ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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SAARC: The Political Challenge for South Asia and Beyond

This article deals with the overtly unspoken political role of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. It elucidates, first, how saarc has bridged its institutional endowment-deficit as an apolitical organisation with the complex reality of the region - that is, the many ways regional cooperation has tackled political issues in the subcontinent. One of the hypotheses developed here is that either occurring on the side or even in opposition to the association's formal workings, the informal and quasi-official political dimension of the organisation is in fact essential to its functioning. A second one is that beyond serving as a political platform for traditional diplomacy, it is offering south Asian leaders and people a new understanding of the region and its politics. Finally, this paper argues that on the basis of sound empirical evidence and the shortcomings of the theoretical frameworks embraced to date, saarc cannot be dismissed as being only an "empty forum".

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