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An Enigma that is South Asia: India versus the Region

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The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is now 28 years old, yet its success is nominal. That more important bilateral issues are discussed on the sidelines of SAARC Summits proves the point. Intra-regional trade is still miniscule compared to the region's overall share in the world trade. The biggest defaulter is India, the most prominent member of the group. The purpose of this paper is first to raise the question whether South Asia qualifies to be called a region, and second to argue that, given the problems it faces with most of its neighbours, India is forced to conclude that SAARC matters the least for it. For economic and strategic reasons, India's interests lie in global networking and in a balanced relationship with China. Since Chinese military, diplomatic, and economic presence in South Asia poaches into India's perceived sphere of influence, India's interest in SAARC is limited to that context for otherwise it neither provides large markets for India nor does it contribute to India's strategic policy. Inversely, such a situation justifies India's neighbours playing the China card to bargain with India though that card its losing its value. To buttress our arguments we have drawn from the region's historical experiences as well as from recent developments in international and South Asian politics, including domestic politics.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: May 1, 2013

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