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Networking for Cooperation: South Asia, SAARC,  SAPTA, SAFTA, SAARC Audio-Visual Exchange (SAVE) Program, SAARC Youth Volunteers Program (SYVOP), networking for cooperation

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Networking for Cooperation: South Asia, SAARC,  SAPTA, SAFTA, SAARC Audio-Visual Exchange (SAVE) Program, SAARC Youth Volunteers Program (SYVOP), networking for cooperation

Networking for Cooperation: A Perspective on South Asia

An outline of holistic framework for networking between industry, research institutes and NGOs encompassing an amalgamation of ‘top down’ approach with ‘bottom up’ approach in order to facilitate regional cooperation in South Asia.

J.P. Singh

Printable Version of 'Networking for Cooperation: A Perspective on South Asia'Updated On: 12/20/2005

South Asia, SAARC,  SAPTA, SAFTA, SAARC Audio-Visual Exchange (SAVE) Program, SAARC Youth Volunteers Program (SYVOP), networking for cooperation: A Perspective on South Asia

The Context

A lot has been said and written on the benefits and need of cooperation in South Asia encompassing issues like domestic political and economic dynamics of major South Asian countries, impediments and opportunities for the expansion of regional cooperative activities in South Asia, potential for economic interdependence in the region, security concerns, poverty, hunger and diseases and intra-states conflicts, etc. etc.

Various prerequisites and solutions have been suggested like:

…the only panacea for all impediments and measures to address substantial issues is possible through a changed mind-set…
…South Asia offers the hope through a vibrant civil society, its younger generation of a better, prosperous and a more secure future…
…making similarity of product and process as most of the economies are based on agriculture and their technological advancements are not very different, meeting consumer demand, product quality and overcoming market limitations posed by political and geographical considerations and dismantling the non-tariff barriers (NTB) in the region...
…not only political will but also economic will (is required)…
…practical and concrete activities are a must to reinvigorate the regional body…
…dialogues between the civil society leaderships to boost people to people contacts…
…an annual business summit along with the lines of Davos Summit …
…a change of mindset, especially in the regional rivals is a must to benefit the South Asian people by exploiting great human and natural potentials located here…
…India must drop its big brother image and be realistically ready for mutual cooperation and respect its smaller neighbors…
…until military and political jingoism deeply-rooted in the region, are stamped out, the ideas are likely to evaporate in the thin air…
…the innovative views if adopted with honesty would have a positive impact on the key decision-making forums…
…only by taking into account history we can comprehend the range of problems with which we are confronted (while we search for solutions)… etc. etc.

The activities at SAARC and other initiatives like SAPTA, SAFTA, setting up of SAARC Regional Centres[1] and SAARC Funds[2], organizing regional conventions and signing few agreements[3], cooperation with some regional NGOs in South Asia and establishing some regional apex bodies, so far have prepared building blocks for region-wide integration.

However, agenda for cooperation never shaped as envisaged and strangled in the waters of conflict and stagnation. Now, with the changing contours of international geo-politics and relatively peaceful environment in the region, the agenda is ready for rejuvenation.

Top down Approach

A critical review of the developments at SAARC till date brings out that effort for ensuring cooperation in the region has been fundamentally a top down approach.

Considering conflict based historical legacy of the region which in turn resulting in a wide divide between the true spirit of cooperation and the politics of electoral, there has always been lack of sincere political will to strengthen the cooperation.

Additionally, except few cosmetic initiatives like SAARC Audio-Visual Exchange (SAVE) Program, SAARC Chairs, Fellowships and Scholarships Scheme, SAARC Youth Volunteers Program (SYVOP), SAARC Youth Awards Scheme (SYAS), people of the member countries were neither educated for cooperation nor consulted.

Linking ‘top down’ with ‘bottom up’

Need for rejuvenation of cooperation agenda asks for proper internal marketing to re-enforce the ‘top down’ approach with action based ‘bottom up’ approach. Agenda of cooperation needs to be shaped in a mass movement in order to overcome the power play of political interests and aspirations which has been hindering the prospects of cooperation by addressing the off sight play and the factors which influence the positive political thinking but to serve the domestic constituencies. Need is to create a network of industry, research institutes, civil society organizations (NGOs) and other solicitous souls in the region to break the monotony of stagnation and ensure a sustained comprehensive attempt to facilitate regional cooperation in South Asia.

Rightly said by Rajiv Kumar of Asian Development Bank“…Cooperation (in South Asia) will not remain a problem if political parties in South Asian countries start getting votes on the agenda of cooperation…” In this context, ADB has taken initiative and come out with numerous ‘Technical Assistance’ packages in order to play the role of catalyst in the process of rejuvenation of cooperation agenda in the region. Mr. Kumar is coordinating such a TA, ‘RETA: Supporting Network of Research Institutes and Think Tanks in South Asia’ on behalf of ADB.

The Networking Framework

The framework for linking ‘top down’ with ‘bottom up’ by creating a network of industry, research institutes and civil society encompasses two type of networking, Horizontal and Vertical.

Horizontal Networking

  • industry to industry

  • research institutes to research institutes

  • NGOs to NGOs

Vertical Networking

  • industry – research institutes – NGOs

Network may deliver…

  • Internal marketing for cooperation – ensuring the acceptability and working as a cushion during periods of conflicts through advocacy campaigns

  • Market intelligence and alternate communication channel for industry

  • Reorientation of the researches and field research network for Research Institutes

  • Facilitating the execution of development projects aimed at poverty reduction in the region

  • Usual benefits emerging from the networking of industry and research institutes in any economy as a corollary

Weak Links

A review of current status in the light of proposed network brings out the following weak links in the chain:

Horizontal Networking

  • Industry to industry networking is relatively working (still not strong) because of initiatives like setting up a SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry and SAARC Business Information Network.

  • A few initiatives are visible seeking networking of research institutes in the region.

  • Networking among civil society organizations (NGOs) is weak in the region.

Vertical Networking

Despite robust possibilities of value generation through interlinking of industry, research institutes and civil society organizations in any economy, such vertical networking is very weak in all the member countries and across borders.

Other Links

In order to ensure the focused comprehensiveness of the network and achieve proper coordination the proposed concept needs synchronization with:

  • Already taken initiatives of SAARC

  • ADB’s approach/policy for cooperation in the region and focus areas i.e. energy and power, environment, information and communication technology, tourism, trade, investment and private sector cooperation

Action Points

  • Refining the concept with clearly defining the contours and scope.

  • Structuring and establishing the economic feasibility and self sustainability of the network.

  • Subsequently, creation of the network - already random initiatives like Development of the South Asia Network of Economic Research Institute (SANEI), FICCI-ICA SAARCLAWNET ONLINE, SouthAsia.Net, South Asia Centre for Policy Studies (SACEPS) and South Asia Research Network (SARN) are visible. Need is to consolidate these initiatives.

  • Facilitating the working of concept – putting in place a SAARC Facilitation Centre at SAARC Secretariat. Also bring SAARC Regional Centres in its domain and managing the network by focusing on weak links[4].

Industry being direct beneficiary of the regional cooperation has been quite proactive. Guided by the economic rationale behind cooperation in the region and social responsibility, this time also industry should initiate the above proposed networking exercise. Research Institutes can be envisaged to play as a link between top down and bottom up approach while on ground action is feasible by involving the civil society organizations (NGOs) and other interested stakeholders in the private sector.

[1] SAARC Agricultural Information Centre (SAIC), SAARC Tuberculosis Centre (STC), SAARC Documentation Centre (SDC), SAARC Meteorological Research Centre (SMRC), SAARC Human Resource Development Centre (SHRDC)

[2] South Asian Development Fund (SADF), SAARC-Japan Special Fund

[3] Agreement on Establishing the SAARC Food Security Reserve, SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism, SAARC Convention on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

[4] Managing organizational effectiveness with a "Theory of Constraints" perspective. TOC is noted for its applications in Project and Multi-Project Management (Critical Chain) and Operations Management (Drum-Buffer-Rope), as well as in Marketing, Strategic Planning and Change Management.

South Asia, SAARC,  SAPTA, SAFTA, SAARC Audio-Visual Exchange (SAVE) Program, SAARC Youth Volunteers Program (SYVOP), networking for cooperation
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