SAARC – Time To Change
This paper examines SAARC’s performance and failures as a regional cooperation forum, since its establishment with the signing of the SAARC Charter in Dhaka on 8 December 1985. First, it briefly reviews the recent geopolitical situation in South Asia. Against the backdrop of the evolving geopolitical situation, the paper reviews South Asian integration in a nutshell. It then examines the progress and failures of SAARC as a regional forum in four key areas of regional cooperation and integration: trade, money and finance, and people-to-people contacts. From the available empirical evidence, the paper deciphers that regional integration under SAARC has progressed at a far lower momentum than what was expected at the time of its formation. Progress in regional cooperation under SAARC also compares poorly with similar regional forums in both Europe and Southeast Asia. Against this backdrop, this paper synthesizes the existing studies on SAARC, and comes up with ambitious yet pragmatic policy options for fast-tracking the forum’s economic integration.
Keywords:SAARC, Regional Cooperation, Regional Integration, South Asia
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