Model Answers to PYQs (2018-2023)
1] What are the reasons for lack of ‘regionness’ in South-Asia? [2023/10m/150w/5b]
It doesn’t take an outsider to understand the lack of “regionness” in South Asia. This can be attributed to several historical, political, social, and economic factors. While South Asia has made efforts to enhance regional cooperation, various challenges have hindered the development of a strong regional identity and integration.
The first is that South Asia is an Indo-centric region. This means that India is central to it geographically and in terms of the socio-cultural and economic infrastructure of the region. The countries of the region have a common border with India. They are also related to India separately and individually in terms of their cultural identities, economic patterns, philosophical trends, and historical experience. Conversely there is a bit of India in every other country of South Asia.
The asymmetry between India and other member countries in terms of geography, economy, military strength and influence in the global arena make the smaller countries apprehensive. In terms of size, population, resource base, potential for economic growth, military strength, and viability of the constitutional and political system, India is far too superior to any of its neighbours.
According to SD Muni, the above two characteristics of the region together make South Asia an India-centred and India-dominated region. The disparity in power between India and its neighbours has certainly generated legitimate and understandable apprehensions in the latter.
Moreover, conflict and tensions arise in South Asia also because of the different paths and strategies adopted by the various South Asian states for their social, economic, and political development. The colonial legacies provided the background to the adoption of such diverse paths and strategies. There were asymmetric, fragmented, and underdeveloped state and nation structures created and nurtured during colonial rule.
Regionalism is an evolutionary process. The dynamics of this process is constituted by the needs and aspirations of the region itself. The nature and direction of regional co-operation would be defined by the interaction between the the socio- economic infrastructure of the subcontinent, including the roots of conflict and the sources of co-operation. [337 words]
2] Why do ethnic conflicts and insurgencies continue to remain a major impediment to regional cooperation in South-Asia? [2023/10m/150w/5d]
Ethnic conflicts and insurgencies persist as a major impediment to regional cooperation in South Asia for several interrelated reasons.
Many ethnic conflicts in South Asia have deep historical roots, often related to issues of marginalization, discrimination, and unresolved grievances from the past. These historical grievances continue to drive movements for autonomy or independence, leading to conflicts that hinder regional cooperation.
Territorial disputes, often along ethnic or religious lines, contribute to conflicts within and between South Asian countries. These disputes can make regional cooperation challenging, as countries may prioritize their territorial claims over cooperation. The issue if further exacerbated by politicians, who exploit ethnic and religious identities for electoral gain, making it difficult to find common ground for cooperation.
Urmila Phadnis’ work demonstrates that the dialectical interaction between homogenising state nationalism(s) on the one hand, and the various forms of sub-nationalism that resist cultural assimilation from above, on the other, play a role in the conflicts.
Moreover, economic disparities and unequal distribution of resources also fuel ethnic conflicts. Groups marginalized in terms of economic opportunities may seek to address their grievances through violent means, making cooperation challenging. Finally, the absence of effective mechanisms for conflict resolution and reconciliation can hinder the peaceful settlement of ethnic disputes.
Addressing ethnic conflicts and insurgencies in South Asia requires a multifaceted approach that involves conflict resolution, addressing root causes, inclusive governance, and regional cooperation. [229 words]
3] Discuss the ways and means to realise greater economic co-operation among the Member States of South Asia. [2022/10m/150w/5b]
There is now a broad consensus that openness to trade, coupled with improved infrastructure, must be a key component of policies to accelerate economic growth in South Asia.
To achieve greater cooperation in South Asia, a lot needs to be done. To begin with, multiple legal and policy reforms should be carried out i.e. implementation of effective border crossing and transport services; effective agreement on trade and transit treaties between participating countries in the context of the SAARC, SASEC, BIMSTEC; establishment of a facility to encourage investments in small and medium enterprise exporters and to improve their market access; and promotion of human resource development, better education, and appropriate technology transfer. In addition to the soft infrastructure, South Asian countries need to work on connectivity and infrastructural development like roads, rail and communication.
It is also important to de-couple political foreign policy and, economic and trade policy. In the case of India and Pakistan, Pakistan especially suffers loss as it reacts to political developments by cutting off economic trade. South Asian borders are generally porous, and people from neighbouring countries usually migrate to India for work, hence, India along with its neighbours should develop a migration policy.
Closer and properly planned bilateral cooperation among countries will strengthen the regional cooperation and integration process (e.g., SAARC and BIMSTEC) and help ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of their activities.
To maximize the benefits in terms of faster growth and poverty reduction, the South Asian region needs to strengthen regional and bilateral cooperation in several areas, together with ambitious structural reforms to entrench macroeconomic stability and ensure an attractive and conducive environment for investment. [271 words]
4] Why South Asia is considered as the world’s politically and economically least integrated region? Explain. [2021/20m/250w/7a]
South Asia’s history is marked by a legacy of colonial rule and post-colonial divisions, subsequent conflicts and historical animosities and unresolved territorial issues. All of this have hindered trust and cooperation among South Asian nations, and in turn, affected their collective progress.
South Asia is characterized by geopolitical rivalries and power struggles among its major players, primarily India and Pakistan. The enduring conflict, including issues related to territorial disputes, terrorism, and divergent strategic interests, has impeded regional integration efforts.
South Asia comprises a diverse set of countries with varying political systems, priorities, and levels of development. Disparities in economic size, population, and resource endowments also create asymmetrical power dynamics, making it challenging to achieve consensus and cooperation.
The region faces security challenges, including terrorism, insurgency, and cross-border tensions. These security concerns have limited the willingness of countries to deepen regional integration due to fears of compromising their own security and sovereignty. This has hindered the development of robust mechanisms for cooperation, including intelligence sharing, joint counter-terrorism efforts, and border management.
Inadequate physical infrastructure, including transportation networks, power grids, and logistical facilities, inhibits the efficient movement of goods, services, and people within the region. Limited connectivity hampers trade, investment, and regional cooperation impeding efforts towards greater economic integration.
While one may hope that the regional organization will solve issues, the existing regional organization, SAARC, faces challenges in effectively addressing regional issues due to political differences and limited decision-making powers, creating a deadlock for the countries involved.
Addressing these challenges requires political will, dialogue, and concerted efforts towards confidence-building measures, conflict resolution, and regional economic integration. The onus invariably falls on India since it has loud claims like the fastest growing large economy, largest democracy, peace-loving society etc. to its merit. [289 words]
5] Outline the reasons of low volume of trade in the SAARC region. [2020/10m/150w/5b]
While South Asia’s total trade volume has been increasing for the past ten years, intra-regional trade still remains low. In one of the analyses, World Bank concludes that SAFTA member countries have tended to trade far more extensively with industrial economies like the United States and the European Union, due perhaps to differences in factor endowments.
The pace of tariff reforms under the existing South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) has been very slow and overshadowed by fragmented bilateral agreements within the region as well as outside of the region.
Further, for trade facilitation to spur regional cooperation and inclusive growth, the following significant constraints should be addressed: (1) high tariff walls; (2) inefficiencies in ports operation and logistics performance; (3) inefficient custom and regulatory environment, and land or crossborder procedures; and (4) unresolved regional and internal political conflicts and strife.
Additionally, the lack of competitiveness in sectors like manufacturing, infrastructure bottlenecks, residual bureaucratic impediments to private sector development, and macroeconomic imbalances are some other constraints that affect the development of trade in these economies.
Eliminating high tariff walls and non-tariff barriers, simplifying customs and border requirements and improving the trade-related infrastructure will facilitate greater trade and interaction among countries of the region, which in turn will enable the region to realize the potential benefits of intra-regional as well as inter-regional trade. [222 words]
The post contains answers to the last 6-year papers i.e. (2023-2018). Answers to the previous year questions from 2013-2017 are a part of our book PSIR Optional Model Answers to PYQs (2013-2022)