Con­nec­tiv­ity in South Asia

India Strategic - - APPOINTMENTS - By

NNilova Roy Chaud­hury

EW DELHI. There are var­i­ous facets of con­nec­tiv­ity—phys­i­cal, so­cio­cul­tural, po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic. Most of South Asia (In­dia, Pak­istan and Bangladesh) was his­tor­i­cally part of one en­tity, with mul­ti­ple lev­els of con­nec­tiv­ity.

South Asia has emerged as one of the fastest­grow­ing re­gions in the world and is ex­pected to play a dy­namic role in shap­ing the ‘Asian Cen­tury’. The re­gion has the world’s largest young work­ing pop­u­la­tion and a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of mid­dle-class con­sumers.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent World Bank South Asia Eco­nomic Fo­cus, South Asia’s eco­nomic growth is fore­casted to grad­u­ally ac­cel­er­ate from 7.1 per cent in 2016 to 7.3 per cent in 2017. It is likely to reach 7.4 per cent in 2018 and 7.5 per cent in 2019. It is es­ti­mated that South Asia needs to gen­er­ate em­ploy­ment for more than 12 mil­lion peo­ple of work­ing age every year.

For this to hap­pen, coun­tries of the re­gion recog­nise the need to im­prove the state of con­nec­tiv­ity both within their bor­ders and with neigh­bour­ing coun­tries.

Among the pri­mary ob­jec­tives of the South Asian As­so­ci­a­tion for Re­gional Co­op­er­a­tion (SAARC) when it was founded in 1985 was to fo­cus on phys­i­cal con­nec­tiv­ity—build­ing trans­port in­fra­struc­ture and tran­sit fa­cil­i­ties to en­able trans-South Asian road and rail con­nec­tiv­ity and, sub­se­quently, trade.

In­dia’s ‘Neigh­bour­hood First’ pol­icy, which pri­ori­tises re­gional co­op­er­a­tion, con­nec­tiv­ity and peo­ple-topeo­ple con­tacts, is based on the prin­ci­ple of col­lec­tive ef­forts and in­clu­sive growth in the en­tire SAARC re­gion.

Con­nec­tiv­ity is also a critical com­po­nent of In­dia’s ‘Look East’ and now ‘Act East’ pol­icy. In­dia’s northeast is the hub of this pol­icy, from which link­ages would spread through Bangladesh and be­yond, south­east­wards.

The In­sti­tute of De­fence Stud­ies and Analy­ses (IDSA), a premier think tank, or­gan­ised a South Asia con­fer­ence at the end of March on ‘Strength­en­ing Con­nec­tiv­ity in South Asia.’.

The view among a ma­jor­ity of speak­ers from In­dia and across the re­gion was that greater con­nec­tiv­ity, if im­ple­mented ef­fi­ciently, with proper in­vest­ment in tech­nol­ogy to gen­er­ate and man­age data about the move­ment of peo­ple and goods, would ease rather than in­crease any con­cerns of se­cu­rity man­agers.

The con­fer­ence fore­grounded is­sues that re­quire greater at­ten­tion, in­clud­ing se­quenc­ing, financing and mea­sur­ing of con­nec­tiv­ity ef­forts in South Asia.

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