Emphasising the need for the South Asia region to prosper as a whole, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday highlighted the dangers posed by terrorism in the region and called for greater efforts to fight it.
“The scourge of terrorism has [already] taken a huge toll on all our societies. It is a cancer that, if not checked, will consume us all. I would like to believe that we have the will and foresight to prevent such an outcome.”
Inaugurating a conference of Speakers and Parliamentarians of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) countries, Dr. Singh stressed the need to develop a “culture” for resolving the problems of the region by the countries themselves, instead of depending on outsiders.
“South Asia cannot realise its full potential until and unless we solve our differences peacefully and develop the culture of solving our problems ourselves. Others cannot solve our problems for us.”
Emphasising that India remained firmly committed to the principles and ideals of SAARC, Dr. Singh said it would go the “extra mile” to make it an effective organisation that benefitted all the citizens of the region.
“India provides opportunities for all of South Asia to benefit from its economic growth and vast market. We have opened our market and we are committed to pursuing policies that benefit the entire regional economy as a whole.”
Welcoming the various initiatives taken in recent times such as declaration of 2010-20 as the ‘Decade of Intra-regional Connectivity’ in SAARC, and establishment of a SAARC Development Fund and a SAARC Regional Food Bank to meet food emergencies in the region, he said more needed to be done faster. “We are moving in the right direction, but we need to move much faster.”
Greater ties urged
Dr. Singh called for greater regional cooperation for improving the quality of governance in managing natural resources, preventing land and water degradation and strengthening food, water and energy security. “We should do this at all levels — bilaterally, sub-regionally and the region as a whole. SAARC Convention on Cooperation in Environment agreed upon at the SAARC summit at Thimpu in 2010 deserves to be implemented in full.”
The Prime Minister called for development of ingenious models of growth that were based on the nature of resources available in the region and did not blindly follow those of the West. “South Asia cannot afford to copy Western lifestyles. We have to tap our own genius to develop models of growth which correspond to our resource endowment and yet enable us to banish the scourge of poverty from our midst.”
Noting that the countries in the region shared civilisational and cultural heritage going back to many centuries, Dr. Singh said: “Our destinies are bound by history and geography. If we act with wisdom and sagacity, we all stand to benefit… we must learn to speak with one voice on the common challenges that face us.”
He also called for efforts to channel the energies of the youth in the region to productive ends. “Disaffection and alienation provide a fertile breeding ground for intolerance, violence and terrorism, which then threaten our societies and rupture the social fabric.”
In this context, he welcomed the setting up of the South Asian University as a timely initiative and said it had the potential to become an important centre of learning in the region with the help and the support of all the SAARC nations.
Welcoming the gathering, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar expressed confidence that the conference would help augment the core of SAARC’s objectives. “As Parliamentarians, we are keepers of the people’s will and therefore it is our responsibility to understand and appreciate the power of democratic institutions, especially those that encourage social cohesion and inclusiveness,” she added. Hindu