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Day 1

Chair: Speaker Deputy Speaker Chitra Lekha Yadav

IFA acting executive director Mr. Harischandra Ghimire's welcome address:

Chief Guest Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister K.P. Oli's address:

Chairperson Speaker Deputy Speaker Chitra Lekha Yadav's address:

FES Representative Dev Raj Dahal's vote of thanks


Chair: Sridhar Khatri

Ms Huma Baqai: Emerging Trends in International Security: Approaches to Peace and Cooperation
Smruti Patnaik: Strategies for Enhancing Comprehensive Security in South Asia: Areas of Collective Action in Multilateral Forum
Madhukar Shumsher Rana: Comprehensive Security for South Asia: Conceptualization Towards a Regional Strategy

Sridhar Khatri
The discussion will mostly be on South Asian security which poses as a challenge in many areas of cooperation. The Nepalese are mostly preoccupied with the constituent assembly and peace; and this appears to be making them forget about larger issues. I congratulate FES for organizing the discussion at such a juncture in time.

There are nuclear negotiations going on between US and India which will have their impact on South Asia and similar tie-ups are seen with Pakistan and China which have an impact on the traditional security issues. There are also non-traditional security issues which need to be dealt with. Both Sri Lanka and Nepal are bogged down with their own peace issues at the moment.

What is comprehensive security and what does it mean, given that India, US and China all affect the South Asian security? I hope the new paradigm of human security will also be discussed.



Prof Khalida Gaus: To Rana, Please explain how you will do the following: The idea is there, the direction is there, but we cannot move forward. Can collective security come to the rescue? Where will you get the political energy to come out with collective security?

Regarding failed states, the more we talk of use of force, the more we find it frightening? Can force be an option? If it is who should dominate in South Asia?

How will modernity be defined and developed by South Asians?

You talk of global security analysis. The more we try and understand the dynamics of South Asia the more confusing it gets. But still, there is already a paradigm in South Asia determining our course. Does it mean that we need to add new components to it or are we to reject the existing one and develop a new one?

Prakash A Raj: To Patnaik, you talk of regional hurdles to people-to-people integration and cite states coming in the way in issues like visa procedures as an example. But Nepal and India do not have a border, what is stopping that from happening?

To Rana, you talk of the Muslim majority states of Kashmir and Hyderabad. But that is not so, only Kashmir is Muslim majority.

You talk about entry of Afghanistan, China and Japan after unanimous decision by the SAARC states. Do you think China and Japan will garner that unanimity?

Dhruba Adhikari: Patnaik mentioned trust deficit. Will the Afghan entry narrow or widen the trust deficit?

Sugeeswara Senadhira: Are Huma's recommendations practical? Can ISI sit down with the RAW and discuss issues?

Shambhu Rana: Smruti talked about regional personality? What is that?

To Rana, what kind of institutional makeup do you visualize to implement your vision?

To Huma, what do you mean by Indian interest- is it economic interest or economic security? What could be the Indian interest regarding Nepal?

Prof. Sayed Hussain: Huma talks about human security deficit. Please explain. You also mention the democratic deficit. How do you overcome that in South Asia, especially regarding the different socio economic systems of the states?

To Smruti, trade gap between Bangladesh and India is more criticized than with China because India is a close neighbor.

Is it possible to give up state-centric interest, in reality?

To Rana, the paper is high on morals. But the world that we live in has very little to do with moral scruples, especially regarding relations. How can trade be made more based on morality?

Prof. Surya Lal Amatya: With Afghan entry, we have three landlocked, mountainous and developing countries now in SAARC. China is a rising economic power while Japan is already one. But in the SAARC region, China will be different from Japan as it has a contiguous border with Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. And, for many areas in northern Nepal it is more economic to travel through China even while doing so between two places within Nepal.

To Huma, Pakistan is accused of training terrorists and sending them into Afghanistan. What is the real issue?

To Smruti, if you look at NAFTA, it has made a tremendous impact on Mexico, whose population is migrating en masse to the US. How will SAFTA affect South Asia?

To Rana, how could the UN play a role in Nepal's conflict? I think the UN should be requested because it has been successful elsewhere.

Biswa Pradhan: The 13th SAARC summit came up with the idea of categorization of membership and observer status in the regional organization. In 1988, the very beginning, the procedural matters had clearly mentioned membership and dialogue partnership. But in the 13th session, they came up with the idea of observer status. The observer status was not mentioned in earlier documents, only dialogue partners. Let me explain, observers will not be allowed to speak or vote, but dialogue partners can speak and assist through aid. Is this not contradictory that we did not have in the beginning?

Vishnu Nepal: In 1971 Bangladesh was born, China entered the Security Council and India signed a security treaty with the USSR.

To all the presenters, could the concept of South Asian Security Organization resolve the nuclear dispute?

Gopal Pokhrel: We have had seminars where people come to discus problems, but end up adding more ideas and problems than anything else. I would like to categorize these problems into three:
1-Perceptional irritants,
2- military irritants and
3- nuclear irritants.
Regarding Nepal, S. Lanka or Bangladesh there are hardly issues that can be called military irritants. But military outlay is increasing everywhere. Nuclearwise, too, such irritants are there. Why not ask the core leadership to take up the issues and resolve them? We have at least been talking about convergence in many spheres. Why not exploit them for a positive outcome?

To Rana, I have said that the Maoist modus operandi has been highly objectionable. But Maoists have raised the profile of socio economic issues in a praiseworthy manner.

Shafi Sami: Afghan entry had been mentioned over and over again over the years, by Pakistan and India, alternatively, depending on the relations of Afghanistan with the two countries. This is the first time both India and Pakistan have agreed to allow its entry. SAARC will also confront challenges related with expansion and that it needs to confront them. One stimulus for this recent convergence was external. The US was interested to join even before SAARC came into being, in the 1980s. Japan too. But fear of economic influence among some countries prevented them from participating earlier.

Regarding security, SAARC adopted the anti-terrorism convention 15 years before 9/11 took place. States should not harbour and train terrorist groups to pressure other countries but they are present in almost all SAARC countries. State encouragement to trans-national terrorism is a bigger security threat than other security threats. But the states apparently seem to realize now that such practice is harmful and such terrorism may turn towards one's own state; and there examples of that happening in this region.

Mahendra Lama: Regarding the traditional and non-traditional security frameworks that you conceptualize, I look at it differently. National security is state-centric and the second one is people-centric. How do we prompt nation states to take up both at the same time? If we look at the Kargil incident and Gujarat riots, there were several parallels, but one is a national security threat while the other was an internal threat. Both were highly localized, politicized by the media and quelled by the military. Now, when would internal issues take the national security dimension for the state to take a more effective action?

Huma talked about cooperation. There are two stakeholders. The positive stakeholders have a dominant role while the negative stakeholders have a lesser role in integration.

One of the major preconditions for globalization is to pull down barriers. In South Asia, we have fewer barriers today, but states of South Asia are trying to regulate even traditionally open borders, like with Nepal, Myanmar or Bangladesh. Here we see two opposing trends which will ultimately clash.

Reply by Smurti

  • India and Nepal may have open borders, but India's border with Pakistan has many barriers. This is what I am trying to point at. It is impossible to do research in each other's country.
  • NGOs are doing much more in many countries on many state-centric issues, like micro credit in Bangladesh.
  • Instability in one country will spill mover to another, hence a cooperative security framework is needed. If only Indian security interest is pursued this will not happen.
  • Maoists have hijacked the government issues. That is why they are popular.
  • Positive forces of integration can be dominated by negative forces of integration.

Reply by Huma

  • Sub regional agreements will not be fruitful if anyone tries to play a dominating role. This is what I want to point out.
  • There are forces of change and there are forces of status quo. In South Asia, the status quo is strong, preventing change from happening.
  • On Amatya's concern about Pakistan having problems with the Taliban on its western borders, I believe that indigenous Taliban should be part of the political process in Afghanistan.

Reply by Rana

  • Fear of terrorism should pressure the elite to come out with a change agenda.
  • Regarding modernity, our development paradigms are derived from the west. The entry of China and Japan, and their capital in mega projects in South Asia could be a countervailing force.
  • Regarding Hyderabad, I am sorry, but I am talking about the unfinished business there.
  • I am against the US being an observer as they already have NATO and it does not serve anyone's purpose. They have a tendency to play their own game.
  • Gujral doctrine can be extended by China and Japan for SAARC.
  • Without talking about morality, we would not be talking of comprehensive security. I am for some form of moral order to shape things.
  • Regarding the UN, they want to be here to manage weapons and not keep peace.
  • The Pakistani secretary general of SAARC did not respond to our request on sub regional cooperation.
  • We need a social union of the South Asian diaspora before the economic union takes place. Another is a commonwealth of peoples across countries.
  • We have yet to see whether the Maoist issue in Nepal will have a positive outcome, but the point has been made regarding their role in destabilizing countries in South Asia.
  • If national security [threat] is defined as forces emanating from outside the country and internal security as something that emerges within, then we have problems in a globalized order.

Sridhar Khatri's remarks from the chair
My observations are:

  • We are working with certain active forces and we have not ignored them. Huntington's democratizing force is at work in South Asia. That is why we can sit down across the table today to discuss issues.
  • Second, the world is seeing more intra-state conflicts today than ever before. In the 20th century, the governments were killing their own people in millions. This is changing gradually and is a factor that can unite South Asia.
  • We see humanitarian laws being more significant and although the US does not abide by it, ultimately it will change for the better. Even the UN secretary general has realized the role of civil society in keeping the peace. Then civil society will play a more significant role in regional cooperation.
  • In south Asia there is no constituency to promote regional cooperation.

The question we have today is regarding the direction that SAARC is moving towards. We do not have a regional roadmap. At a time when South Asia is supposed to be more united, regarding WTO or other issues, on the contrary we cannot even decide who should be the UN secretary general. India has one candidate, Pakistan another and even Nepal is talking of its own candidate through some newspapers. If we cannot unite on such issues we have a lot of challenges ahead.

Regarding issues raised by Dev Raj Dahal, we need to have the institutional set up for those issues to be addressed.

Chair: Keshav Jha

Prof Dr. Khalida Ghaus: The Changing Security Spectrum of South Asia: Consequences for SAARC
Mr. Sugeeswara Senadhira: China and South Asia: Possible cooperation between SCO and SAARC



Surya Lal Amatya: To Khaleda: During democratic governance in Pakistan, the ties with India was better than during military dictatorship. Pakistan People's Party and the Muslim League have come closer in London against the military regime. Would this help better ties with India?

To Sugeeswara, Is it Shanghai Cooperation Council or Shanghai Cooperation Organization? India and China are improving their ties through border talks. On the economic front, trade is increasing and the border problems would not be a serious constraint. They are on the right track.

Khalida's reply
I am not a supporter of the military government and I am not a political activist. Still, I would like to say Musharraf has a better chance of moving forward on ties with India and he has moved beyond rhetoric, something that others could not do. But regarding the political legitimacy, he has less of it.

Sugeeswara's reply
It should have been Shanghai Cooperation Organization and not Council. I agree that the border issue cannot be ignored. But if the parties take the border issue up due to strategic reason, it would be a hurdle. But, not at the moment.

Huma Baqai: To Sugeeswara, Pakistani press reported that the Pakistani petroleum minister participated at the SCO summit last month. Does it indicate the kind of relations that India wants with the SCO?

In Sri Lanka, the Norwegian effort has failed. Do you foresee SAARC stepping in?

Sugeeswara's reply
India initially took the wait and watch policy. They thought that Pakistan would be a full fledged member and India would be reduced to a status, but not any more, apparently.

Regarding Lanka, The militants are not against the Norwegian, although they opposed Scandinavian monitoring. But Norwegian mission has asked for a six month extension for their monitoring task, but the LTTE has not responded. India which was hostile to external countries in Sri Lanka has now relented but only after making broad hints that they were after Prabhakaran. India is not interested at all in getting involved after it burned its fingers through its peacekeeping mission.

Prakash A. Raj: Khaleda says that the states lack common threat perception to bring them together. What are the threats?

You also talk of Hindu Tamils, but there are also Christian Tamils. The Sinhalese also have Christian communities. I always thought that it was an ethnic tension rather than religious beliefs fueling conflict in Sri Lanka.

You also talk of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. What about the ethnic cleansing of Hindus from Kashmir Valley?

Khalida's reply
The issues that I identified are in accordance with what I am saying. I feel South Asia is far behind time and trying to catch up. With the change in the global political environment along with change on the issues that governments and people would like to deliberate on, the perception of threat has undergone change, after the end of the Cold War. In South Asia too we need to identify the traditional reality and then move forward towards having a common collective identity. Also, the SAARC achievement is still far behind expectation.

The ethnic dimension does have a prominent role to play. I get my information from the local media and reports. My objective is not to pit one South Asian country against the other. Still we need to have a multi-pronged, multilevel strategy of cooperation.

Sugeeswara's reply
Yes, Lankan problem is an ethnic one, although there are religious bents portrayed in some reports.

Chandra Dev Bhatta: I think SCO is more involved in control of regional resources and recently they have begun to gain a military dimension. What will its impact be on SAARC?

Sugeeswara's reply
Even economic cooperation later develops a military dimension. That happens. It would be good for all if SAARC gets to share it, even if the Americans are not happy. Still, America too would like to see a trouble-free world. Again, the US too would change its policy and we need to get our act together before that.

Dhruva Hari Adhikari: Khaleda talks about a role for the media. Independent media is a good thing, but you say that it is either under government control or under some other power lobby. Which one is better, the one controlled by the government or the power lobby?

To Senadheera, you cannot ignore China. What about SAARC and what is the reason that attracted China?

Prof. Sayed Hussein: To Khaleda, we have witnessed the nexus between politics and religion. You talk of turning liberal democracy into a real democracy. If politicization of religion grows, what would happen to your liberal democracy?

Madhukar Rana: I think all religions talk of love and compassion and not murdering each other. I think religion is being misused.

What can we do to countervail the nexus between the media, the bureaucracy and the military, as the sources of funding are so difficult to trace?

To Sugeeswara, You talk about Indian wait-and-see attitude regarding the SCO, but I think the wait and see was to do with the nuclear deal with the US. Now you will see India participate in it. But my question is what should be the role of the smaller states?

Khalida's reply
What I am more interested in are the underlying factors which shape the issues that result in the threat perceptions.

Keshav Jha's remarks from the chair
SAARC is twenty years old and it has started to expand. There are challenges it must face as well as exploit the opportunities that are available.

Day 2

Chair: Bhekh Bahadur Thapa

Shafi Sami: SAARC Future Directions
Mahendra P. Lama: SAARC: Dynamics of New Regionalism
Harischandra Ghimire: WTO and Regionalism with special reference to SAFTA

Chairman Bekh Bahadur Thapa
There are growing challenges that come with expansion and there are signs of hope. Looking from abroad, people see disturbing signs. A friend told me that he was cautiously optimistic about the future of South Asia. He pointed at the economic growth of India and slower growth in other countries of the region. The linkage between the affluent section and the other parts of the world is alienating others and the problem has not been addressed. This is where those advocating change have the advantage. We see greater solidarity in the region today and at the same time problems have also cropped up.

During the Islamabad ministerial meeting some time ago, there were three levels of discussions going on at the same time-- among the heads of states, ministers and officials in separate rooms. What emanated from the ministerial meeting was very conservative because of their respective national interests but they were worried over the lack of an outcome and they realized that they had to come up with something. Meanwhile, the heads of states were talking about the weather and expected the ministers to come up with something. That is the reality of SAARC today.

Notwithstanding the serious work done by professionals and researchers, there is a feeling that SAARC has yet to deliver. The lack of progress I witnessed across the whole range of agenda in the one year I was minister and at the same time making great pledges are contradictory.


Safi Sami: I feel that political direction is crucial for SAARC. When the charter was being formed, Bangladesh was the host country and that the summit would take place every two years. I was the chief coordinator of that summit. A famous calligrapher prepared the charter, it was cleared by the foreign ministers and at a small informal group meeting of foreign ministry officials, a proposal asking why we were to meet only after two years and why not every year. Everyone agreed. I was disappointed that the artistic charter was dumped and a printout was circulated. It was Rajiv Gandhi who proposed the annual meeting. Pakistan supported the proposal. That is the spirit of SAARC and reality.

EU was interested in getting involved in SAARC back in 1983 when we had launched the Integrated Programme of Action. Reticence by some members prevented their involvement because of concern over external states taking part. International Telecommunications Union also wanted to get involved, but we did not have telecom as an area of cooperation back then. Today EU is said to be once more interested, and also Germany.


Prakash A Raj: To Lama, Last year IFA organized a seminar on Nepal's transit status. You did not mention it in your presentation. How will Nepal be affected by the opening of Nathu La point? There was discussion in India in the past about opening Nepal as a transit state. You talk of the Kunming initiative- the Nathu-La, Kodari and another one connecting Assam, Myanmar and Tibet. India was exporting mainly iron ore and other primary products. The transit route would help India export finished products and construction materials to western China. Have you made a decision to use any particular route for that?

To Sami, Japan and China have achieved the observer status. China is geographically contiguous, but Japan or EU are not. ASEAN is supposed to be a successful organization. Shouldn't SAARC study its strengths and weaknesses to apply to itself.

Dhruba Hari Adhikari: Sami talks of the existence of a level of distrust and apprehension in South Asia. What would mitigate that?

Huma Baqai: What happens after the US-India nuclear deal? The US Congress has ratified the deal now. What would be its implications for SAARC?

Chuda Shrestha: To Lama, Nepal is acquainted with the difficulties in investments in the hydro sector. Another is investments in roads. What about train tracks?

To Sami, We produce unskilled labour. Is there any SAARC initiative to train them and send them abroad for foreign employment?

To Ghimire, because of agitation, we have sick industries. But we have to compete globally within the WTO regime. How are we going to revive these sick industries?

Khalida Ghaus: To Sami, There are shortcomings in the implementation and monitoring mechanism. What is being done to resolve them?

Regarding coordination among nations, there is absolute non-coordination. There is also a lack of coordination among the various line departments and ministries.

You talk of ASEAN style dialogue partnership. Is it going to actually help South Asia or not?

What are the challenges being faced in the implementation of the SAARC Development Goals?

Rajeswar Acharya: To Sami, when we close we close completely; and when we open we open too wide. What are the implications [of such an attitude] for SAARC's development?

Afghan entry was a long pending issue. When we allowed it to enter, other countries were also allowed in. When Pakistan wanted to join the SCO, India also wanted to follow suit. How will such political decisions affect SAARC? We see that even the US is interested now and it is the US that said that South Asia is a very dangerous place.

You say that the US-India nuclear deal has opened up further possibilities. Please clarify.

To Lama, Is the Nathu-La pass pliable throughout the year? In Nepal, we are opening up Syabru Besi, an alternate to the Arniko Highway. There are many openings to China and at the same time we are talking about one personality for South Asia.

You also talk of energy cooperation. Many South Asian rivers flow from Tibet. Can we have a regional collaboration between China, Nepal and India so that energy cooperation and Himalayan ecosystem conservation are possible?

There is very little intra-regional trade within SAARC. India talks about Look-India policy. Can't we talk of a Look within SAARC policy?

Smurti: To Sami, Culture is a contested topic in SAARC, but you emphasize similar cultures. In India, telephone costs to New York is five rupees but within the SAARC it is 10 rupees.

Bilateral cooperation is not working in South Asia. Bringing other countries in would complicate things further.

Madhukar Rana: VS Naipaul talks about a million mutinies in South Asia. Inviting the US, EU and the like for proliferation of SAARC would not work unless we prioritize. If the UN channels its regional programmes through SAARC, it would help a lot.

We would like to invite sovereign individuals like Bill Gates. Philanthropy by private individuals by 2030 would be three times the GDP of the US, according to The Economist.

China and Japan are opportunities [for SAARC to exploit]. The surplus of about a trillion dollars between China and Japan will seek a market in some time to come. We need to attract that investment into SAARC.

The loans in China and Japan are already cheaper than World Bank's but we cannot access them because there is manipulation.

To Lama, there will be cooperation and competition with each other in the future. You talk of new regionalism. Will there be new actors in the regionalism or just new regionalism. Unless sovereignty is guaranteed regionalism will not work.

Funding of regional civil society is not going to make the organizations independent.

Regarding Tibet, will India be really serious? I think India may not go through the Nathu La because of geo-psychology. There could be demands for a greater Himalayan state or a Greater Nepal and the like, [if the pass was allowed to operate] but India will not want that. Hence, the transit will be through Nepal.

Resource mobilization in the private sector of India is possible.

Russia is also a part of South Asia now and China is very much in, just like the US. Which side will India take, the US and Japan or otherwise?

Sami's reply
The initiative to take up partners or observers is not an expansion, but Afghan entry is expansion. The others will be included only as collaborators. In ASEAN, more than 90 per cent of the funds come from outside. The partners involve themselves at the implementation level. I do not know the strengths and weaknesses of ASEAN, but this is an important issue that we could copy.

Failed cooperation is worse than cooperation as it will have raised the aspiration that cannot be fulfilled. The issues must be addressed in that context.

Regarding migration, I do not know of any framework developed for migration abroad. But there should be a framework developed for intra-regional movement of people if only for SAFTA's sake.

Coordination is a very weak point in SAARC. The coordinator in the member state is an official at the Foreign Ministry but the line ministries are sovereign minded and the difficulties are there.

We are deriving benefits from the activities of the civil society.

Rana mentioned about the role of the UN and the transfer of regional funds to SAARC. But SAARC is not well manned for that at the moment, although it would be a step in the right direction.

Regarding culture, it is true that there are not many similarities between Indian and Pakistani cultures, but there are also similarities between them that are closer than the cultures between the north Indian and South Indian culture.

Gautam Ghosh: We may differ here about our identity, but when we go abroad, people recognize us as South Asians.

Lama's reply
In 1991, they set up the poverty commission headed by Krishna Prasad Bhattarai. They pledged to eradicate poverty by 2002. Every resolution after that has reinforced that commitment. But when 2002 came, they just set up another poverty commission. This is how SAARC is functioning.

Coordinating is done through the national focal point at the foreign ministry of member states. But those persons are difficult to find. In this background, it is difficult to envisage SAARC moving the way the commentators today want it to move. Just look at SAFTA. There are activities outside SAFTA that are more dynamic. This makes it appear that the non-SAARC process will marginalize the SAARC process as time goes by.

Regarding Nathu La, we have been working for almost 12 years. Sikkim has asked for its reopening. Sensitization by the media and policy will help. I think it will open. The Chinese are working hard on that. It is the shortest route for China to reach South Asia. Nepal could be affected in a number of ways. Eastern Nepal could use Nathu La. But the road is not all weather and snow affects it for several months of the year.

Regarding India's civil N-deal with US and its impact on the gas pipeline, India is planning to produce 20,000 MW N-energy by 2020. We have only 3,000 MW today. Technology had hampered the effort so far. The time frame for the N-technology to come to India is a crucial issue. When will it replace the gas system? These are the variables to look at. We see that the Indian government is not very keen on the gas pipeline immediately but the Indian commitment to SCO is different. If we do not work seriously for gas, India is in a serious crisis.

Regarding cooperation and conflict with China, cooperation should be allowed to take over by going ahead. The same with Nepal-India water cooperation.

Ghimire's reply
Regarding intellectual property rights, there are WTO provisions for that and the WTO is the arbiter regarding disputes.

Chair: Bhekh Bahadur Thapa

Posh Raj Pandey: Roles of Business Community and Administration for the Implementation of the Treaty Obligations of BIMST-EC, SAFTA and WTO on Free Trade
Gautam Ghosh: Private Sector and Conflict Management



Karna Bahadur Thapa: To Ghosh, you did not talk about small arms and its black market in South Asia. There are grey areas created by the governments to make it a difficult situation. Regarding corporate security, how can the government bear the cost of corporate security? Crimes occur in South Asia for corporate security to be proved detrimental.

Chuda Shrestha: To Pandey, you talk about illegal trade but do not talk about managing it.

To Ghosh, you talk about illegal arms and IEDs. IEDs can explode factories into pieces. How do you manage them?

How do you manage the linkage between private sector and public sector security?

Smruti: To Pandey, if you need to reach consensus in the regional organizations that you talk of how do you resolve problems. Therefore, bilateral deals are preferable. It should be made to complement the regional process.

When BIMST-EC wanted to go for FTA, Bangladesh did not want to join immediately. It was asked to join whenever it wanted to. This is where the difference is between SAARC and BIMST-EC.

Madhukar Rana: Ghosh believes that it is the private sector that creates jobs. What is its role in creating jobs in the region?

There will be digital divide and some say that wars will occur because of it.

All stocks of arms and ammunition must be made transparent so that it does not enter the black market.

Mahendra Lama: To Pandey, tell us the kind of institutions that you created to comply with WTO rules. Secondly, how do you reach the private sector to make them comply with the WTO rules?

To Ghosh, you say the business community is a rational and a positive force. But it is the business community that keeps the black market alive and is responsible for spoiling trade deals with India. How do you turn them into a positive force?

Prakash A Raj: We have a conflict in Nepal, in spite of the truce. The insurgents extort money from businessmen. Similar protection money is given away in India. Do you think that it is ethical to do so by the businessmen?

Pandey's reply

  • Regarding illegal trade, you need to reduce the premium on legal trade.
  • Regarding bilateralism, we need to make regional trade more attractive.
  • The institution that we created is a national advisory group which gives inputs to government and negotiating positions. We break up business groups to get them understand the issues. In honey trade, we have called upon traders to reduce the use of pesticides.

Ghosh's reply

  • Small arms are beyond the purview of private security. The government must decide on that.
  • Corporate security is determined by government rules and laws.
  • I agree that training to reduce the digital divide is costly.
  • Regarding tea, we are talking with Pakistan to import Indian tea.
  • Regarding extortion, it is a challenge that we are fighting against and we must depend on the government in this.

Huma: Don't you think that trade deficits of all the countries in the region with India is a topic that can be taken up by businessmen?

Ghosh: It is because of tariff barriers in the other countries.

Chairperson's remarks
I would want to talk about SAARC's expansion that Sami raised. The original idea was to include countries from Myanmar to Afghanistan. So Afghanistan was at the back of our mind all the while. In a way, inclusion of Afghanistan was just a realization of the original idea.

Regarding cooperation with other actors including major powers, the region will not prosper and move ahead without creating linkages with them. That is why the leaders are open to expansion today.

The cost of conflict is huge for the whole region, in spite of the convention on terrorism. Our efforts should be to resolve conflicts within and between countries. This should be the focus of cooperation.

The trade barriers we have create a bad image to the world about SAARC.

Washington at first began hosting a gathering of SAARC ministers but it lasted only for two years. This was discontinued because the foreign ministers began to use the forum to bypass the regional agenda and whisper bilateral issues to the host. I think the future of ASEAN-SAARC luncheon meets is also at risk because of similar attitudes.

Chair: Dr. Dinesh Bhattarai

Prof. Sayed Anwar Hussein: Afghanistan min SAARC: Challenge more than Opportunity
Gopal Rai: Expansion of SAARC: Bhutan's Perspective
Chandra Dev Bhatta: Role of Civil Society in Peacebuilding in South Asia

Dr. Dinesh Bhattarai
SAARC was initially cautious about involving other organizations and countries. But the Group of Eminent Persons later recommended closer relations with other organizations and international finance institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. The 13th SAARC summit in Dhaka welcomed the request by Afghanistan to be included in the organization including giving the observer status to China and Japan. SAARC is being approached by the US, EU and Korea. Iran might too be interested. So the interest is growing regarding SAARC. The seminar is taking place at a time when discussions are taking place about inducting members in its fold.



Huma: To Sayed Anwar Hussein, you talk of de-Talibanization. Are you talking of the people or the mindset? In Washington, they have started talking about bringing the Taliban into the mainstream. People think that Karzai is just a mayor of Kabul propped up by the US and that the Taliban are the true representatives. So we may want to talk of de-tribalization, rather than de-Talibanization.

I feel that it is the international community that has abused Afghanistan.

Smruti: Pakistan and India are engaged in reconstruction of Afghanistan. Can the SAARC fund play a role in building infrastructure there?

To Bhatta, in the Jana Andolan, the civil society played a vital role; in Gujarat too it played its role. In Pakistan it is playing its role. Hence, giving space to civil society is necessary. The conditions are- a democratic society, independent media and independent judiciary.

Gopal Pokhrel: To Sayed, you have honestly taken up the issues emanating from the Afghan entry. But again, there is no country that does not have its own share of conflicts in South Asia.

In seminars we are very candid about discussing issues, but as soon as that is over the optimism dies down. Why can't we get our thinkers to convince the political will of the leadership and coax them into the direction that we want them to go. Do you have any idea about a mechanism that could stop the erosion of the SAARC structure? If we can get India and Pakistan to mend fences we can get rid of the big and small power syndrome.

Khalida: To Sayed Hussein, you talk of exigencies but do not elaborate. I believe that the efficacy of SAARC cannot be improved without improving coordination, no matter how much you expand it. When the social charter was developed, everybody was elated. Today no one talks about it. The task is daunting and the coordination is not there. Since there was no pre-condition for Afghan membership, it is futile to have expectations regarding what will happen after its membership.

One has to weigh the pros and cons of expansion. To what extent are we prepared to bring in new influence? The Bhutanese talked about a lost identity, I do not think that there is a South Asian identity.

We know that there were factors preventing Afghan entry and the membership cannot bank on one person named Karzai.

Prakash A Raj: To Sayed, before 9/11 Pakistan recognized Afghanistan. Was Pathan politics in Pakistan Talibanized during Taliban rule in Afghanistan?

To Bishal Rai, Afghanistan is in South Asia so why re-name it after its entry?

Afghanistan's strategic location regarding the gateway to petroleum in central Asia is a vital point and that may be why India is interested in that country.

To Bhatta, you talk of autonomy movements of northeastern Indian states. The movements are more for separatism than for autonomy.

Madhukar Rana: To Rai, Tashi Enterprises has grown into Nepal, India and Bangladesh. What is the government doing to make it expand outside?

To Bhatta, in the West, religious organizations or the church are taken as a good thing, but here it is taken as a bad thing. This is double standards.

Again, the traditional organizations are totally bypassed by NGOs.

To Sayed Hussein, I think that Afghan entry will push the security agenda to the fore in SAARC. What makes you think that the US pushed for the Afghan membership? What proof do you have?

Afghanistan lies at a historical and geographical fault line. With its entry, that may be lost. But still there is oil in central Asia and the Gulf region. Is the intention of the Americans to create a South Asian peacekeeping force for Afghanistan so that they can withdraw?

The Kabuliwalas would once again come to South Asia and finance activities here.

Dhrubahari Adhikari: To Sayed Hussein, are you trying to say that the Afghan entry is more of a liability? The charter requires all decisions to be made on consensus. Would you like a vote on the issue?

Chuda Shrestha: To Bhatta, you should try to show what civil society entails-- the role of civil society during conflict and post-conflict while describing their activities.

Migration, conflict, gender and refugees have been discussed in a lot of literature. It would be helpful for you to contextualize for South Asia.

To Sayed, you should give some historical background to explain the Afghan story to make it more relevant.

Sugeeswara: Is it fair to keep Afghanistan out until it corrects itself?

Karna Bahadur Thapa: To Sayed, terrorism gets defined according to context, even if the world may not agree with it. The information we receive from Iraq or Afghanistan, is through western sources and the other view is absent.

SAARC does not mention security in its charter. And, indeed if Afghan membership would push the security agenda forward, then it would be good.

The Muslims have had to fight the westerners for a long time, whether it is in Lebanon, or in Palestine. The Muslim world is a testing ground and experiment lab for military technology of the West.

By joining SAARC, can the mujaheddin people actually be transformed?

Mahendra Lama: I think that India wanted the proposal to be put forward by Pakistan on condition that China be brought as observer. Then Japan too was taken in. I think this is the sequence of events.

Afghanistan has tried to engage central Asian countries for the past two years. A transmission line from central Asia has been brought to Afghanistan by the US, India and the World Bank. I think this has heightened the importance of Afghanistan. What could be the other factors that led to bringing in Afghanistan? Again, why not Myanmar? Would China be a deterrent factor or something else? Why is Myanmar not being proposed by SAARC countries?

Khalida: There is no such thing as Pathan politics. May be you want to talk about the Pashtuns.

Reply by Sayed Anwar Hussein
By de-Talibanization I wanted to give the SAARC perspective. You cannot have a Talibanized SAARC. What goes on in Afghanistan is still a sad story in many cases. That does not mean de-Islamization.

I am not very pessimistic about Afghanistan; it is just that I want to unearth the challenges. There are at least two that I see-- one is that SAARC must adjust structurally and secondly, it must be able to mange Afghanistan's membership.

Regarding a specific roadmap for SAARC, we have not had an answer so far. S.D. Muni was quoted as saying that for a successful SAARC it has to be taken away from the clutches of the corridors of power.

In Bangladesh the civil society either belongs to the BNP or the Awami League. In spite of all this, there is something being done by them. Some breakthroughs between India and Pakistan were engineered by the civil society.

SAARC might be forced to look into security issues after the Afghan entry, but I am not sure.

Myanmar's entry into SAARC will be debated for some time. After enough experience with Afghanistan, we may take up Myanmar.

Bhatta's reply
I agree that there is no vibrant civil society but at the same time I agree that we have very vibrant traditional civil societies in South Asia. But the traditional ones are not geared towards resolving political issues. If the civil society tries to take up this political challenge, they will lose their powers. That is the paradox.

Since the society is being militarized and civil military relations will play a vital role here, the civil society must gear itself to take up the issues.

Bishal Rai's reply
When I meant changing the name of SAARC, I did not mean after the entry of Afghanistan. If we take up Japan or China, we may have to do so.

Regarding the private sector growth, the government has a good policy to allow that, but they have not been able to explore outside Bhutan because of lack of skills and capital.

For Bhutan, it banks on SAARC to project itself to the world.

Chairperson's remarks
SAARC and its 20 years have not gone without achievements, although modest. It has emerged as a hope for South Asia. It has sensitized the people of the region, given a sense of south Asian identity, it has allowed countries to start taking a collective position in the international scene, and there are people-to-people level contacts. There are issues that need to be addressed and SAARC has provided a forum for that. It has allowed the leaders to increase trust and understanding. The two leading members and their differing positions are being managed by SAARC.

The road ahead is not without challenges but still it is a forum that can build a better life for the deprived citizens of South Asia.

Regional groups develop their own priorities and dynamics in an interdependent world. Peace or security in one country is not confined to that country alone. The SAARC process also has improved the resilience of the member countries in the region.

When we decided to take in Afghanistan as member and China and Japan as observers, the interest in the regional organization has suddenly increased. It is home to one fifth of humanity and 40 per cent of the world's poor. Mahbub ul Haq described it in a similar poor light. My question is why the newfound interest in this region which has been characterized as the most dangerous place.

Trade potential has been noticed by others although intra-regional trade is miniscule. The geostrategic position of South Asia is great. It has been the strategic theatre but treated as a backyard until some years back. The two rising power economies, China and India, have signed strategic tie-ups. This coming together of the potential countries has drawn the attention of the global powers. They also have huge markets for them to exploit.

A think-tank in India says that India and Pakistan have a pendulum like relationship--from Kargil to Lahore and vice versa.

While discussing expansion, we should ask ourselves whether we will be opening the floodgates and whether we will be able to manage it.

South Asia has to enter new areas of cooperation. We need collective trust to improve the lives of the common people.

I thank all for participation.

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