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South Asian Regional Co-operation

The main objective of FESin this area is to promote regional co-operation in South Asiain general and strengthen Nepalís role in SAARC in particular. The project target has accordingly been designed to formulate various approaches of regional co-operation, identify concrete steps for regional co-operation and help in the formation of political will by familiarizing the political decision-makers with relevant issues. In the sphere of regional co-operation, FES has extended support to its partner organizations in conducting training, seminars and workshops; publishing books; providing material help and; organizing study tours.

 FES provides support for regional co-operation in South Asia mainly through its partnership with the Coalition for Action on South Asian Co-operation (CASAC), an independent non-profit, public policy network of South Asian opinion and policy makers committed to the promotion of regional co-operation in the region. CASAC was founded in December 1994 as a follow-up to the decisions taken by the Conference in Kathmandu, in May 1994, on Shaping South Asiaís Future: Role of Regional Co-operation, a major brainstorming session that was also initiated by FES.

The objectives of CASAC are to:

  • Work for acceleration of progress of regional co-operation in South Asia;
  • Take all possible steps for promoting knowledge of the principles and activities of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC);
  • Facilitate the implementation of the decisions of the SAARC Summit; and interact with other like-minded groups engaged in promoting regionalism;
  • Promote the concepts, ideals and principles of togetherness, sharing and partnership among and between the peoples of the region;
  • Explore alternative approaches and methodologies for managing regional relations and for taking decision on complex issues in the light of the interests of the present and future generations of South Asia; and
  • Seek and strengthen contacts with the policy and opinion makers at all levels.

CASAC works closely with the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC), providing policy inputs in the decision making process at both the regional and national levels. Its members include former and incumbent ministers and high level bureaucrats, senior academics and prominent social activists of the region. All the former Secretary Generals of SAARC are members of the Executive Committee of CASAC. It has also become a tradition for the incumbent Secretary Generals to frequently exchange ideas with CASAC during the meeting of its Executive Committee. Five distinguished CASAC members (Prof. Rehman Sobhan, Prof. Muchkund Dubey, H.E. Mr. Ibrahim Zaki, Mr. Yadav Kant Silwal and Mr. Mangala Moonesinghe) were nominated to the Group of Eminent Persons (GEP) that was set up by the Male Summit in 1997 to develop a perspective plan of action with a "SAARC Agenda for 2000 and Beyond." Three more of its distinguished members (Mr. Abul Ahsan, Mr. Kant K. Bhargava and Ms. Manel Abeysekera) were nominated to the Independent Expert Group (IEG) that was mandated to assess the benefits of SAARCís Integrated Programme of Action. After the 1997 Male Summit, the then Chairman of SAARC, President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom of the Maldives, sent a letter of thanks to CASAC, acknowledging its contribution to some of the decisions that were taken by that Summit. More recently, in an unprecedented gesture during the International Conference held in Kathmanduon South Asia 2010: Challenges and Opportunities, all the Heads of State and Government in the region sent messages to the Conference wishing its success.

In addition to the valuable input provided to the SAARC process by its members, CASAC also influences opinions and policies in the region through it seminars, workshops and publications. The subjects covered range from harmonization of media laws, co-operation in transport and communication sectors, to hard-core economic issues relating to economic co-operation in South Asia. Such activities are held throughout the member countries of SAARC. CASAC also brings out occasional discussion papers and policy papers, which are specifically designed to provide input to the decision making process in South Asia. The ideas generated in these papers have been useful not only in developing a vision for the region but also in providing momentum for creating a South Asian community. In April 2000, CASAC also established its own Website in South Asia (www.casaconline.com), which not only helps to disseminate its own activities globally but also serves as a hub for all activities relating to regional co-operation in South Asia.

The following table lists the papers that were published by CASAC recently:

Table-1: CASAC Papers and Publications

CASAC Discussion and Policy Papers
  • "SAARC: Vision for the Second Decade"
  • "South Asian Co-operation: From Commitment to Implementation"
  • "Strengthening SAARC in Its Second Decade"
  • Proposal of the Group of Eminent Persons formed by CASAC on "Moving Towards a South Asia Community"
  • "SAARC Vision beyond the Year 2000: The CASAC Perspective on the Report of the SAARC Group of Eminent Persons"

Pubications

  • CASAC/Centre for Nepal and Asian Studies (CNAS), Tribhuvan University, Documentation on SAARC, 1996
  • CASAC/CNAS Report on Democracy Watch, 1997
  • CASAC/ARDAC publication on South Asian Economic Cooperation: Problems and Prospects, 1997
  • CASAC/NEFAS, WTO, Regional Co-operation and Nepal, 1999
  • CASAC/NEFAS, Economic Development and the Vision of Social Justice: SAARC after the Year 2000, 1999
  • CASAC, The Kathmandu Statement: Programme of Action, March 2000
  • CASAC Policy Paper III, SAARC Vision beyond the Year 2000: The CASAC Perspective on the Report of the SAARC Group of Eminent Persons, September 2000

As a regional NGO, CASAC has its main office in Kathmandu and co-ordinates its regional activities through its national chapters in South Asiawith the support of FESoffices in the region. The Executive Committee is the main decision-making body of CASAC and its day-to-day work is co-ordinated by the Co-Convenors through regular consultation with its Co-Chairmen (Amb. Farooq Sobhan and H.E. Mr. Ibrahim H. Zaki). Operating from New Delhi, Amb. Kant K. Bhargava served as the active Co-Convenor from 1994 till early 1997. From 1997 onwards, Prof. Sridhar K. Khatri has served as the active Co-Convenor, operating from CASAC office in Kathmandu. The CASAC Website also operates from Kathmandu.

Since 1994, the Nepal National Chapter has helped co-ordinate a number of CASAC activities, both of a regional and national nature. The most recent was the International Conference on "South Asia 2010: Challenges and Opportunities", which was supported by the FES.

The following table lists the CASAC activities in Nepal

Table - 2: CASAC Activities in Nepal

Seminars/Workshops

  • CASAC and Academic Research and Development Action Council (ARDAC) Seminar on "Economic Co-operation in South Asia," on February 25, 1996
  • CASAC/South Asian Media Association (SAMA) and Asian Mass Communication Institute (AMIC) Workshop on the "Harmonization of Media Laws in South Asia," August 2-3, 1996
  • CASAC/Jawahar Lal University Regional Workshop on "Ethnic Conflicts: Cross-Border Ramifications and Prospects of Regional Co-operation in South Asia," December 9-10, 1996
  • CASAC Seminar on "Nepaland SAARC," November 25, 1998
    CASAC/NEFAS Seminar on "WTO, Regional Co-operation and Nepal," in 1999
  • CASAC/NEFAS Seminar on "Economic Development and Vision of Social Justice: SAARC After the Year 2000," in 1999
  • CASAC International Conference on "South Asia 2010: Challenges and Opportunities," December 1-3, 1999
    CASAC/NEFAS, "Role of Private Sector in Regional Cooperation in South Asia", September 22, 2000
  • CASAC, Meetings of Citizensí Commission for South Asia, December 1-3, 2000
  • CASAC/EFAS/ FES Workshop on "Sub-Regional Cooperation on Energy,"† November 27, 2001.  

Table-3: Type of support FEShas provided to CASAC in Nepal.

Regional Co-operation in South Asia
Types of Activities
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
Total
Seminars
4
2
-
-
3
2
-
11
Workshops
1
3
2
1
1
-
1
9
Study & Publications
3
-
1
-
3
-
-
7
Study Tours
-
-
-
1
1
-
3
5
Material Support
-
-
-
3
-
1
-
4
Total
8
5
3
5
8
3
4
36

 

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