The Miriam College Department of International Studies (MC-IS) continued its virtual Lecture Series with Regional Experts titled, “Transcending Regional Boundaries Across Virtual Realities.” The South Asian region was tackled by Mr. Don McLain Gill. He is an international affairs researcher, analyst, and author based in the Philippines. Currently, he is completing his Master’s degree in International Studies at the University of the Philippines Diliman. He has written extensively on geopolitical issues of the South Asian region and Indian foreign policy.
In Mr. Gill’s opening presentation, he mentioned that it is important to clear one’s definition of the region. There are two schools that define a region: geographical and ideational. However, he believes that a region is a combination of these two factors, which will greatly influence how he will discuss the South Asian region or SAARC. He further explained SAARC by providing a historical overview. Despite the region’s ideational formation by extra-regional actors, such as the United States, he touched on key issues that the region is currently experiencing. These issues are trade barriers, lack of comparative advantage, infrastructure, power asymmetry and geography, India-Pakistan relations, and the India-China competition.
During the open forum, he was able to explain further the role of India in SAARC and the Indo-Pacific region. He stressed it as one of the global powers that can help stabilize and balance the interests of the region. Other questions of the participants were concerned about the power dynamics of the other SAARC Member States. Since territorial and historical disputes hinder partnerships, specifically India and Pakistan, Mr. Gill explained the prospects of India’s leadership in the region. However, he also suggested engaging other countries beyond SAARC and looking into sub-regional groups to address sensitive issues.
Moreover, Mr. Gill applied a feminist lens when asked about SAARC’s regional economic cooperation and the role of women. He responded by mentioning some employment opportunities that are gender-inclusive, such as India’s increasing number of women in the air force. Still on the topic of economics, the opportunities for trade in South Asia will pave the way towards increased activity within the region.
Overall, Mr. Gill aimed to emphasize that SAARC is focusing on high political issues over socio-economic development since they view the former as great hindrances towards regional economic cooperation. -- By Kriz Heart R. Agillon and Carriza Juliene G. Arambulo
You may view the recorded lecture on: