South Asia activists urge governments to convene SAARC Summit
With ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ -- the world is one family -- as the motto for this year’s G20 Summit to be held in India, it is perhaps a good time to remind South Asian governments that they, too, are part of one region
With ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ -- the world is one family -- as the motto for this year’s G20 Summit to be held in India, it is perhaps a good time to remind South Asian governments that they, too, are part of one region.
Such a reminder comes loud and clear from a group of over 40 organisations and hundreds of individuals urging South Asian governments to work towards convening an official summit of SAARC, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, at the earliest.
“We believe that South Asian governments must develop good neighbourly relations and collaborate for social and economic prosperity in this culturally affinitive region,” says a Resolution passed by the Southasia Peace Action Network, Sapan, presented at its second anniversary celebrations on Sunday.
The Resolution, presented at the event by journalist Mandira Nayar in Delhi, granddaughter of the iconic journalist Kuldip Nayar, notes that to be effective, the SAARC forum needs to engage in regular dialogue. Unfortunately, such exchanges have not taken place for nearly a decade.
The late Kuldip Nayar was one of the several giants of peacebuilding in the region whose vision Sapan has tried to take forward since its formation in March 2021.
The last SAARC Summit (18th) was held in Kathmandu, November 26-27, 2014, attended by the prime ministers of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Pakistan, besides the presidents of Afghanistan, Maldives, and Sri Lanka.
The motto of ‘Deeper Integration for Peace and Prosperity’ failed to materialise, leading to the entire region suffering massively on the economic and social front.
“Good neighbourly relations are essential to achieve individual, national, and global objectives,” notes the Resolution, pointing out that the onus to make this happen lies on governments, which must “ensure that the people of their countries acquire all opportunities available to people in other successful regions of the world to visit, trade with, and learn.”
Affirming that dialogue and regional cooperation are essential for peace and stability in this region, the Sapan coalition urges the South Asian governments to:
1. Commit to holding a future SAARC Summit soon.
2. Provide a clear-cut plan on how SAARC can be revived.
3. Work towards deeper integration in Southasia and allowing people-to-people contact and restoring road, rail, and air connectivity.
4. Act on the need to uphold the genuine economic and social conditions of all peoples of the region, keeping aside narrow nationalist agendas.
“Governments must take joint initiatives with their counterparts in neighbouring countries to pursue and promote shared cultural, social, economic, and environmental objectives and solve political conflicts,” says the Resolution,
“Nations improve their economic and social welfare sectors when they interact as part of a regional bloc, as illustrated by the regional blocs that have emerged in Asia, Africa, and elsewhere. A regional organisation provides a stabilising cushion from destabilising fluctuations in the global economy,” says the Resolution, noting that this thought is what lay behind the foundation of SAARC in 1985.
Besides improving economic and social indicators, SAARC enhances the national prestige of individual Southasian countries, helping them manage bilateral relations and develop a collective regional identity.
The South Asian region combined has the highest number of people in the world living below the poverty line, outstripping sub-Saharan Africa. A revived SAARC can help mitigate this crisis, says the Resolution.
(By special arrangement with Sapan)
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