The South Asian countries have been reluctant to follow the principles of tolerance inherent in Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam, the three dominant religions in the region, according to T.V. Paul, James McGill Professor of International Relations, McGill University, Canada.
This non-acceptance of peaceful civilisational norms developed in the region over centuries by contemporary states is critical for understanding the dilemma they are in, he has added.
Prof. Paul, who is the Erudite Scholar-in-Residence at the School of International Relations and Politics (SIRP), Mahatma Gandhi University, was speaking at the concluding session of the Erudite Lecture series at SIRP on Monday.
According to him, some of these values were drawn and practiced by leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, and others. Yet, eclectic Islamic ideas inherent in Sufism are undervalued in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Extreme violence marks the internal and external relations of these countries. Buddhism’s powerful ideas of nonviolence and compassion are blatantly neglected in Sri Lanka’s violent suppression of minority rights, despite being a majority Buddhist country.
Fading communal fabric
India has almost forgotten Gandhi’s nonviolence and the prevailing trends seem to upset the minority rights and communal harmony of the multi-ethnic country, Prof. Paul says.
While the region has historically been a theatre of reconciliation of civilisational ideas derived from Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Sikhism in particular, which promoted peace among different communities, violence has occurred in the context of the politicisation when religion was used by various groups for their own advantage, Prof. Paul says.
Need to strengthen SAARC
Gandhiji’s non-violent struggle succeeded because he rooted his strategy in peaceful religious ethos, beyond Hinduism, he says.
Yet the ruling classes are unable to utilise these ideas for sustainable peace in the region. He also stressed the need to strengthen regional institutions like SAARC.
India has forgotten Gandhi’s non-violence and present trends upset harmony