Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 05/2014

Economic Integration between South Asia and East Asia: A Perception Survey of Asian Opinion Leaders

Pradumna B. Rana, Wai-Mun Chia

April 2014

S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies


Economic integration, which was deepening among the East Asian countries, is now broadening to cover the South Asian region as well. While we are starting to witness the emergence of Pan-Asian integration, a few distinct and yet related questions arise. What are the benefits and costs of South Asia and East Asia (SA-EA) integration? What are the respective roles of market-led vs. regional cooperation policies? Could the integration of the two be an example of “open” regionalism? What are the policies that South Asian countries should adopt under their “Look East” polices to link themselves to production networks in East Asia? What is the role of infrastructure and connectivity? What are the factors that have led to the revival of land connectivity or old South-western Silk Road in Asia? Should efforts to promote ASEAN-India connectivity be supported? Should the membership of East Asian institutions be expanded to cover South Asian countries at an appropriate level? In particular, should India be invited to join the various ASEAN+3 initiatives? Should South Asian countries (other than India) be invited to join the negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)? Can the integration of the two regions re-invigorate economic integration in South Asia? This paper assesses the views of South Asian and East Asian opinion leaders through a perception survey conducted in 2013. 390 respondents from academia, business, and various government offices participated in the survey. In general, the opinion leaders in both regions generally feel positive about the integration of the two regions and they feel that it could revive economic integration in South Asia. They also feel that South Asian countries should be given a role in various East Asian initiatives.