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9th South Asia Conference

Culture as a Factor in Regional Cooperation in South Asia
November 26-27, 2015

Most states in South Asia are multi-cultural in character. In the post-colonial phase of their existence, they were confronted with the twin problems of state and nation building. While the former involved building institutions of governance the latter necessitated efforts to achieve unity in diversity. States seeking to construct a monolithic identity amalgamating diverse linguistic, religion and ethnic identities faced the challenge of integrating the minorities. In view of the overlapping cultural spaces cutting across state borders, such homogenization efforts led to spilling over of ethnic conflicts across states. The borders thus became new frontiers of such contested identities— national versus sub-national. It was natural, therefore, for discourses on interstate relations to be enmeshed in arguments in favour of, and against, pluri-cultural national identities. Recognition of plurality was often misconstrued as shedding of sovereignty to other states which housed same ethno-linguistic and cultural communities. While in many cases such geo-cultural continuity and commonality have led to inter-state tension and conflicts, there is distinct possibility of culture playing an integrative role and creating and propelling regional integration in South Asia or at least playing a positive role in contributing to bilateral relations. More [+]