Roundtable Meeting on 'Future of Regional Connectivity in South Asia'
India International Centre, New Delhi on Monday, 29 April, 2019
A much repeated statement about South Asia is that it is one of the least integrated and connected regions of the world. Intra-regional trade hovers around five percent of the total trade of South Asian countries. This lack of connectivity and integration has long been accepted as one of the biggest contributors to the sub-optimal utilization of the region?s economic potential and hence gains for all the countries.
Some of the major constraints leading to lower trade and competitiveness are problems related to logistics, inefficient procedures for trade documentation and clearance, lack of cross-border transport and transit agreement and infrastructure, lack of unanimously acceptable platforms to work out common agenda on shared concerns on areas of security, stability and strategic issues and also major lack of capacity, resources and institutions to move towards a coherent economic, ecological and strategic cooperation between countries in the region.
However, of late, there have been many positive developments, including the emergence of the BBIN sub-regional grouping, increasing political and strategic capital of the BIMSTEC grouping, and a high point in terms of India-Bangladesh relationships with frequent and very fruitful visits by the heads of the states in the respective countries shoring up much hope on cooperation riding on high political will at the top level. Aided by this, there has been general progress in bilateral, and to an extent multilateral, cooperation in the region. This is a promising shift from recent years when the regional cooperation agenda was exceedingly slow moving.
Also, recent and ongoing initiatives in the region and in the immediate neighborhood, particularly those with strategic and geo-political implications, have prompted action by countries of the region and also those countries that are invested in a more connected South Asia. This includes the U.S. activities to increase regional economic connectivity, Japan?s engagement with Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal Industrial Growth Belt (Big B) initiative, the recently launched Asia-Africa Growth Corridor by Japan and India, and so on. All of these developments are also due to increasing political capital from India behind enhancing cooperation in the Bay of Bengal region and the South Asia sub-region comprised of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, which has gained much strategic, political and economic traction in the recent times. The time is ripe for focused interventions to leverage this enabling climate to push for greater connectivity in the South Asia sub-region.
CUTS International in collaboration with - The East-West Center (EWC) and Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) - have been engaged concerning these paradigm shifts and developments through evidence based policy advocacy on pertinent issues and by bringing key players together to help find solutions to common
problems based on shared concerns and aspirations.
Over the last couple of years the consortium partners have been engaging in the trade, connectivity, political-economy and investment space at various levels in the sub-region to push for greater cooperation, policy coherence and coming together of countries in the sub region to find collective solutions to shared issues.
With this backdrop, the consortium wishes to organize this South Asia Connectivity Conference to provide a further push to the agenda of regional cooperation and connectivity that they have been already pursuing.
More details about the conference can be accessed here: http://www.cutscitee. org/sarcc/index.htm
Goal of the conference: To bring together key interlocutors to discuss challenges and solutions to economic, investment, and security issues relevant to South Asia and the United States.
Objectives of the conference:
1) Create a multi-discipline, multi-country platform for policy discussions and exchange among key stakeholders (public and private) on South Asia connectivity, which will culminate with a two-day conference that will come out with concrete policy recommendations, suggestions and directions. This will include government officials, security officials, academics, scientists, research scholars and students of international relations, political science, business and security studies from regional universities, think-tank leaders, business associations, and representatives from the diplomatic corps from South Asia, United States, and other countries invested in promoting greater connectivity in South Asia.
2) Connect policy-makers, the private sector, trade and investment promotion bodies including business associations, international experts, think tanks, media and other relevant stakeholders of the South Asia region, the United States of America and countries such as Australia, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore and South Korea, that are invested in greater connectivity in South Asia towards leveraging existing and possible partnerships and collaborations to promote greater connectivity and advance new policy.
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