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  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: October 2011

9 - SAARC and the Evolving Asian Regionalism


The Asia-Pacific region lacks a continent-wide regional association and an overarching regional framework is yet to evolve in the region. Currently there are several dialogue forums and conclaves which, among other things, discuss the desirability of an integrated region. This is usually expressed in terms of an emerging Asian community. The phrase ‘evolving Asian regionalism’ therefore should be defined in line with the community-building effort that is underway in the region. The countries from East Asia, Southeast Asia and some from South Asia meet regularly and propose measures that will foster closer regional integration and lead towards an Asian regional community. External powers with a strong interest in regional affairs are also part of such conclaves. Some of these forums are anchored and driven by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Prominent among them are the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), ASEAN+3 (APT), Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), Shangri-La Dialogue, and East Asia Summit (EAS). They hold wide ranging discussions on strategic, economic, environmental and non-traditional cross border security issues such as human trafficking, terrorism and pandemics. The participating states are aware that such cross border threats can only be tackled through collective action which is propelling Asian countries to coordinate their activities more closely. Economic interdependence is a fairly evident phenomenon triggering the need for greater coordination of policies. It is believed that the 1997/1998 regional economic meltdown was a turning point that ‘underscored Asia's integration and shared interests and exposed the weaknesses in the global policy architecture.

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