Barriers To Progress In South Asia
of South Asia: A New Generational Perspective
Published Year: 2004
Published by: Institute of Foreign Affairs
(IFA) & Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)
Price: Not mentioned,
By Ritu Raj Subedi
South Asia, the home to 23 percent of
the world's population, is the poorest region in the planet
with teeming millions living below the poverty line having
a daily income of less than a dollar a day.
Despite its vast market potentials,
richly endowed natural resources (water of Nepal. Natural
gas of Bangladesh, coal of India) and qualified human
resources (IT professionals and entrepreneurs), it has
failed to break the vicious cycle of poverty.
The region witnesses massive conventional
arms race, acquisition of nuclear arsenals, circulation
of small arms and drug trade, frequent border skirmishes,
conflicts centering around religious, ethnic and sectarian
lines and above all political instability, terrorism and
Following the 9/11 incident, South Asia
has received due attention and emerged into being a strategic
geopolitical location with the US-led war in Afghanistan.
The region's strategic location has been admitted by the
western world not solely because it has countries like
India and Pakistan that have proved their nuclear potentials
and are long time rivals. It is more because of its natural
and human resources that is likely to help the region
emerge into a key economic power in the years ahead. Its
uniqueness lies in its diversity standing out in the form
of different nationalities, religions, culture, geography
and historical legacy.
SAARC that came into existence to bring
progress and prosperity in the region has not been able
to gain momentum as expected largely due to never ending
Indo-Pak tension. Besides, the lack of a strong political
and economic will on the part of its leaders has hindered
To galvanise the SAARC process and overcome
inertia demands fresh approaches, which this book, under
review, attempts to offer. The book is a compilation of
four working papers by young intellectuals presented at
a seminar in Kathmandu a few months back. It deals with
various issues and dimensions on politics, security, economics,
WTO and mutual cooperation with special reference to SAARC.
In 'Security in South Asia: A Future
perspective,' Nischal Nath Pandey analyses the region
from the standpoint of security. He sees poverty, hunger
and diseases posing more threats than that of missiles
to the region. He also deals with inter and intra-states
It is insane to presume that a nuclear
exchange will resolve our problems. The only panacea for
all impediments and measures to address substantial issues
is possible through a changed mind-set.
"The politico-strategic nature
of inter-state relations continues to remain depressing.
Foremost, India's relations with smaller neighbours function
like traffic light. Post 9/11, the US has emerged as a
potential synthesizer and a conciliator for peace, harmony
and stability in the region. The rapidly changing global
strategic environment also warrants an early establishment
of formal security mechanisms in the region," he
Pandey thinks South Asia offers the
hope through a vibrant civil society, its younger generation
of a better, prosperous and a more secure future.
'Using WTO Membership as a Tool for
Governance Reforms in South Asia with Special Reference
to Nepal' by Ratnakar Adhikari mulls over the benefits
to Nepal as a member of WTO.
However, it should also be kept in mind
that Nepal will not be able to take the advantage it enjoy
after joining World Trade Organisation (WTO) if it fails
to reform its domestic policies or in other words "put
its house in order," he write.
He says that a country like Nepal, which
is saddled with years of mal-governance, should initiate
autonomous governance measures to benefit from the world-trading
He prescribes a number of reforms such
as mainstreaming trade in development strategies and process,
stressing on the knowledge-based economy, building capacity
and human resources, identifying competitive and diversification
of export of profile, compensation the losers, creating
safeguard and enacting the competition law, among others.
Although his suggestions are right and
necessary but the existing political and economic turmoil
can hardly help to implement them.
In 'Streamlining Economic Cooperation
in South Asia,' noted industrialist Rajendra Kumar Khetan
raises a number of issues to boost mutual regional cooperation:
making similarity of product and process as most of the
economies are based on agriculture and their technological
advancements are not very different, meeting consumer
demand, product quality and overcoming market limitations
posed by political and geographical considerations and
dismantling the non-tariff barriers (NTB) in the region.
"However for meaningful regional
cooperation, whether economic or otherwise the primary
requisite is a spirit of peaceful coexistence among the
members of the region," he writes.
Foreign expert Paras Ghimire in 'Way
to Re-invigorate SAARC' calls on the SAARC leaders to
display not only political will but also economic will.
According to him, practical and concrete activities are
a must to reinvigorate the regional body. Holding annual
dialogues between the SAARC heads of states/governments,
civil society leaderships to boost people to people contacts
and an annual business summit along with the lines of
Davos Summit are some ways in this regard.
The young experts have painstakingly
worked to give maximum input on the core regional issues.
As they have pointed out, a change of mindset, especially
in the regional rivals is a must to benefit the South
Asian people by exploiting great human and natural potentials
located here. India must drop its 'big brother image'
and be realistically ready for mutual cooperation and
respect it's the smaller neighbours.
The authors the book indeed offer pragmatic
ideas but until military and political jingoism deeply-rooted
in the region, are stamped out, these ideas are likely
to evaporate in the thin air. Anyway, the innovative views
if adopted with honesty would have a positive impact on
the key decision-making forums.
The book also contains comments
from the erudite personalities such as M.R Josse professor
Gundnidhi Sharma, Madhukar SBJ Rana and professor Bishwo
Pradhan on the above mentioned papers, which should prove
a bonus to the readers.
Source: The Rising Nepal, Friday
Supplement (28 May 2004)