Competing Regionalism in South Asia and Neighbouring Regions under Narendra Modi: New Leadership, Old Problems
With the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral and Technical Cooperation (BIMST-EC) and the Mekong Ganga Cooperation Initiative (MGC), four different regional/sub-regional organisations exist in their respective regions. Yet, despite their decades-long existence, inter-state cooperation in all four regions has failed to meaningfully advance economic, social and/or political integration. This article uses a constructivist perspective and posits that India's foreign and security policy norms and ideas (termed India's 'cognitive prior') have been instrumental in determining the weak institutional design and limited functional scope of all four organisations, allowing only a restricted degree of actual regional cooperation to emerge. The article in particular argues that the organisations have been used in the frame of India's policy of 'competing regionalism'. All four organisations overlap in membership and sectors of cooperation. With the founding of each new organisation, India neglected the other organisation(s) and instead shifted its focus and resources towards the newer one. However, even competing regionalism has not resulted in improved regional cooperation in South Asia and neighbouring regions. At present, novel regional integration initiatives that purport to strengthen these organisations by the new Indian leadership under Prime Minister Narendra Modi remain elusive.(original abstract)
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