“Economic crisis that has gripped Europe has important lessons for us”
“India stands fully committed to building SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) as a strong and effective instrument for regional cooperation,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said here on Friday.
“We need to cooperate more closely to critically understand issues relating to food, energy and water security, disaster management and health and address them from a holistic and regional perspective. Connectivity is also still lagging far behind where it should be,” he said, dedicating the UNESCO Madanjeet Singh Institute of South Asia Regional Cooperation (UMISARC) for promotion of peace and cooperation among SAARC countries.
There was a “genuine desire” among South Asian leaders to write a new chapter in the history of the organisation and important initiatives that symbolised the idea of South Asia were taking shape, the Prime Minister said.
“The financial and economic crisis that has gripped Europe has many important lessons and implications for us,” he said.
“The events in the Euro zone should not cast a shadow over our own efforts at building unity and, eventually, a South Asian Union. If anything, we have not been ambitious enough in working towards building a united South Asia, where each of our countries seeks its economic and social salvation through cooperative development within the region and by leveraging each other’s strengths,” he said.
“We have many men and women of talent and creativity among us. They should pool their wisdom and work to remove the mental and other roadblocks that are preventing the people of South Asia from realising their true destiny,” he said.
“Whenever I meet South Asians from different walks of life, they always speak of their desire to see our countries live together in peace and work together for our common progress. I was in Myanmar recently and was impressed by the enthusiasm and interest of the Myanmar people to strengthen and promote links with South Asia,” he said.
Speaking of the initiatives taken towards building a united SAARC, Dr. Singh said the South Asia University had started and would soon have its own full-fledged campus outside Delhi.
Also, the SAARC Development Fund had become operational and started implementing projects under its social window.
Commending Pondicherry University for hosting a centre that focusses on South Asia studies, he said, “It is ironic that many universities in the West have chairs or centres that focus on South Asia, but here in our own region we have so few of them.”
The citizens of South Asia have to start communicating and understanding each other through direct contact rather than through western academic prisms or constructs, he said.
Chairperson of South Asia Foundation Mani Shankar Aiyar urged the Prime Minister to make Pakistan-India student exchange easier. He also welcomed any financial assistance towards the South Asia Federation.
Speaking on behalf of founder of the South Asia Federation, Madanjeet Singh, trustee of SAF France Marquet announced that students from Pakistan would be able to attend SAF institutions in India this year.