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Building Democracy in South Asia: India, Nepal, Pakistan

Maya Chadda
ISBN: 978-1-55587-748-4
ISBN: 978-1-55587-859-7
2000/248 pages/LC: 99-089666

"The book is a major achievement as it engages critical analyses of South Asian political history and development with the wider literature on democratic transition, stability, and peace.... Chadda offers a very readable and persuasive account."—Thom Brooks, Democratization

"[This is] a serious attempt to explain why some democracies take toot and others fail. More centrally, it is an effort to reshape perceptions on the nature of democracy in South Asia.... The richly textured, complex politics of South Asia have much to offer students of comparative politics, and this book is a service in that cause."—Elliott L. Tepper, American Political Science Review

"Underlines the importance of linking democracy in South Asia to the understandings and experiences of its non-Western peoples and states.... The book is clearly written, reads well, and will appeal to advanced undergraduates, graduate students, professional scholars, and a lay audience interested in South Asian affairs."—Choice


This original analysis of South Asia's political experience with democracy in the 1990s assumes that, if democratic norms are to be universalized, they must first absorb the interpretations and experiences of the non-Western countries.

Chadda contends that any discussion of democratization must be founded on mapping its course amid the constraints of state consolidation, national integration, and conflicting notions of individual and group rights. Within that context, she deconstructs four sets of developments: the repeated dismissals of elected governments in Pakistan, the dilemmas produced by changes in caste politics, separatist confrontations in Punjab and the northeast, and the end of Congress Party dominance in India; the political and ideological contest over Kashmir in both India and Pakistan; and the Restoration of Democracy movement leading to a constitutional monarchy in Nepal. She exposes the underlying goals and logic of these political events to identify regime objectives and priorities, capabilities, and responses to various types of challenges.

Concerned with identifying the "rules of the political game" against the backdrop of changes in international politics, Chadda addresses two broad questions: have the political events of the 1990s been a step toward pluralism and democracy as understood in the dominant Western model; or do they demand a new definition of democracy? Ultimately, she argues, whether political development is a step toward or away from democracy can be determined only in relation to the competing demands on the state.


Maya Chadda is professor of political science at William Paterson University of New Jersey. Her publications include Ethnicity, Security, and Separatism in South Asia and Paradox of Power: The United States in Southwest Asia.


  • Introduction.
  • The History of Democratic Experience in South Asia.
  • President vs. Prime Minister: Democratization in Pakistan.
  • King vs. Parliament: Democratization in Nepal.
  • State and Democracy: The Politics of Consolidation in India.
  • Conflict and Democracy: Kashmir in South Asia.
  • Conclusion.
No rights in South Asia.