New Delhi: The two-day South Asia Conference on ‘Culture as a Factor in Regional Cooperation in South Asia’ concluded today with the consensus that ‘the cultural commons and cultural diversity’ in the region could bring South Asia together. The panellists agreed that culture should be used to develop an understanding of the common good among societies. The annual conference was organised by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA).
Discussing culture, cultural productions and cultural spaces in South Asia, the participants of the conference agreed that South Asia is more of a cultural, rather than a geo-political construct, capable of surviving even if SAARC were to disappear. The intra-regional and inter-regional migrations of people demonstrate that the South Asian cultural space is not limited to what is usually conceived as South Asia, they pointed out.
Perceiving culture as a difficult social science construct, which encompasses both, everyday life as well as the psychic realm, the participants noted that cultural exchanges in the region through literature, music, cinema, lyrics, drama, paintings, architecture, culinary innovations etc, should be encouraged.
While discussing culture as a foreign policy tool, the participants argued that the states of South Asia defined their identities in exclusive and monolithic terms with a tendency to gloss over diversity. Culture plays an important role in a nation state’s political life and there is a need to acknowledge diversity within the states, even when the state tries to build an identity of its own, it was pointed out.
Earlier, speaking on the occasion, HE Sayed Mossadeq Khalili, Deputy Minister of Culture, Afghanistan, noted that culture makes it easier to understand each other and overcome political barriers. Speaking on Afghanistan, he said that a stable Afghanistan can ensure regional stability as it connects South Asia with Central Asia. Afghanistan on the other hand can also benefit from the diversity of South Asian region.
The conference was attended by a cross-section of policy makers, academics, civil society actors and young professionals from the entire south Asian region.
The South Asia Conference is an annual conference, organised by the IDSA. Since the countries in the South Asian region not only share many features of governance and structures, but face similar challenges, the successive South Asia Conferences have attempted to engage policy makers, scholars and grassroots activists to dialogue on key concerns with the objective to achieve sustainable peace and security.