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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: June 2012



Federalism today is the most popular idea in the discourse on government and governance. The survival of the Indian nation is increasingly attributed by political scientists in the country and abroad to consolidation of democracy, and now to the growing practice of federalism. Federal idea is catching on today in the Afro-Asian part of the world where federalism is being seen as an institutional device to stave off separatism by offering the choice of shared rule as well as self rule. For example, Ethiopia became an ethnic federal republic in 1995 with a parliamentary system and the unique system of federal second chamber, the House of Federation, the sole custodian and interpreter of the Constitution, a role typically reserved elsewhere for the Supreme Court or the constitutional court. Moreover, the newly elected Constituent Assembly of Nepal has started the move since 2008 to draft a federal democratic constitution. The failure of the first half-hearted parliamentary federal experiment in Pakistan in 1971 and persistent Tamil ethnic separatism verging on civil war in Sri Lanka (finally militarily crushed in 2009) may perhaps prompt guarded receptivity to the federal idea, though the political establishments in Sri Lanka and Pakistan have yet a long way to go in this direction. The same is true of China which may be said to be a de facto quasi-federal system especially in relation to Hong Kong. Among these aspiring or ambivalent political systems vis-à-vis federalism, only Sri Lanka and Nepal are democratic.

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