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Prabhat Mishra asked: What are the reasons for the regionalisation of world politics? How does regionalism shape world politics?

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  • Ashok K. Behuria replies: Despite the revolution in communication technology and resultant shrinking of the 'global' realm, regional geopolitics has always remained an important subset of global/international politics, partly because of geo-cultural contiguities and close and shared historical experiences. Therefore, to say that regionalisation of world politics is more visible now than before would be a misnomer.

    From regionalisation to regionalism, it would take a conceptual jump of some sorts. While regionalisation would mean localisation of major political interactions among states based on local reflexes, orientations and socio-historical legacies, regionalism would mean a perceptible/perceived commonality of vision and consciousness that acts as a centripetal force for different states to acknowledge commonness and privilege it over differences that could divide them. Regionalism, even when it is parochially perceived, emphasises a will of togetherness and a desire to overcome ethno-cultural prejudices in quest of the larger goal of working with synergy to ensure mutual advantage and prosperity for a region as a whole. In a major sense, geography determines such localness or 'regionality', and regional groupings like SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation), BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation), ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) indicate that even common historical experiences sometimes generate the impulses (for cooperation) that engender such regionalism.

    At the global level, what we mean by 'world politics' is a summation of such regionalised geo-political developments. A strong sense of regionalism may not necessarily be seen as antagonistic to the creation of world consciousness, especially at a time when the information technology revolution and artificial intelligence have made it impossible for regions to wall themselves off from one another and conduct their politics in an insulated manner. The main reason for this is cross-regional linkages that bring in yet another dynamic to regionalisation of politics and mark it as a defining feature of world politics. Many states are thus members of different regional groupings and blocks that come together to maximise their security and raise their economic status by all means, in the true tradition of realism, that continues to define and determine state behaviour, even if one employs different theoretical paradigms to interpret regional and global politics.

    Rather than looking at regionalisation of politics and regionalism as separate and unconnected phenomena, these should be taken as building blocks for world/international politics.

    Posted on May 20, 2021

    Views expressed are of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrikar IDSA or the Government of India.