Welcome remarks by Dr. Arvind Gupta, DG, IDSA at 6th South Asia Conference 6th-7th November 2012
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  • November 6, 2012

    Event: 6th South Asia Conference

    The Hon’ble Minister for Human Resource Development Shri Pallam Raju
    Members of the IDSA’s Executive Council,
    Distinguished guests from abroad,
    Distinguished participants,
    Distinguished members of the audience,
    Members of the media,
    My colleagues in the IDSA,
    Brig Dahiya,
    Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen,

    I would like to extend a warm welcome to all. Thank you for participating in the conference.

    Our special thanks to the Hon’ble Minister for HRD, Shri Pallam Raju for agreeing to deliver the inaugural address at the Conference despite his busy schedule. We greatly appreciate his constant support in IDSA’s activities.

    Today’s conference is the sixth in the series of annual South Asia conferences the IDSA started holding from 2007. During these years we have been fortunate to have many distinguished scholars, experts, journalists, diplomats from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, Maldives, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and India at the conferences. We hope that such gatherings help in a small way to refurbish the South Asian identity.

    We have also published the proceedings of these conferences and placed them on our website for wider reading. The Hon’bler Minister will today release two books on South Asia, produced and edited by our scholars. We have tried to promote a community of strategic affairs experts from neighbouring countries who reflect on the problems of the South Asia.

    The previous conferences have tackled a number of themes reflecting on the current state of South Asia and the prospects for the future. The discussions held in the spirit of cooperation have been candid and revealing. Most analysts have agreed that despite numerous problems, cooperation is necessary to tackle common problems. Last year the participants came up with a document on the prospects of Cooperative Security for South Asia, a theme not discussed widely and treated with scepticism.

    This year we are examining whether the region will remain stable and continue to grow? The deepening of the global economic recession, the acute economic problems in Europe, with which many South Asian countries are linked closely economically, socially and in many other ways, is a cause of concern.

    The countries of the region continue to face the challenge of deepening democracy and improving governance.

    Unemployment and malnutrition remain serious challenges.

    The region also faces numerous security challenges.

    At the same time, the geopolitical environment is changing rapidly. The international forces are set to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. A phase of fresh uncertainties is about to begin.

    South Asia is closely linked to the Gulf and West Asia. Millions of our compatriots live there; we receive billions of dollars in remittances from them, and we source vital energy supplies from the region. This vital region is undergoing deep transformation. The developments in West Asia will have major impact on South Asia. What will be the implications for us? The IDSA will be exploring some of these questions in a separate conference in February next year.

    Extricating itself from two difficult and hugely expensive wars in Asia, the US is now shifting focus to the Asia Pacific region through its policy of rebalancing and pivot to Asia. The US wishes to reinvigorate its alliances in the region and also find a modus vivendi with respect to China. US-China relations will also be reconfigured in the next few years. We need to analyse the impact this will have on the South Asian countries, which are linked both to the US as well as China in complex ways. What will be the policies of the new administration in the US, where Presidential elections are about to be held?

    East and South East Asia also play an important role in South Asia’s stability. The power equations in Asia are being reset as China rises, carries on with the task of military modernisation and seeks greater presence in the Indian Ocean region. The concept of Indo-Pacific, the Confluence of the Two Oceans, is beginning to be discussed. The Indian Ocean Rim Association of Regional Countries, which held its ministerial meeting in Delhi last week, is trying to seek a more active identity, describing itself as an “apex organisation” in the Indian Ocean region. Geopolitical landscape in the Indian Ocean is beginning to change. What impact will this have on growth and stability in South Asia? We need to discuss these issues in detail.

    It is a matter of fact that regional cooperation in our part of the region has not progressed to the extent it has in many other regions including Central Asia, South East Asia, Africa and South America. How does this impact our stability and growth? This is worth pondering over too. .

    Key to the future of South Asian stability will be in the hands of the youth. The question of human resource development assumes great importance. In this regard, Millions of youth in our countries will have to be provided with education, skills and job opportunities to ensure that the region continues to grow and remain sable. We need to harness our vast human potential for peace, prosperity and stability in the region.

    The presence of the Hon’ble Minister for Human Resource Development at the Conference today is most relevant. It helps us focus on the human resources issue that is so important for all of us. The South Asian countries can cooperate in this area meaningfully even as we struggle to deal with other problems.

    Over the next day and a half we will hear a variety of perspectives on these problems. The last session is devoted to thinking about the future.

    We look forward to invigorating discussions in the ensuing sessions.

    Thank You and Jai Hind.