Regional Economic Integration in South Asia: Prospects and Challenges

Abstract: Realizing its importance, the South Asian region has also embarked upon various processes of regional economic integration. However, the South Asian regional integration process is fraught with difficulties, especially due to a lack of understanding about the very economics of regional economic integration. Thus, this paper dwells upon some of the conceptual issues pertaining to regional economic cooperation in general and specific to the South Asian region. It also documents the progress made in SAARC, the SAFTA trade liberalization and associated mechanisms alongside the nature of safeguards provided for. In this respect, developmental perspectives of safeguards are put forth. Some fresh insights on the status of SAARC trade integration process in a dynamic setting are also brought out. The paper also highlights the potentials for deeper economic integration in the region. The paper further illustrates some of the areas wherein project-based cooperation is feasible in the region. Finally, the paper makes an objective assessment of the regional integration process and identifies certain policy-induced and structural constraints that have important policy-implications.