Both the culture and the political system have much to do with the degree of autonomy with which the nongovernmental structures in the system operate. India and Sri Lanka, though generally open polities (e.g., the press in both countries has usually, but not always, been free), have undergone periods of limitation of autonomy. 2
Each of the states of South Asia faces five critical areas of political development: nation building, state building, participation, economy building, and distribution. Although India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka inherited fairly effective state apparatuses, they are facing difficult challenges in the process of building unified nations. These challenges include the problems pertaining to the Sikhs and the Kashmiris in India, the Sindhis in Pakistan, and the Tamils in Sri Lanka. Economy building is, of course, another difficult challenge for the Third World nations, and those of South Asia are no exception. Periodic and free elections, an important form of participation in India and Sri Lanka, have not been regularly available to the people of the other states. Finally, the distribution of resources in each of the nations is badly skewed, and the steps being taken to remedy this problem vary among the seven countries.
In the chapters that follow, we shall look first at the political heritage of the British past (Chapter 1) and then at each of the countries of South Asia. The four largest countries are dealt with in Parts 1 through 4: Part 1, India; Part 2, Pakistan; Part 3, Bangladesh; and Part 4, Sri Lanka, The three smallest countries--Nepal, Bhutan, and the Maldives--are considered together in Chapter 25. Chapter 26 addresses the interrelationships among the seven states in the region and the roles they play in the international system. Finally, the Conclusion ties the threads together in a discussion of the political development of the region as a whole.