Annual International Conference on "Changing Political Context in South Asia: Prospect of Regional Security and Cooperation"
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  • Rapporteur Report on Session 3

    November 6, 2008
    Prepared by Priyanka Singh

    Chair: Prof. P.R. Chari

    According to the Chairperson, Mr P. R. Chari, Research Professor, Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS), the session sought to bring out all the perspectives through the eyes of India’s neighbours. It also aimed at discussing whether there has been some sort of stability with the presence of Nuclear Weapons in the region and trace linkages between regional and local security challenges.

    The first speaker, Mafuz Anam, Editor and Publisher, Daily Star, Bangladesh, in his presentation titled “Changing Political Context in South Asia: Implications for Regional Cooperation and Security”, began with the assertion that nothing has changed as far as regional cooperation in the South Asian context is concerned. There is an inherent sense of insecurity in regional cooperation amongst states. The best example of a failed effort could be the Indo-Pak stand-off on the Kashmir issue which is pending for the last 61 years. The paper suggested that instead of living in the context of history, the States should constitute a group comprising of ‘wise men’ from all the States to measure the degree of loss incurred as a result of such ‘non cooperation.’ It is time to put economic goals ahead of political gains and India should give the lesser developed states in the region an opportunity to grow and flourish.

    The second speaker, Professor S.D. Muni, Sr. Visiting Scholar, IDSA and Editor, Foreign Affairs Journal, in his paper “India and Regional Peace and Cooperation”, made the significant point that an enhanced level of regional cooperation in South Asia would benefit India more than any other country. There is no doubt that India is keen to pursue this course of building regional ‘confidence and comfort’ amongst its neighbouring countries. The States shall identify mutual economic stakes and weigh prospects of creating regional security architecture. He said that differences in the size and composition and divergence of political structures in the various States have led to slow growth in regional cooperation in South Asia. Nonetheless, the regional situation is not static and has changed drastically and for the better in most cases. He advocated the use of soft power by India similar to China to oblige its neighbours.

    The third speaker, Susil Sirivardana, Co-Chairperson, Participatory Institute of Development Alternatives and Associate Coordinator, South Asian Perspectives Network Asociation, Colombo, Sri Lanka, in his paper, “Pro-Poor Thought and Strategy: Why so Far from Center Stage?”, was divided into three parts -- reconstructive summary of pro-poor thought and strategy, major impediments and the stirrings of change. Pro-poor though and strategy (PPTS) is a key concept in the vocabulary of the participatory development paradigm. Thus it is contra-distinguished from the technocratic programme. The paper dwelt on why the governing elites have dismally failed to capitalize on the fact that a proven strategy for overcoming poverty that has existed for decades at their very doorsteps. He then tried to connect the idea of PPTS and the hiatus with the changed political context. Given the state of disconnect and unfulfilled strategy space, there is a need to see whether there are grounds of hoping for change.

    The fourth speaker, Dr. Aly Shameem, Freelance Researcher on Regional Politics and Global Change and Deputy Secretary General, Peoples’ Majlis Secretariat of Maldives Parliament, in his paper titled “Alternate Strategies to Security:, presented Maldives’s perspective related to alternate approaches to security with special reference to the environmental security challenges in Maldives. He stated the co-relation between global warming, climate change and talked about the change in sea level which is affecting the small island countries like Maldives. He said that as the Maldives is an important tourist destination and attracts peoples across the globe,the international community, especially the South Asian region, should look into the problem of the environment security challenges that Maldives is exposed to as a result of harmful emissions from various countries.

    Discussion

    • Develop sub-regional cooperation and create institutions within SAARC to assist in fostering regional cooperation. Trade relations in South Asia have grown even if they are not articulated.
    • Regional security structure is an interesting idea. The defence ministers of countries should meet and make a start by first dealing with peripheral issues.
    • Gradually all issues concerned could be brought in sync, benefiting all.
    • States should withdraw from political thrust and put economic interests first.
    • Historical projections in all states need to be corrected and this could be feasible only with greater coordination amongst all.
    • Contours of politics have to be kept in mind while formulating any security structure in future.
    • The domestic polities of States ought to be more representative to enhance inter-regional and intra-regional cooperation and look forward to a convergent future.
    • There should be proper support structure for the poor in all developing states.
    • There is a rise of the right in South Asia.

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