Relevance of Regional Integration

Categories: Economics

The increasing importance being allotted to concepts of cooperation, interdependence, consensual approach and regionalism have, thus, become a marked feature of post- cold war theoretical literature on international relations. Regionalism, it has been argued, may positively contribute to:

  • Regionalism in the 1990s has encouraged local states to play a greater role in their regional security as international security in the post- Cold War era has been decentralized.
  • Regional organizations can promote more effective agreements between states because of common interests, geographical proximity and local political pressure.

  • Regional agreements have encouraged states to offer mutual support in the face of nationalist and ethnic conflict within a particular state or region. There would also be an added incentive to find local solutions because of common economic, political and cultural experiences.
  • Regional organizations have been perceived as a mechanism for avoiding Southern marginalization in world politics as they can strengthen connections with the North and contribute to greater independence and self- sufficiency in the global political economy.

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  • Regional organizations can help to accommodate minorities and stateless peoples.[footnoteRef:1] [1: Klaus Dodds (2000),”Geo- politics in a changing World”, Pearson Education Limited, Prentice Hall, UK, pp. 22-23.]

Regionalism, on one hand, opposes globalization by forming specific blocs. On the other hand, however, regionalism unlike nationalist fragmentation represents a degree of multilateralism and integration. Regionalism, according to most scholars could both foster as well as hinder globalization. Recent studies have concluded that contemporary regionalism, especially which involve economic cooperation, fosters and facilitates globalization rather than hindering the process.

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But it helps the member countries by integrating their mutual efforts, to face the challenges posed by the globalized world economy in a better manner. Contemporary regionalism, thus, has been defined as ‘Open Regionalism’, which is compatible with policies pursued by the global economic organizations. For the purpose of this work, the characterization of contemporary regionalism as ‘open Regionalism’, which is compatible with policies pursued y the global organizations and also helping the member countries by integrating their mutual efforts to face the challenges posed by an increasingly globalized world economy in a better manner, is being accepted. Regional economic cooperation has further significance for the South as it still remains in need of humanitarian aid and help. The post- Cold War world has also witnessed significant shifts and reorientation in traditional patterns of humanitarian aid concomitant to strategic shifts and alternative policy paradigms being adopted by the North.

The global changes, for reaching, as outlined above have also affected the countries belonging to the South Asian region. The major countries of the region initiated structural adjustment policies (SAPs) in the late 1980s and from early 1990s, under the directive of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). The Process involved structural changes, reorganization of production, shifting of emphasis from the state to the market and closer interaction between the national and the global economy. The adoption of SAP, however, has not been a case of unmixed blessings. Moreover, large sections of the already impoverished population have found themselves most often, at the receiving end of such policies. Thus, in spite of experiencing certain rise in economic growth, South Asia remains one of world’s most underdeveloped regions. Ensuring sustainable growth in South Asia, coupled with efforts involved to integrate regional economies within the emerging global economy, would require resource mobilization to an extent which is currently and would increasingly prove to be an uphill task for any single South Asian country, including India. Regional cooperation, both on a bilateral as well as, on an institutional basis in the region thus could prove to be crucial for the region to enter the ‘take off’ stage in future, particularly when other options and sources are steadily narrowing down.

Challenges of Regional Integration

The countries of South Asia possess meager knowledge about each other’s economy. There is negligible interaction among the business and industrial circles of these countries. This has proved to be a major obstacle in their coming closer to each other. There was also lack of transport facilities, including road, rail and sea- communication in the early periods of development. There was also shortage of foreign exchange reserves among South Asian countries leading to reluctance to buy goods from other countries of the region. Lastly, lack of political will among the member countries to boost intra- regional trade has been the single most important factor for low level of trade relations in the region. The above factors have hindered the development of South Asia as a viable unit.

The South Asian region has the distinction of possessing unity versus diversity. While geography, economy, religion, race, caste and language help in holding South Asia as a unified region, there are also factors, which have created divergence in the region and led to serious political and strategic differences, such as colonial legacies, economic divergences and political issues which are mainly responsible for keeping South Asia as a region of low profile.

Progress in Regional cooperation and Integration

Regional Cooperation has been a conspicuous trend in world politics since the end of the Second World War. It has been considered a useful strategy for accelerating socio- economic development and safeguarding security concerns. Comprising seven countries of the region namely Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand possess a great deal of potential for mutual cooperation had its inception in 1981 and in 1985 it developed into a full- fledged forum called the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).

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Relevance of Regional Integration. (2021, Aug 16). Retrieved from

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