Asymmetric power balance and its implications for regionalism in South Asia
Kapur, Paul S.
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It is widely believed that the regional dynamics in South Asia, characterized by power-asymmetry and geographical Indo-centricity, make the region a particularly brittle strategic environment. In that challenging context, this study seeks to determine why regional integration, including the creation of an important role for SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation), has been so difficult in South Asia. The paper asserts that the power asymmetry between India and other South Asian countries has fueled an environment of regional discord, which has adversely affected regionalism in South Asia. The conflictual relationships, most prominent between India and Pakistan, have manifested in a regional mindset that is highly sensitive to state sovereignty and averse to the notion of relinquishing any degree of state sovereignty to a supra-national authority, which the European countries successfully accomplished. Such a mindset has made it difficult for South Asian countries to properly institutionalize the SAARC. The paper concludes that despite the setbacks, the prospects appear positive for regional integration in South Asia. But to achieve any meaningful traction in the integration process, the onus ultimately lies on SAARC members to change their attitudes vis-à-vis each other and soften their respective stances.
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