced the government on to the defensive.

No one has been arrested in connection with the blasts.

And internationally, Bangladesh is anxious to deny suggestions that it has become a haven for al-Qaeda or that it has embraced a more hardline version of Islam.


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