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Geo Economic and Strategic Competition in South Asia

The Institute of National Security Studies Sri Lanka (INSSSL) held a public lecture under the theme of “Geo Economic and Strategic Competition in South Asia”. The event was held on the 19th February 2020, at the INSSSL conference room. The guest speaker for the event was Dr. Nanda Kishor, Assistant Professor in the Department of Geopolitics and International Relations at Manipal Academy of Higher Education, India. The Director General, Admiral (Prof.) Jayanath Colombage did the welcome speech and invited the guest speaker, Dr. Nanda Kishor for his presentation.

The first point that Dr. Kishor made was that South Asia as a region is not well integrated and that countries in the region are always thinking about the issues they have has had in the past and trying to find answers to those rather than focus on the present and the future. He also mentioned that countries in South Asia are reaching out to extra regional powers to sort out issues that could have been sorted out within the region itself. Dr. Kishor mentioned that Harold Mackinder had mentioned that statesmen understand the value of geopolitics and economics as they think about the generations ahead whereas the politicians don’t as they only think of the next election.

In international relations we see balance of power, balance of threats and bandwagonning and though we say international politics is structured hierarchically, that every country is important. Dr. Kishor mentioned that an as example, the size of a state is not what is important citing how a small country like Israel established itself in the world as a powerful country having being established only in 1948. Dr. Kishor further stated that the modern world should be a borderless world due to globalization, but what has happened instead is that states have become even more insecure than before and are now establishing measures to further isolate themselves from other countries. Dr. Kishor said that it is the west who created regions in the world and that we need to work within this framework which presently exists. He mentioned that due to complex interdependence, nations are reluctant to go to war with each other. He next mentioned that South Asian countries reach out to the west due to national interest rather than for ideological purposes. On non-alignment, then moved to multi-alignment and now interest alignment.

Dr. Kishor highlighted that world super powers such as USA wants the South Asian region to be least integrated. In Dr. Kishor’s view, they want to play one state against the other in the region and destabilize the region. Dr. Kishor said that South Asian countries are very protective of their own sovereignty and that is not helping the region to integrate. He said that countries in the region should make a few compromises in that regard in order to better integrate and to move forward.

Dr. Kishor next mentioned that due to completion of China, it has helped India to focus more on regional matters. He said that China has a major impact in the South Asian region with its Belt and Road Initiative. Dr. Kishor said that China has a larger impact on the region than USA. He said that on the issue of terrorism there is good integration among the region. Due to the constant threat of terrorism and the instability which is caused by terror attacks, states are willing to get help from other states such as sharing intelligence etc. Finally, he said that the South Asian region should consider competition seeing in external powers as an incentive to build greater integration in the region and to move forward together.