The former President, A. P. J. Abdul Kalam has hoped that despite rivalry between the two nuclear nations, South Asia emerges as an integrated region on the lines of European Union in next 10 years.

“I think South Asia will emerge as an integrated region in next 10 years discarding their rivalry following footsteps of the EU and ASEAN nations,” the visiting nuclear scientist and former president of India, said at a news briefing on Thursday.

Mr. Kalam referred to integration of European nations which happened despite their centuries-long enmity. Asked if he experienced any “guilty feeling” for his leading role in nuclear armament of his country as he now campaigns for regional peace and enhanced cooperation, he defended his work saying it was important for maintaining regional power balance.

He said he undertook research on satellites for peaceful purposes. He, however, said India spent small amount for missile development. Mr. Kalam hoped a 20 to 50 per cent cut is achieved in the use of fossil fuels by 2030 as people switch to renewable energy.

Mr Kalam has also identified “water resource” as another crucial area of bilateral cooperation telling that scarce resources shared by the two countries (India and Bangladesh) through common rivers were being wasted largely due to “inefficient management”.

The 81-year old scientist put forward a suggestion that Bangladesh and India should work together to replace plastic products with jute goods. “Thirty billion tonnes of carbon dioxide are being injected every year and that’s why I am promoting solar power, hydro power, wind power, nuclear power and bio-fuel.”

Mr. Kalam, who is on a two-day visit to attend the 33rd founding anniversary of the Dhaka-based Centre on Integrated Rural Development for Asia and the Pacific (Cirdap), said, “I have a dream India and Bangladesh will join hands to replace plastics by jute products [globally].”

He asked the 15-nation inter-government organisation to take initiatives for promotion of natural fibre for green economy and outlined his model of rural development under the framework of his Provision of Urban Amenities in Rural Areas (PURA), an institutional campaign.

Kalam, who has been dedicating his efforts for the past 10 years to rural development, also outlined a detailed design for implementing his PURA model in Bangladesh's western Khulna region. The model suggests a holistic approach for development of rural neighbourhoods providing livelihood opportunities and urban amenities to villages under private-public partnership which is run by local government bodies at the grassroots.

When his attention was drawn to the recent controversy that he was under pressure not to conduct oath of Congress leader Sonia Gandhi as prime minister, he said, “I did not say that. You see as per the Constitution if a political party which has majority selects somebody, then I have to appoint her/him.”

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