Does South Asia Exist? Prospects for Regional Integration

Before 1947, South Asia was for the most part a single state. Multiple states emerged thereafter, and then moved apart politically, culturally, and economically. The resulting interstate tensions are manifest in the countless "negative lists"-items that may not be traded, tariffs that must be paid, transport lines that cannot be crossed-that govern these nations' daily interactions. Intermittent armed conflict in the region only intensifies feelings of distrust.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, interstate relations can be characterized by mutual wariness and circumspection. Failures in development and security cooperation have hurt South Asia, which contains two declared nuclear powers, India and Pakistan. Crossborder human trafficking and terrorism are increasing. Regional trade represents a paltry 5 percent of total trade. Globally, regional integration and prominent regional institutions-such as the European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-are gaining ground, but South Asia lags behind. It is almost as if South Asia, as a region, does not exist.

Given that South Asia contains India, one of the world's most dynamic, democratic economies, this is an anomaly. As shown in Europe, North America, Southeast Asia, and elsewhere, a "powerhouse" state can be the best guarantor of regional stability and integration. India's recent rise has prompted in some progress in regionalism, but it has been modest to date.
More can and must be done to understand regionalism's drivers, benefits, and barriers. Using a comparative perspective, this lively and broad-based volume draws on theories of trade, security, great-power influence, and domestic political theory to examine the prospects for South Asian regionalism. Does South Asia Exist? devotes particular attention to India, the largest power in the region, and analyzes the extent to which it enhances or blocks greater regional integration. As the distinguished contributors reveal with piercing honesty, the question at the heart of this provocative book defies easy answers.

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