Thursday, September 23, 2010

A region of strife and promise

Regional cooperation is an age-old means for countries to seek improved security and economic prospects. South Asian countries have been hesitant to adopt it as a desideratum of foreign policy, due to ingrained differences among the nation-states of the subcontinent, particularly the recurrent conflict syndrome afflicting India and Pakistan. Countries in South-East Asia, Europe and the Americas have successfully banded together. Viewed in this context, the disappointing performance of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is a reproach to its eight members.

But, lately, this region is gaining more attention globally, partly because of the rapid expansion of the Indian economy since 1991 and partly because Pakistan has become a base for terrorist forays eastward and westward. The challenge of statesmanship for South Asian countries is to overcome the negative factors and build on the positive.

The two books under review contain monographs on the South Asian region. State and Foreign Policy in South Asia comes from Heidelberg University in the series devoted to the study of “comparative politics”. One problem with such seminar papers on contemporary developments is that they tend to become dated, except for rare seminal contributions. The internet serves as a far superior medium for tracking changes in international relations. For instance, the paper on “the new dynamics of Indian foreign policy and its ambiguities,” by Subrata Mitra and Jivanta Schottli, discusses India's “ambivalent” anti-terrorism drive, but is not updated to cover the Pakistani-planned terror attacks in Mumbai in November 2008 (“26/11”).

Full report here Hindu

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