Towards an Economic Community: Exploring the Past
By Vineeta Shanker
Research and Information System for the Non-Aligned and Other Developing Countries (RIS)
April 2003
The paper is divided into two main sections. The first explores the nature, direction and strengths of the trade links that existed between Asian nations and with the rest of the world. The purpose of examining Asia’s global linkages prior to its colonializaton is to demonstrate that Asia was effectively integrated into the world economic system long before the arrival of the Europeans and the opening of the all sea route to Asia. The main focus of this section is however the close links that existed between the different sub-regions within Asia. It examines the evolution of the structure and nature of these linkages over the years and demonstrates how regional trade was often the basis of successful long distance global trade. The second section of the paper focuses on exchanges other than economic and looks at the spread and assimilation of diverse cultural and religious influences across the region. It examines how culture and ideology found their way across the lands and the seas and the links between the different countries of the region expanded beyond the material.

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