Title of the paper
Regional Peace and Security through Economic Integration: The
Applicability of EU Model in SAARC
Md. Golam Robbani
United Nations University—Comparative Regional Integration Studies (UNU-CRIS)
B-8000, Brugge, Belgium
Tel: +32 50 471301
Fax: +32 50 471309
Regional Peace and Security through Economic Integration: The Applicability of EU
Model in SAARC
There is little doubt that the overarching objective of European integration was to
attain regional security— specifically „to make another war impossible‟. Recognizing
that political integration was difficult to carry out at first step, the founding fathers
decisively took the indirect i.e. economic route to accomplish the goal. The success of
the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was one of the most important
milestones en route to deeper integration in Europe.
India-Pakistan political deadlock has appeared as a similar problem to South Asian
region, which has virtually blocked the progress of the South Asian Association for
Regional Cooperation (SAARC). Interestingly textiles and clothing (T&C) industry is
somewhat common to most of the South Asian nations— as the coal and steel
industry was to the European nations during the initial years of EU formation.
The research will cover how EU got into higher stages of sociopolitical integration
through economic means. Studying carefully the formation of ECSC up to the latest
developments in the EU process, the researcher intends to compare it with the
progress and achievements so far in SAARC, which was established in mid 1980s.
Highlighting the pros and cons to the two processes and their relatives similarities and
dissimilarities, the study will try to find out how far the political problems could be
minimized in SAARC following the EU process of regional integration. With this
view in mind, this paper intends to critically evaluate the role of ECSC in the EU and
to test the feasibility of forming something like a “South Asian Textile and Clothing
Community” in SAARC.
Being aware of the fact that neither any single model can be a panacea for others nor
that the „one size fits all‟, the main objective of this study is to critically evaluate how
far the EU model could be applicable in solving regional political tensions in other
regions e.g. in South Asia. As a test case, this study will examine how far the textiles
and clothing industry can play a similar role for SAARC as coal and steel did in case
of EU—taking into account the socioeconomic, political and religious asymmetries in
the two regions.
Although apparently it seems that economic integrations help minimize political
tensions among member states—as it did in case of Europe, the main challenge at
hand is how to prove it quantitatively and what sort of variables should one consider
to prove it? The researcher wishes to seek help to find a way-out to such a problem
encountered in writing his PhD thesis. The researcher strongly hopes that the
proposed seminar will be very helpful in gaining ideas to analyze the issue.
Regional Peace and Security through Economic Integration: The
Applicability of EU Model in SAARC
The European Coal and Coal Community (ECSC) created a framework of production
and distribution arrangement for coal and steel and set up an autonomous institutional
system to manage it during the hard days since 1950s. Although its remit is limited to
the two branches of industry, the ECSC has had a crucial impact on major economic
and political developments in Europe. The ECSC was a precursor of the original form
of organization, which characterizes today‟s European Union, consisting of an
autonomous regulatory system run by independent institutions vested with the power
and authority needed to make the system work. Within that framework, the ECSC has
made a significant contribution to the peace, stability, prosperity and solidarity. As it
is believed that the EU is the best model of regional integration so far, there is an
implicit argument that it should be replicated elsewhere, particularly where regional
integration is stuck with political deadlock. This research is an attempt to test the
feasibility of replicating the EU model in SAARC to pave the way for economic
development through deeper economic integration and conflict resolution.
Objective of this write-up
The objective of this paper is not to talk about the research findings of the thesis but
to highlight the problems faced by the researcher in analyzing the facts scientifically.
In particular, the researcher wishes to know how to prove that deeper economic
engagement deters war. The following sections will highlight practical problems
encountered by the researcher.
Similarities and dissimilarities between EU and SAARC
The main objective of the founding fathers of the EU was to make “another war
impossible” in Europe. Apparently, it can be claimed that the objective has been
achieved. However, although the objective was political in nature, the route was
overwhelmingly economic1. The establishment of ECSC was the first step forward to
EU integration. The common interest of the member states, terrible memories of the
World War II, the further threat of cold war and, last but not least, excellent plan of
Robert Schuman and the brilliant leadership quality of Jean Monnet (among others)
converted the dream into reality. Above all, the supranational structure of the High
Authority of ECSC was one of the most important factors for a successful start up of
the integration process.
In South Asia, India and Pakistan are the major economic/political partners in the
SAARC region. They share a good commonality between them. Although there is no
external threat like that of the then cold war in Europe, there is a subtle threat of
religious conflicts attached to the Kashmir issue. Any incident in Kashmir is bound to
have serious repercussion in both the countries. For decades, the issue has created
endured economic and human sufferings to both the countries. As a result of this,
desired progress in SAARC has also been caught up. Recently pressure from rapid
liberalization and globalization has been an external factor to push deeper integration
at the top of the agenda.
Searching for an industry with common interest to all
During the 1950s in the EU, coal and steal were the strategic and promising industries
for obvious reasons. Therefore, leaders of those days took the proposal of ECSC
seriously and engaged a difficult but successful negotiation to push their respective
Baldwin, Richard and Charles Wyplosz (2004) “The Economics of European Union”, McGraw Hill
Education, UK. p. 26.
interest. In South Asia, textiles and clothing is an industry where all the member states
of SAARC have common interest. The T&C could be treated as important and
strategic one in the sense that it is directly related to employment of a vast population
(skilled and unskilled alike) in the region and hence is directly related to poverty.
Trade liberalization in general and abolition of quota system from T&C in particular
has opened a wide prospect for T&C export from South Asia. Recent surge of export
of T&C from China may compel South Asian leaders to agree on forming a South
Asian Textile and Apparel Community (SATAC) similar to the ECSC in Europe2.
Use of economics to solve problems of politics
It is widely believed that deeper economic engagement brings down political tension
between member states. Today‟s European Union is a glaring example, which is
claimed to be the most successful regional integration arrangements in the world. The
challenge, however, is to replicate this so-called successful initiative in other areas of
the world, particularly where intrastate conflict is the main hindrance to trade and
development. Kashmir is a conflicting issue between India and Pakistan. Since long
past, this has been a political deadlock between the two countries and has appeared as
the main obstacle to the progress in deeper regional integration through the SAARC.
The proposed PhD thesis entitled “Regional Peace and Security through Economic
Integration: The Applicability of EU Model in SAARC” is intended to test the
feasibility and possibility of replicating the EU model in SAARC.
For detail please see Robbani, Md. Golam (2004) “Enhancing Collective Export Competitiveness on
Textiles and Clothing: A Study of Select South Asian Countries”, CUTS-CITEE Research Report
#0428, CUTS, Jaipur, India.
Problems in linking economic integration and regional conflict
Intuitively it may be apparent that deeper economic integrations discourage war.
Greater economic engagement, mainly through intra-regional trade, makes war too
expensive, which encourages politicians to solve problems through peaceful means.
Since the beginning of the EU process, there was no war in the EU region, especially
between France and Germany. Does this prove that deeper economic integration
prevents war? If that is the case, how to establish the fact that there is a negative
correlation between economic integration and regional conflict? Deeper regional
integration could be proved by data on economic variables such as intra-regional
trade. Nevertheless, as directly related data on conflict with high frequency is not
readily available therefore, what should be a reasonable proxy? As answers to such
important questions are not easily available, therefore, data sufficiency seems to be a
major problem for the intended analysis. Even if we tend to use data on conflict from
other parts of the world, say for example from Africa, then, how to isolate the effect
of regional integration from other factors? This is another big challenge in the present
Apart from data sufficiency, size asymmetry is another problems in South Asia. In
Europe, there seems to have a balance of power in the dynamics of region formation.
For instance, Germany and France, the most conflicting states in the history of
Europe, played a balancing role to each other. When these two agreed to work
together, the others followed suit plausibly because of „domino effect‟. In South Asia,
the story is different where India herself is a regional superpower and there is no
counter power to balance the size asymmetry. Now, question is how to deal with this
Supra-nationality vs. sovereignty
As mentioned before, supra nationality in the structure of ECSC was a key success
factor in managing its functioning during the initial years. Now, how to convince the
member states of SAARC to sacrifice some of the sovereignty to make a supra-
national authority on equal basis? How to reconcile the so-called „ego‟ problem from
both the sides? This topic pushes us into a deeper debate over federalism,
functionalism and inter-governmentalism. Question remains, given diverse
socioeconomic, political and religious differences among member states of SAARC,
which one is more suitable for South Asia?
Role of NGOs and CSOs
Recently, some civil society organizations (CSOs) and non-government organizations
(NGOs) have raised their voices to make progress on economic grounds keeping
political differences aside. Due to ever increasing pressure of globalization and
democratization, leaders seems to have been responding to the demand from civil
society. Although not sufficient yet, recently we see some positive moves forward
from both India and Pakistan. However, it is difficult to guess at this moment how far
will it continue, how to strengthen the pressure on governments towards deeper
The researcher intends to design his thesis as follows:
Chapter I: Introduction, Background, Objectives, theoretical framework,
literature review, methodology and limitations
Chapter II: EU and SAARC a comparative study. To compare and contrast
socioeconomic, political and religious climate of the two regions
Chapter III: Linkage between regional integration and regional conflict
Chapter IV: Feasibility of EU Model in SAARC: The test of the role T&C in
SAARC compared to the ECSC in European integration.
Chapter V: How to accomplish—the operational modality
Chapter VI: Conclusion
The researcher expects constructive comments on the proposed layout of the chapters
of the thesis.
The EU project was ambitious in nature but could achieve its objectives in various
ways--though not without problems. The SAARC in Asia is also facing similar
problems—although in different settings with different ingredients. The idea is how to
replicate the EU experience elsewhere, as in present study, particularly in the SAARC
region. Textiles and clothing seems to be similar to that of ECSC, but proving that it
will work well to form deeper economic integration, which ultimately solve the long
lasting rivalry between India and Pakistan, is quite challenging. The researcher is
looking forward to have suggestions on how to formulate the research to achieve the