Alternative to the Westphalian rashtra

Twenty-three years after its creation, SAARC remains hostage to a state-centric understanding of Southasia, and continues to operate as an inter-governmental body engaged in functional cooperation on specific issues. Civil-society actors' attempts to carve out alternative Southasian mechanisms have also not made much headway. The explanation for this perhaps lies in assessing the far-reaching impact of realist traditions on the understanding of international relations in Southasia, which lack the intellectual tools to fashion such an understanding.

The study of international relations in Southasia is hemmed-in by three sets of 'givens': the infallibility of the respective states modelled after the Westphalian nation state; a thorough internalisation of the philosophy of political realism; and a 'positive' faith in the wisdom of modernity. Bound by these assumptions, academics have been unable to come to terms with the region's pre-Independence past, or to comprehend the contemporary realities that go beyond the statist framework. The study of international relations in Southasia is underpinned by two critical unstated assumptions: theorising in this field means producing scientific knowledge; and as the Bengali historian Dipesh Chakrabarty argues, Europe remains the theoretical basis of all histories. With its constitutive ideas and practices rooted in Eurocentric experiences, international relations is bound in a manner that Southasia's various 'traditional pasts' became de-legitimised as a possible source of knowledge creation in the field.

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Himal Southasian