ABSTRACT

The emphasis on state, identity, and borders has been dominant in the South Asian context, as the shared colonial past especially in what is today India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh has given way in the post-colonial time to new political identities posing its own set of challenges. Political developments in the immediate aftermath of decolonization have a lasting impact on the region. Although history connects the people, the contemporary political history emphasizes divisions and the discourse has privileged identity as a marker of distinction between the eight states of South Asia. Political history and a strong identity-building, defined by borders, has been an impediment in a region that prefers to define itself in terms of sovereignty. South Asia as a geopolitical unit is located in a larger geographical space interconnected to other regions. In three decades, regional cooperation and integration has grown in fits and starts, leading to the search for other regional or sub-regional formats. The impact of globalization and the connectivity factor has also contributed to the sub regional formats being pushed forward by many states. In this context the construction of the regionalism or regional identity through the process of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) that came into being in 1985 has been weak and unable to transcend traditional sovereignty issues. The huge trust deficit among the states has reduced the capacity for cooperation between the countries. In the three decades of its existence, SAARC has been unable to deliver a strong regional platform largely due to the bilateral rivalry between India and Pakistan. In this context, the chapter: 1) examines the impact of decolonization in South Asian and creation of national identity-building; 2) throws light on the relations between the states; 3) examines the state of regional cooperation—SAARC; and 4) analyzes the other form of regionalism that is slowly taking shape.