Pakistan and Afghanistan are among the world's top 10 most vulnerable states, according to a new study.
Pakistan is fighting tribesmen and militants on the Afghan border
The report - compiled by the US Foreign Policy magazine and the US-based Fund for Peace think-tank - ranked 146 nations according to their viability.
Judged according to 12 criteria, including human flight and economic decline, states range from the most failed, Sudan, to the least, Norway.
Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka are rated 19th, 20th and 25th respectively.
The top 60 positions in the list were occupied almost exclusively by African, Middle Eastern, and Asian countries.
India was ranked 93rd, Bhutan came 39th and the Maldives were not mentioned.
The second annual "failed states index" was based on "tens of thousands of articles" from different sources gathered over several months in 2005 and reviewed by experts, its authors said.
Each nation was given an overall score based on the 12 criteria:
- mounting demographic pressures
- massive movement of refugees and internally displaced peoples
- legacy of vengeance - seeking group grievance
- chronic and sustained human flight
- uneven economic development along group lines
- sharp and/or severe economic decline
- criminalisation and delegitimisation of the state
- progressive deterioration of public services
- widespread violation of human rights
- security apparatus as "state within a state"
- rise of factionalised elites
- intervention of other states or external actors
Pakistan moved from 34th last year to ninth in the new report - one of the sharpest changes in the overall score of any country on the list.
The contributing factors were Pakistan's inability to police the tribal areas near the Afghan border, the devastating earthquake last October in Kashmir and rising ethnic tensions, the report said.
Afghanistan, ranked 10th, faces different problems from Iraq, which despite the presence of US-led troops came fourth, the report said.
Educated exiled Afghans had been slow to go home following the ousting of the Taleban in 2001, but poor refugees had returned from Pakistan and Iran in large numbers, the study said.
"The result is a capital city busting at the seams but short of trained administrators."
The authors cite India as an example of a state which has pulled back from the brink, saying that in the 1970s analysts predicted dire consequences as a result of population growth, economic mismanagement, poverty and corruption.
Now, they say, India today has turned itself around and might have the edge over China (ranked 57) in the long run.
Pauline Baker, president of the Fund for Peace, told the Associated Press news agency that India had greater social mobility and was more decentralised than its more populous neighbour.