South Asia is a Microcosm of a Multicultural World: Dr Karan Singh

November 26, 2015

New Delhi: In an apt beginning to the 9th South Asia Conference on ‘Culture as a Factor in Regional Cooperation in South Asia’, Dr Karan Singh, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha, today hailed South Asia as “a microcosm of a multicultural world”. Dr Singh was delivering the keynote address at the inaugural session of the two-day conference organised by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) on November 26-27, 2015.

Describing the sub-continent that is home to many cultural traditions, as a ‘cultural superpower’, Dr Singh said that world today is precariously poised between a disappearing past and an indeterminate future. South Asia should aim at emerging as an area of peace and stability, he noted.

The South Asian countries have in the past shared deep economic, and socio-cultural links that have been shattered by colonialism, said Dr Singh. The region should pick up the threads and try and reconnect economically, politically and socially, he added, citing the recent border agreement between India and Bangladesh as a classic example of such initiatives.

Dr Singh spoke of building the cultural unity of South Asia in the context of music, dance, painting, literature and sculptures as part of its shared legacy. Terming ‘a multicultural society as a blessing’, he said that could be a prerequisite to a peaceful and harmonious world order.

Commenting on Huntington's classic work on ‘Clash Of Civilizations’, which he said is “sadly becoming a self fulfilling prophecy”, Dr Singh argued that South Asia believes in ‘confluence and not a clash of civilisations’ and it is upto the region to prove Huntington’s theory wrong.

Drawing reference from his idea of ‘Triveni’, Dr Singh described diplomacy as a confluence of three rivers, the Ganga of political diplomacy, the Yamuna of economic diplomacy and the invisible, but most important Saraswati of cultural diplomacy of the people to people connect, which is the most important of the three.

Earlier, in his welcome address, Director General, IDSA, Shri Jayant Prasad said that the social context and the political dynamics determine how cultural connectivity is used as an instrument of fraternal co-existence or a tool for fractious divisions. He added that the conference would seek out the heeling factor of culture for repairing the ruptures caused by history and politics and explore how cultural connects across communities can play a positive role in building bridges across national frontiers.

The two day annual conference is being attended by a cross-section of policy makers, academics, civil society actors and young professionals from the whole south Asian region.