Learning about Body Language : Prof.Abdul Shakoor Shah

South Asia is the least economically integrated region in the world, with regional trade accounting for approximately 5% of the overall trade. This is a result of deep rooted distrust among countries that have a collective history, political and suave disquiet, and that are threatened by intimidation. The populace of these countries has a common civilization, lingo and history, disparate in other incorporated expanses, counting Europe but paradoxically south Asia is the least integrated region on the planet. The Second World War extensively impinged on states and they started looking for a new replica that would not only endorse and inflate trade but would also throw in to world serenity. Since the 1980s there has been an increase in regional accommodating ventures all over the world. Eventually it trickled down to South Asia and SAARC was instituted in 1985. SAPTA was signed in 1993 and SAFTA came into force in 2006. Notwithstanding these mechanisms, regional cooperation remained relatively low. The SAARC is nothing more than an ineffective structural body. It lacks the potential of implementing the South Asian Free Trade agreement (SAFTA). Economic, non-economic, regional and extra regional factors are responsible for this chaos. There are certain other concrete and abstract barriers too. Flexibility in dealing with highly political issues in order to make way forward to regional growth and economic development is very important. Regional block has become inevitable for the peace, security and prosperity of the region.

The years 2003-2008 marked an epoch of economic augmentation for the South Asian region. With an average annual growth rate of 7.8% for the given period, South Asia’s growth was the second highest, following only East Asia. Roughly more than 40% of the world’s poor live in South Asia. With a quarter of the world’s population living in the region, South Asia shared only an average around 3.3% of the global gross domestic product (GDP) as per World Bank report. South Asia’s intra regional trade rose from 4.5% in 2008 to 7.6% in 2015 moderated to 6.9 % in 2018. These levels are still significantly low, compared to the intraregional trade of other regional blocks in Asia Pacific and Europe. The south Asian states trail the unyielding trade strategy instead of their attempts of liberalized trade. As of 2016, South Asia’s average tariffs were at 13.6%, which are significantly higher than the world average 6.3%. In relation to the sensitive lists, 44 % to 45 % of the imports from other SAARC members fall under the sensitive lists of both Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. For example, more than 39% of India’s exports to the region fall under the sensitive lists of various South Asian states. Dealing with technical barriers is often a very time consuming and tedious process due to lack of bureaucratic efficiency.

South Asia demands non-traditional regional collaboration from all stakeholders. We must adopt contemporary models of regional cooperation for a better, stable, prosperous and peaceful south Asia. There is a dire need for a strong regional block against extra regional factors. The initiatives must be taken on common goals. The south Asian states should ponder on fragmenting government as it is being practiced in several countries. The greatest regional barrier is the long standing Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan. The easiest solution to the problem is to let Kashmiris free from both sides as an independent state. The extra regional factors have become habitual of crossing regional frontiers due to lack and absence of regional cooperation. The South Asian states are not willing to play out of the box and remain limited to national views instead of regional ones. All the stakeholders must resolve to modify their regional strategies and public opinion to look at problems from Asian lens rather than vested interests. The model should be easy to difficult not vice versa. Issues of informal trade, asymmetric economic budding, non-tariff blockades and inadequate transport connectivity, power discrepancy and security coercion are also present in the region. Weak institutions, mistrust, economic and strategic dependency are also barriers in regional collaboration. The notion of functionalism can be enhanced to boost regional collaboration as political issues are too hard to break the ice. We must figure out the bottlenecks for policy makers to restructure, reevaluate, and redesign strategies to provide a more appropriate milieu for regional cooperation in South Asia.

Infrastructures and Transportation is a crucial component of regional cooperation. Without efficient and effective physical connectivity between countries, trade becomes strenuous and classy progression. Physical connectivity remains a big obstacle for South Asian regional cooperation despite existing railroad and road networks. India and Nepal have a trade agreement allowing more than 22 border ports for the movement of goods between the two states and 15 ports for transit traffic However, out of all these; only six are being used constantly. India possesses 75% of SAARC’s population and accounts for a guesstimate of 80% of its GDP, while the second and third largest states only make up 10% and 7% correspondingly. India’s bullying in the region has climaxed the trepidation and distrust among other South Asian states. The smaller South Asian states tend to look outwards, away from the region, to form a counterweight against Indian supremacy. Another decisive point to deem is geography. In South Asia, all countries, except Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Maldives, share a common border with India. This geographical dependency affects these countries’ internal and external decision-making competence. This evident disparity has pushed policy makers to devise policies and have legislative frameworks based on their country’s strategic and political interests. The region is also hunted by European imperialism after colonialism. South Asia is also the best market for European weapons and the west has no factual intention of resolving the long standing Asiatic conflicts.