Building Bridges – A New Book on South Asia

A recently launched publication titled, “Building Bridges: Strengthening Physical, Emotional and Economic Linkages in South Asia” is an interesting collection of essays on various aspects of connectivity in the South Asian region. The publication deals with the region can collectively overcome challenges faced in individual South Asian economies through regional connectivity and cooperation – an area that will very much be the focus of the 6th South Asia Economic Summit set for September this year.

Member of the 6th SAES Team, IPS Research Officer Ashani Abayasekara, takes a brief look at what the publication had to offer.

Overall, the book explores regional connectivity across the pillars of physical, economic and emotional.

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The first chapter on economic connectivity highlights the low levels of trade, transport and ICT connectivity in the region. Trade and transport facilitation is identified as a vital requirement in reducing high trade costs that continue to impede connectivity. Recognizing this need, this year’s SAES has devoted a session to discuss ways of addressing the threat posed by the proliferation of NTBs and weaknesses in trade facilitation. The chapter argues that while the natural market integration process – led by the high growth of India – can provide an impetus in strengthening economic connectivity, the challenges in the region cannot be met by relying on market processes alone; countries will also have to work together effectively led by a strong institutional framework. In this context, the chapter calls for a revamping of SAARC’s institutional structure.

The second chapter focuses on education as a tool in building peace and enhancing connectivity within the region and critically examines the effectiveness of the South Asian University (SAU) in this regard. The author stresses the need for more active promotion of collaborative and joint study projects through the SAU – via online tools such as libraries and archives – to build genuine connectivity.

Subsequent chapters explore tourism as a strategy to bring South Asia together by highlighting the potential for the region to emerge as a tourist hub. An interesting idea put forward is the proposition of a regional visa regime in South Asia following the Schengen model in Europe. Three specific recommendations are put forward: (1) developing a ‘no-visa regime’ at the subregional level; (2) standardization of passports; and (3) establishing a common security regime. A flexible visa scheme is also an essential component of liberalizing labour and migration policy to facilitate labour migration – another theme to be discussed at the SAES.

The volume is published by the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) in New Delhi, India. The full reference of the publication is – Chandran, D. Suba (ed.), 2013, Building Bridges: Strengthening Physical, Emotional and Economic Linkages in South Asia, New Delhi: Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.

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