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Day 88 – Q 2.How is India protecting her economic and strategic interest in an era of emerging subregionalism

2. How is India protecting her economic and strategic interest in an era of emerging subregionalism. 

भारत किस तरह उभरते हुए उपवर्गवाद के युग में अपने आर्थिक और सामरिक हित की रक्षा कर रहा है।


India is today a member of several trans-regional, regional and sub-regional groupings. On the one hand, India today sees global and regional multilateral mechanisms as platforms to engage with the outside world to meet the expectations from a rising power. On the other hand, India needs global and regional multilateral organisations to meet its own rising aspirations.


  • The paradox of India’s rise is that while there is a clear positive trend in its role in global governance, regional governance remains locked in geopolitics. South Asia is a region where despite the existence of a pan-South Asian organisation SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) for over three decades, it is yet to implement a single all SAARC project.
  • At the same time, there has been a rise of global sub regional groupings coupled with slowdown in world economic growth rate which are making things challenging for India in this growing trend towards de-globalisation.
  • ‘Regional cooperation’, is a term coined not too long ago to denote joint action and interaction by geographically contiguous countries with common cultural identities to address complex goals such as reducing poverty, promoting peace and security and achieving sustainable development. 
  • Consequently, Sub Regionalism might simply be the right size and level of economic governance as states lose power ‘upwards’ to the ‘super-region’, and ‘downwards’ to the global economy.
  • Growth triangles and similar forms of sub-regional economic zones are usually constructed around partnerships between private actors and a range of public actors at both national and sub-national levels. Some of the most well-known cases include (1) the Indonesia–Malaysia–Singapore Growth Triangle (IMS-GT); (2) the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT).
  • On the one hand, India is building South Asia regionalism through a “bottom-up” approach with innovative ideas such as sub-regionalism. Given its centrality in South Asia, there is a considered opinion that regionalism cannot grow without India’s active support.
  • The first ‘collaborative sub-regionalism’ was experimented with South Asia Growth Quadrangle (SAGQ) in 1997 involving four SAARC nations (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal) with the aim to enhance ‘regional solidarity and promoting overall development within SAARC’ with an emphasis on project-based development.
  • In 2000, the South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) programme in the SAGQ was launched with assistance from Asian Development Bank (ADB) with six priority sectors that included transport, energy and power, tourism, environment, trade,  investment, and private sector cooperation, and information and communication technology.
  • India further pushed its eastward drive when it set up another sub-regional grouping with the mainland Southeast Asian nations. In 2000, India along with five of the Mekong nations (Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam) established the Mekong–Ganga Cooperation (MGC). 
  • The MGC emphasised cooperation in the field of tourism, culture, education, and transportation linkages. In the same year, India and South Africa together launched the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) along with Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Yemen, Tanzania, Madagascar and Mozambique.
  • BIMSTEC is another sub regional grouping which is being propounded as a counter to SAARC by India to safeguard its interests in eastern south asia. Further, it would help in overcoming the impasse due to Pakistan in south asian collaboration.
  • At the sub-regional level, the government further strengthened groupings such as the BIMSTEC, the SESEC/BBIN and the MGC as part of the Act East policy with the aim to accelerate the integration process in the region. For instance, India pledged to contribute 32 per cent of the annual expenditure on BIMSTEC’s permanent secretariat in Dhaka. 
  • Government’s vision of the Indian Ocean region was outlined in 2015 in the acronym SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region). Further, India has ambitions of strengthening subregional mechanisms for maritime cooperation and sought the involvement of ‘Mauritius, Seychelles and other nations in the region’ to join the India-Sri Lanka-Maldives trilateral initiative. 


Thus it can be seen that to tackle the emerging subregional challenges India is increasingly taking the lead to improve sub regional governance in key areas including socio-economic development, maritime, energy, water, cyber, space and security. India’s various capacity-building efforts in South Asia, the Mekong region, and in the island nations of the Indian Ocean contributes to good sub regional governance.

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