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South Asia is a geopolitical term for the countries of the Indian Subcontinent and their immediate neighbours. This includes India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Geographically, the term is used to apply to the peninsular region south of the Himalayas and Karakoram and east of the Hindu Kush – mountain ranges formed by the collision of the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates.
In a first NCCR workshop in late 2001, participants from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Nepal, among them scientists as well as NGO representatives, joined together to determine the focus of NCCR North-South research activities in South Asia. The consensus was that core problems associated with syndromes of global change are most acute in marginalised regions and among vulnerable populations. As many of South Asia’s marginalised areas are mountainous, problem clusters were considered to be specific to the highland-lowland syndrome context. Research has thus focused on marginalised or vulnerable mountain areas (i.e. those at risk due to climatic or environmental conditions in addition to their economic situation). In selected case study localities, rural livelihood strategies have been analysed to identify key factors impacting sustainable development. Institutions and policies that shape important processes like natural resource use, migration and rural development have also been studied.
NCCR North-South research in South Asia is supervised by the Regional Coordination Office located in Kathmandu, Nepal. Special attention is given to the impact of global change and globalisation on marginalised areas and vulnerable populations, particularly those living in highland-lowland or urban and peri-urban contexts in Nepal, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. Current research examines the role of institutions (public and private) in conflict mediation and regulating access to resources and seeks to identify sustainable strategies for managing natural resources and improving the livelihood options of marginalised populations.