The Failed States Index, prepared by the esteemed Foreign Policy magazine of the U.S. attempts to reassure the frightened humanity that the yesteryear, 2005, should have been a good year for many fragile and developing states around the world. A slew of countries’including many with limited democratic experience, such as Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, and Kazakhstan’held elections. The number of serious armed conflicts worldwide continued to fall. The world’s richest countries agreed to forgive billions in developing-country debt. Robust world trade aided China’s rise as an exporting powerhouse. And yet, trends that should have been boons for stability have often been busts. The magazine admits that there are few quick fixes on the path to stability. Elections might give voice to the disenfranchised, but they don’t necessarily translate into effective governance. High oil or commodity prices may fill government coffers, but they don’t build strong institutions. By contrast, steps that capture few headlines’the appointment of independent judges, the development of a competent civil service, and the implementation of anti-corruption campaigns’are often the key to improving a country’s foundations. For all the talk about technology and globalization, basic governance remains a huge challenge for many states. International institutions such as the United Nations, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund can help, but large-scale state-building by outsiders is complex and costly. There have been successful U.N. peacekeeping operations in East Timor, Mozambique, Namibia, and Liberia, which recently elected Africa’s first female head of state. However, the continuing U.S. struggles in Iraq and, to a lesser extent, Afghanistan have highlighted the hazards of relying on armed intervention to promote stability. Most states will be on their own, and they run the gamut from strong and secure to weak and vulnerable. Some, including giants such as Nigeria and Pakistan, remain acutely vulnerable to internal conflict and social disintegration. A larger number, including Egypt, Russia, and even China run a substantial risk of decay. Predicting exactly when and how the next episode of state failure will happen is a fool’s errand. But it is essential for policymakers to understand the vulnerabilities and weaknesses that create the conditions for state failure. Symptoms of state failure can appear in any country in any region of the world, but there are several neighbourhoods with concentrations of weak states. As in last year’s index, Africa produces the largest number of unstable states. This year, Sudan appears as the world’s most vulnerable country because of its poor ratings in the areas of group grievance and human rights. Sudan is followed closely by the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Ivory Coast, whose governments still do not control huge portions of their territory. Six of the 10 most vulnerable states and 11 of the top 20 are in Africa. Yet the rankings also demonstrate the inadequacy of regional generalizations, even for countries in close proximity to each other. Zimbabwe, struggling under poor governance and endemic corruption, saw its stability ranking fall by 12 percent, whereas neighbouring South Africa maintained its strong showing. Nigeria, despite its wealth in resources, continued to unravel even as nearby Ghana remained one of the most promising states in all of West Africa. Kenya managed to improve despite corruption scandals and a porous border with Somalia. In Southeast Asia, Burma tumbled, while neighbouring Thailand, even with unrest in its own southern provinces, remained one of the most stable states in the region. Ultimately, it is clear that leadership, not location, matters most. But the fact remains that despite the march of the democracy in the world, several countries are on the verge of falling in the category of the failed states. The vested interests, the self-interest and the realpolitik see that most of the times, the world leaders and democratic countries do not remain objective and their treatment is often subject to the subjectivity. Otherwise how can we explain the attitude of the U.S. in overlooking the blatant violation of human rights in China, China’s covert support to Sudan (Africa) in the genocide in Darfur areas. Threat to Pakistan from well-reared Islamist fundamentalists cannot be overlooked. Yes, there are good signs that even in the Muslim community itself, voice of dissent against the obscurantist forces have started raising.