South Asian unity

By K.N. Pandita

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s inaugural address to the 5th Conference of the Association of SAARC
Speakers and Parliamentarians in New Delhi reflects the high watermark of statesmanship and futuristic vision of the crucial region called South Asia. The appeal and advice to SAARC member states of forging unity among themselves and speaking on crucial international political and economic issues with one voice is passionate and timely. Couched in simple and forthright idiom, the PM has tried to make the member countries conscious of the potential they possess in terms of natural and human resources, common history, cultural links and geographical connectivity. South Asia has the largest youth population and hence the largest manpower which needs to be canalized properly for creative activity.  The warning is timely that they need to learn how to solve their problems without depending on external support or advice. And unless that is done, full realization of the potential cannot become a reality. 

The fact is that South Asia is one of the prominent regions in the world where there is lot of interference from foreign powers who want a foothold somehow somewhere suiting their strategic interests. It is true that we are living in a world of inter-dependence and no country can live in isolation. But that is quite different from existing as a client state. South Asian countries would do well to understand that cooperation on regional level in many important and crucial spheres would bring them much more strength and independence of action than what they think dependence would provide. PM also referred to forming a united front against terror as many of the South Asian countries today were faced with terrorist threats in one way or the other.  “The scourge of terrorism has taken a huge toll on all our societies. It is a cancer that if not checked, will consume us all,” the PM said.

Noting that South Asia has perhaps the most youthful population in the world, Singh said the youth deserve a better future.

“We can reap a rich demographic dividend if we can equip our youth with the right skills, and channel their energies to productive ends.” These are prophetic words and carry the truth about the essence of the secret of development of South Asian region. “We share common borders. What happens in one country necessarily affects the other. Our destinies are bound by history as well as by geography. If we act with wisdom and sagacity, we all stand to benefit,” Prime Minister said inaugurating the 5th Conference of the Association of SAARC Speakers and Parliamentarians.

SAARC has been in place for a long time but dogged by mutual suspicions and controversies. As such concrete results of its regular and formal deliberations are not still visible on the ground. Mutual rivalry and acrimony has marred the progress of the organization though the entire world has been looking at it as a critical instrument to open huge vistas of progress and prosperity on SAARC countries. The time has come when the old mindset and thinking pattern among the South Asian leadership should change and change for better. The timely advice and warning from the Indian Prime Minister reflects malice towards none but goodwill towards all. History, geography and culture bind thee countries together and none of these can really make substantial progress without cooperation from the neighbouring countries. The South Asian countries could at least constitute a powerful group that would render its good offices for the resolution of some of the old questions haunting the people of the region. Instead of rushing to the international platform for finding some comfort to their bilateral quarrels within the fold, the South Asian member states would do well to entrust that job to the high-level group. This is one of the ways how they can solve their problems without depending on outside support, and it is this option towards which the Indian Prime Minister alluded in his inaugural speech. We hope that the message will be conveyed to all peace loving people.

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