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ISAS Research Clusters
Economics and Trade Policy
Cluster Leader:  Dr S. Narayan
Head of Research and Visiting Senior Research Fellow
 
The economic background and context of the South Asian region has undergone significant changes over the last couple of decades. Advent of globalisation has resulted in greater integration of the region with the world economy. Such integration, however, has proceeded at uneven paces across the region. Globalisation has also resulted in emergence of new challenges for economic management and policy-making. 

South Asia’s current economic priorities pertain to sustaining a high level of economic growth and ensuring equitable distribution of such growth. The region’s inability to integrate fully with the global trade and financial architectures is often cited as a major reason behind the stark underdevelopment that characterises several parts of the region. Absence of adequately outward-looking external trade policies and inefficient domestic regulations has hindered the region’s integration efforts.

This cluster aims to take up thematic research on issues having long-term implications for the region’s economic growth and development. The main objective of the proposed research is to examine different economic and trade policy alternatives and analyse their impacts and outcomes from a regional as well as country-specific perspectives. The current work agenda for the cluster includes studying the regional impact of economic and financial crises, trade policy architectures, social and human development, comparative economic studies, and energy and environment.
 
Research Areas:
 
Trade policy architecture
Regional impact of economic and financial crises
Social and human development
Comparative economic studies
Energy and environment
 
Multilateral and International Linkages
Cluster Leader:  Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury
Senior Research Fellow
 
The cluster on South Asia’s Multilateral and International Linkages focuses on how the region relates to the major international institutions and key global players in contemporary times. South Asia’s political, economic and military significance is growing. This has two-fold ramifications. On one hand, South Asia is moving close to the centre-stage of the international scene. And on the other, it is recalibrating its relationships with the rest of the world.

The cluster examines how South Asia is helping reshape the norms and activities of major international organisations like the United Nations and the World Trade Organization. It studies the important roles the countries of the region are playing in spreading global standards and values throughout the world as well as their contributions in peace-building and peacekeeping. Additionally, it seeks to analyse the political, strategic and economic relations the nations of South Asia have with major states such as the United States, China, Japan and members of the European Union. The cluster assesses the impact of its burgeoning military clout on the rest of the world. It also monitors the policy dimensions of South Asian states with regards to emerging thematic issues like climate change, poverty alleviation, development and non-proliferation.

Finally, it studies regional relations and the ways and means of strengthening regional cooperation as well as linkages with other regional organisations.
 
Research Areas:
 
International relations theory and practice, and the South Asian state system
Global thematic issues and South Asian responses
South Asia’s relationship with multilateral organisations
Regional integration and relationship with regional bodies
Bilateral relations with major powers
 
Politics and Governance
Cluster Leader:  Professor Robin Jeffrey
Visiting Research Professor
 
The Politics and Governance cluster seeks to identify and explain key issues in the domestic politics and governmental practices of the countries of South Asia. Though the cluster analyses important events and issues as they emerge, it intends to focus on some select themes in 2010.

Research Areas:
 
'Maoism' and 'Maoist' movements
'Democracy' as it has recently developed, including the so-called 'e-governance'
'Media' – expansion and control

Each theme will be construed in the widest sense.

The theme of 'Maoism' requires consideration of the intellectual roots of Maoist thought in South Asia,  social characteristics of participants,  nature of agrarian relations,  spread of extractive industries,  role of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the effectiveness of governments, as well as  goals and methods of insurgents and security forces.

'Democracy' calls for an audit of electoral and constitutional practices in the states of South Asia and a watch on election campaigns and results. The cluster further aims to probe the depth and meaningfulness of 'democracy',  effectiveness of local governments,  role of NGOs and the extent to which new technologies empower (or disempower) populations.

Development of the 'media' theme initially involves mapping various kinds of media in the region. The theme then branches out widely and may range from questions of capitalists competing for cell phone bandwidth to explorations of reading and viewing habits of citizens or patterns of expenditure of advertisers.
 
Security
Cluster Leader:  Professor S. D. Muni
Visiting Research Professor
 
The nature of national and regional security challenges in the world has been experiencing radical shifts over the past decades and South Asia has not remained unaffected by them. Internal security concerns have taken to front stage and human security has assumed greater salience. South Asian states are confronting various kinds of ethnic, sectarian, religious and ideological insurgencies and internal wars, notwithstanding the elimination of the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka and the peaceful transformation of the Maoists insurgency in Nepal. The conventional inter-state wars look less likely to break out in South Asia but the strategically delicate triangle of India-Pakistan and China retains its potential hot spots in Kashmir and unresolved Sino-India border dispute.

The qualitative change that has occurred in this relationship is that all the three neighbours are now nuclear armed. With South Asia being located in the hub of global terrorism, the prospects of the non-state terrorist forces getting access to nuclear materials, technologies and weapons create a frightening spectre. The security cluster of ISAS constantly analyses, studies, and monitors all these dimensions of security and the various issues involved in them, including conflict resolution and peacebuilding. It pays attention to the wider dimensions of global security like the 'war on terror', climate change, pandemics, and natural disasters as they impinge on the South Asian region. South Asia’s security and strategic engagement with Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific region will also be focused in the clusters research work.

The cluster seeks to promote its research interests by preparing full-length studies and monographs, publishing working papers and short analytical commentaries, interacting with  media and other public fora, organising international and in-house conferences,  workshops,   panel discussions and seminar presentations on current security issues. The cluster not only networks and interacts with academic centres and think-tanks working in similar areas but also engages scholars and experts from outside with its work in various ways.
 
Research Areas:
 
Global strategic balance and South Asian security
Global war on terror in South Asia
Internal conflicts, their regional spillover and conflict resolution processes
Potential bilateral conflicts
Nuclear security
Human security
 
South Asia and Economic Change
Cluster Leader:  Shahid Javed Burki
Visiting Senior Research Fellow
 
The research agenda of the cluster is based on the rapid changes taking place in the global economic and political system and the imperative for South Asia to define a different growth model for managing its development. Noting the importance of skill-intensive services and intra-regional trade and cross-country transit in encouraging future growth in the region, the cluster notes that South Asian countries will need to collaborate for ensuring better lives for their citizens. Public policy initiatives are going to be critical in this regard and the thrust of these policies should capture the significant demographic changes taking place in the world and the unique opportunities arising for South Asia. In this respect, the cluster also aims to focus on the 'catch-up' process in Asia with China firmly in the lead to catch-up with the developed West and the efforts emanating from India and other South Asian countries.

The near-term work plan of the cluster includes studying the economic strength being gained by large emerging markets, the economic ‘catch up’ by China, India and other South Asian economies, key changes in the developing world and emerging markets and managing such changes, and the economic underpinning of insurgencies and desire to opt out of formal state structures.
 
Research Areas:
 
Gaining of economic strength by large emerging markets
Is the West giving way to the East?
Changes in the developing world – particularly in China and India
Interactions between large world systems
Managing change
Insurgencies and the desire to opt out of formal structures
 
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