Enlightened Regionalism : Understanding the South Asia

Enlightened Regionalism can genuinely help in reducing the level of inter-state rivalries in South Asia and enhance the peace dividend.
Enlightened Regionalism : Understanding the South Asia

The book talks about enlightened regionalism? What do you mean by this?

Thanks for allowing me to share the insights of my book with the general public, policy community and more importantly with the students. The book is written in the framework of "Enlightened Regionalism" which surely is connected to the principle of "Enlightened sovereignty". This type of sovereignty can allow us to think about a new social contract in our region of south Asia so as to empower margins and accommodate legitimate autonomy urges of peripheral categories of population. This can become an easy task only if governments, states, political parties, civil society groups etc will promote the cause of enlightened regionalism. In Enlightened Regionalism focus shifts  from state to people, from hard power to soft power, from SAARC to South Asia and from state security to human security. The student and faculty exchange programmes, free trade and more and more people to people contact can be catalysts in promoting the cause of Enlightened  Regionalism.

Can enlightened regionalism trump the evolving regional geo-politics which seems to have created a cold war style divide in South Asia

Enlightened Regionalism can genuinely help in reducing the level of inter-state rivalries in South Asia and enhance the peace dividend. South Asia today is the most difficult region. There are many dangers within South Asia and in each country of the region which can destroy harmony and progress of the people. Tyranny of the majority is the very real danger in all countries. There is what a writer calls the 'danger of a single story'. It is not the pain and the wounds that are the worst .The worst is the humiliation. Many communities and groups suffer daily humiliation. These also suffer daily corruption of violence. We live in white and black times .It is better to be safe than sorry. We ought to have the art of long view .We are increasingly becoming future-blind. There are many suppressed histories in India and Pakistan .It unfortunately binds us to past than it liberates the future. The other danger is use of nuclear weapons.Dr Henry Kissinger was of the opinion that nuclear weapons could be used in India-Pakistan war. In 2002 both India and Pakistan concluded that a war would entail unacceptable costs. This led to revival of peace process.

India, Pakistan rivalry has hobbled SAARC. Do you see any hope for the regional  grouping in near future. As the book rightly underlines that while South Asians tend to instinctively recognise and connect with each other as South Asians, but the idea of South Asia does not come naturally to people of the region.

There is no doubt that India /Pakistan rivalry has dented the SAARC regional arrangement. In fact SAARC  since its inception couldn't  develop regional or international impact and now after postponement of 19th summit in Pakistan it has got in a cold store. Former Indian National security advisor Shiv Shankar Menon advised his country's policy community to learn to know how to deal with different power centers in Pakistan. The Pakistan policy community will also have to learn how to deal with "hyper-arbitrary Indian state" driven by Hindutva nationalism. Further SAARC can fail or countries within can move to other regional groupings but what will happen to the common people who share same culture, food and festivals? The concept of Enlightened Regionalism encourages us to move beyond nation-state but not ignoring it. In south Asia religious places are located in one country but the devotees are in another country. Religious tourism has potential as a form of soft power. We cannot ignore the way cricket diplomacy created a peace constituency. There are influential foreign policy experts who have advocated the use of creative diplomacy in bilateral India/Pakistan relations.India,s dream of a major power can be realized within the South Asian region and not outside it. The solution to different problems lies in the realm of politics and not security. It gives me lot of pleasure that many contributors to the book have recommended how peace dividend can be enhanced in the region. 

The book also talks about how despite their numerical  dominance  in J&K,   'Kashmiris' and 'Muslims' in the larger context of Indian state are marginalized. 

  Pluralism whether constitutional or cultural means to be respectful of differences. It is to stress that we can live together. Tolerance amounts to superiority. The issue is rightful placement of your political/cultural identity. Art 370 was an agency for constructing a composite identity of Jammu and Kashmir state. Had Indian state been respectful of its original bargain separatism in South Asia could have been politically accommodated. India could have given a model of conflict resolution to the world. Eminent federal expert John MC Garry comments that contrary to fears of integrationists there is little evidence in the 20th century or 21th century that asymmetrical federal arrangements lead to secessionism. Federalism is a necessary condition for protection of territorially specific diversities. Having two or more identities is not subversive to the nation. In retrospect, the separation of Bangladesh from Pakistan could have been averted had latter recognized the dual identity of the people of East Pakistan. Amratya Sen rightly says that state cannot survive through enforced identity. A perfect citizen according to him is one having multiple identities. Insecurity among different groups in South Asia  takes three routes-drug addiction, religosity  and politics of nihilism.

The book stresses the potential of the growing India-Pakistan trade for peace in South Asia. 

  The great English philosopher JS Mill had argued that commerce was rapidly rendering war obsolete, by strengthening and multiplying the personal interests which would be in natural opposition to war. Former Indian foreign minister K Natwar Singh opines that economic integration and people to people contact can lead to satisfactory solution of political problems. South Asia ranks lowest in terms of trading across the borders. If India and Pakistan will allow trade and commerce to drive their relationship it will create substantially new peace actors and that would also mean that not resolving disputes will raise the costs for the countries. In both countries border states over a period of time have demonstrated their eagerness to trade with their ethnic counterparts across the border. This should help in federalizing the foreign policies of South Asian countries. At a conference in Lahore University of Management Sciences noted Pakistani economist Ijaz Nabi told me that three principal regions of modern day Pakistan-Peshawar, Lahore and Upper Sind were connectors of the lands to East India and as such became centers of trade, commerce and culture. These were the growth nodes that brought prosperity to their surrounding regions. The liberal constituency should awaken to dangers posed by populist demagogues. Rising nationalism leads to narrow conception of national interest and more transactional approach to negotiations.

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