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

    November 6, 2008
    Prepared by Shanthie Mariet D'Souza

    Dr. Arvind Gupta provided a summary of the key findings of the two-day conference by raising a pertinent question on whether the democratic upsurge can strengthen cooperation and resolve key problems like poverty. India, which has experienced good economic growth, can be a lever around which South Asian poverty trap can be addressed. For security and cooperation there is a need for convergence of ideas. This conference brought together renowned and young minds, thereby bringing in fresh thinking on security and cooperation, which is a positive development. The Vice-President in his inaugural address had called for ‘bold thinking’ and this seminar has been able to accomplish that calling for new agenda of regional cooperation.

    Dr. Gupta summarised the doable task at the Track II level as enunciated by various paper presenters. One important suggestion was to design a study of cost of non-cooperation. Another path-breaking idea was the setting up of a WTO-type of dispute settling mechanism. On the need for regional security architecture, there was an innovative idea of setting up a defence ministers’ forum outside the purview of SAARC. Climate change, water, food security, trade and economic cooperation were other areas of discussion. The problems of cooperation stemming from anti-Indian sentiment were seen as an impediment to regional cooperation.

    The Chair, Prof. S. D. Muni raised an important question as to why Track II ideas do not reach Track I?

    Valedictory Address: Secretary Mr. N. Ravi

    Mr. N. Ravi clearly stated that Indian foreign policy revolves around peace and stability in the region. The goal of a peaceful periphery gets embroiled by internal issues of neighbours when both domestic and foreign policy get intermingled in a seamless manner. By economic cooperation under SAFTA, India has provided many unilateral and asymmetric gestures. The economic growth within India itself has accelerated this process. Economic integration also calls for border infrastructure development. There are about 12 to 15 border integrated mechanisms. While porous land borders allow movement of people, there are many political, security and economic consequences of such movement. Therefore, there is a need to work towards a more efficient border management system. Joint efforts in border management should emanate from joint interest. The overall negativity of such movements is the cause of terrorism which India has witnessed in the recent attacks. Thus, India’s relations with its neighbours are crucial.

    • With Pakistan, there have been meetings with political leaders and high level officials for strengthening commitment towards bilateral relationship. Violence and terrorism enmeshed within internal political and security agencies create problems that need to be addressed bilaterally.
    • India provides Afghanistan with aid of more than US$ 1 billion in various sectors and is deeply committed towards rebuilding Afghanistan.
    • With Nepal, there has been strengthening of a ‘unique partnership’, particularly in security, economic issues, infrastructure, border management, hydel power, flood relief, trade and transit, etc.
    • India has renewed its treaty of friendship with Bhutan last year and the expanding economic cooperation, particularly in hydroelectric power, is a symbol of intensifying cooperation.
    • India, with Bangladesh, has established joint check posts, trade infrastructure and other such initiatives.
    • India’s relations with Myanmar with which it shares the first land border with ASEAN and is important for its ‘Look East Policy’, has focussed on constructing roads between Mizoram and Myanmar, Manipur and Myanmar. Agreement on Kaladan, cross border trade, integrated check posts and energy issues are other areas of cooperation.
    • India’s enhanced cooperation with Myanmar, notwithstanding, it continues to press for national reconciliation and political reform in Myanmar.
    • With Sri Lanka, despite being its largest trade partner in South Asia, India emphasizes that there are no lasting military solutions to ethnic issues.
    • The SAARC educational initiative of setting up a South Asian University in Delhi is an epoch making event which would encourage young and bright minds of the region to work towards regional cooperation for the 21st century.

    Vote of Thanks: Sreeradha Dutta

    Dr. Sreeradha Dutta in her concluding remarks stated that cooperation in India has come a long way from insular politics and blame game, and economics has taken precedence over security.