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Neo-Functionalist Regional Integration Theory Put to Test in Asia: New Regionalism around India and ASEAN

Among regional integration theories that have evolved since the 1960s, neo-functionalism remains one of the essential tools to understand why nations decide to put together their economic and political destinies and how a regional integration process unfolds. The European Union remains the most advanced integration case so far, but integration movements may emerge in other parts of the world, as well. ASEAN is an interesting study case from this perspective, even though it is not yet an accomplished integration movement. The article aims to discuss the evolution of the relations between India and ASEAN, and see whether or not India’s rapprochement with the organization may turn into an impetus for ASEAN to enhance its integration effort.

Neo-Functionalist Regional Integration Theory Put to Test in Asia New
Indian and ASEAN state representatives pose for a picture during the 14th ASEAN-India Summit in Vientiane on September 8, 2016. AFP PHOTO / NOEL CELIS

Introduction and Initial Questions

 

Regional integration studies have emerged in order to understand and analyze the burgeoning European integration in the wake of the Second World War. To explain why and how European integration unfolded, among other regional integration theories, the neo-functionalist model developed mainly by Ernest B. Haas has proven particularly useful. Neo-functionalism has systematically analyzed the evolution of European integration since the 1960s. While doing so, neo-functionalists have also asked whether or not this model could be put in motion elsewhere than the European context.2

Neo-functionalism is sometimes considered “obsolete” in the European Union context, because of the ever-enlarging and deepening integration that has taken place there.3 Still, it is a dynamic and evolutive model, capable of providing a useful tool in order to analyze and compare regional integration attempts and initiatives. 

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