India and China should join hands for drawing a road map to combat climate change and tackle extreme poverty without waiting for western assistance, East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta said on Thursday.

Asia had the resources and capability to address the challenge. “The question is whether we have the vision and political will power.”

“Scientists, scholars and technocrats in Asia should take steps and do ‘what they can do' without looking to the West for assistance,” he said. “Fifty years back, Asia was poor. Today, however, it can lead the world.”

Mr. Ramos-Horta was delivering the inaugural address at a three-day international conference on “Global Warming, Climate Change, Sustainable Development and Secular Spirituality” organised by the Santhigiri Research Foundation here.

The Nobel Peace prize winner said India could do more by building bridges of cooperation with other Asian powers like China, Japan and Korea to eliminate poverty.

“Extreme poverty exists in many parts of the world. People lack access to clean water, decent meals, shelter and basic education. If this is the balance of the 20th century, it is a collective failure,” he said. “The past 200 years of human activities have also their impact on the environment. There is human pressure on land, environment and other animals.”

Mr. Ramos-Horta suggested that the powers that be in Asia, regardless of what the U.S. and Europe did, summon up the wisdom of thousands of years and mobilise their resources to check global warming and tackle poverty.

Presiding, the former Union Minister and MP Shashi Tharoor stressed the need for shared responsibility in the effort to check greenhouse gas emissions. “Countries like India and China are also contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. The victims of climate change are poor nations who cannot insulate themselves from the impact.”

Mr. Tharoor reminded rich countries that it was their responsibility to help poor nations tackle the impact of climate change.

Mubarak Awad, president, American University; Corinna Ybarra Arnold, head, Cultural Affairs, American Consulate, Chennai; N. Radhakrishnan, chairman, Indian Council of Gandhian Studies; Swami Navananma Jnana Thapaswi, director, Santhigiri Ashram; and K. Gopinathan Pillai, deputy general convener of the conference, spoke.

The Santhigiri Ashram at Pothencode is hosting the event organised in association with the UNESCO and the American Centre.

Correction

In the news report, “Without looking to West, Asia can take on climate change, poverty” (September 10, 2010), there was a reference to East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta talking about people lacking excess to clean water, decent meals, shelter and basic education. It should have been access.

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