In Defense of the Foreign Hand

Since beginning this journey with SA Perspectives, our contributors and editorial staff have faced repeated criticism for both allegedly endorsing outside interference in South Asia and for perceived “foreign interventions” of our own. This edition of SA Perspectives looks extensively at the role being played by outside actors in South Asia, including the United States, China, and Russia. No doubt, critics will find additional fodder for their attacks in these pages. Of course, concern about the foreign hand is nothing new in South Asia or other parts of the developing world. This is also not surprising given the legacy of colonialism and the worst excesses of the Cold War in the most recent centuries. Given this, should we and other extra regional actors close shop and leave residents of South Asia to fend for themselves?

As tempting as this option may appear at times, our answer is a resounding no. First, there is no way for South Asia (or any other region of the world) to simply close its doors and keep the rest of the globe away. Even if it were possible to close borders, cut off trade and development flows, staunch intellectual and cultural flows, and otherwise prevent intercourse with the outside world, this would not serve the interests of the would-be autarkies. In our experience even the most vocal critics of “outside interference” see value in safeguarding their treasure in foreign banks, selling their products to foreign consumers, educating their children in foreign universities, and vacationing in foreign lands. While these options may be out of the reach of vast numbers of South Asia’s citizens, many of these will still dream of pursuing their own opportunities abroad. Likewise, those living outside the region also benefit greatly from the opportunity to engage with the countries of South Asia and their citizens. Simply put, the two-way exchanges between different regions have enriched all involved (albeit not always equally).

And what of SA Perspectives and likeminded publications and pundits: should we keep our opinions to ourselves and ignore developments in South Asia? Again, it is worth noting that many of those in the region who are most likely to troll foreigners on the internet or criticize outside voices have also been the first to invite outside scrutiny when they found their interests jeopardized at home. This hypocrisy is not unique to South Asia, as critics of the West are quick to point out. Still, while repressive governments may try to silence voices abroad that challenge their preferred narratives, these efforts are ultimately doomed to fail. And they should.

For our part, the editorial team at SA Perspectives intends to continue upon the journey which we began several months back with our first edition. We appreciate the feedback we have received from our readers in South Asia and beyond. We have also been pleased to continue to receive submissions from a diverse set of authors who have perspectives on the region, and welcome additional voices to contribute to the ongoing discussion. We realize that we still have room to improve and pledge to do so. In the meantime, we remain committed to providing a platform to discuss developments in South Asia as they impact the region and the globe. Long live the foreign hand!

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