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A Brief History of International Relations

The World Made Easy

Kathleen Brush

The world does not need to be complex and confusing. It can be made simpler so that the business, political, social, and economic implications of global news briefs beaming across televisions and electronic devices can be easily grasped. Key to this is knowing that a five-hundred-year competition for global supremacy between the Chinese, European, Islamic, and Russian empires only ended in 1945. When it did, the world had 57 independent nations. After all empires were dissolved in 1991, there were 193, and each nation carried histories of empires in the form of conquest, religions followed, languages practiced, diversified populations, repressive rule, and histories of discrimination. A Brief History of International Relations: The World Made Easy explores this history of global conflict to contextualize and simplify the often perplexing relations between nations and empires.

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Chapter 21. South Asia


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Every major empire/group influenced this region. The Portuguese established the first permanent European settlement in Goa, India (1505–1961). When they did Islam was already present on the subcontinent. The reach of the Chinese tributary empire extended to Bhutan,1 Nepal, and Sri Lanka. The first foreign empire to dominate South Asia in the Era of Empire was the Islamic Mughal Empire (1526–1858). Before domination, the Safavids and other Persian empires battled for control of today’s Afghanistan, Pakistan, and northern India.i The British Empire succeeded the Mughals in 1858. The Russians were the last. The Russian Empire wanted to extend its borders to control Afghanistan, but Russian influence was delayed until the Cold War. Then it was strongly felt during the Soviet-Afghan War (1979–1989).

All empires, except the Chinese tributary empire, left their marks: Islamic Empires brought Islam to the region and a painful history of discrimination against Hindus; the British brought borders, the English language, and democratic forms of government; and the Soviets created the setting for the first national breeding ground for Islamic militants. All of the empires/groups have also left postscripts, like Cold War conflicts and Iran-Saudi proxy wars.

The Islamic empires altered an overwhelmingly Hindu and Buddhist region to one with the largest regional Muslim population, including a significant Shiite minority. Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and the Maldives ← 209 | 210 → have Muslim majorities, and India has the second largest Muslim population...

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