Chair: Speaker Deputy Speaker Chitra Lekha Yadav
IFA acting executive director Mr. Harischandra Ghimire's
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
EXCERPTS OF THE WORKING SESSIONS
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
Madhukar Shumsher Rana: Comprehensive Security for South
Asia: Conceptualization Towards a Regional Strategy
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
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
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
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
To Smruti, trade gap between Bangladesh and
India is more criticized than with China because India is a
Is it possible to give up state-centric interest,
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
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:
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
- 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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
Chair: Keshav Jha
Prof Dr. Khalida Ghaus:
The Changing Security Spectrum of South Asia: Consequences for
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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?
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
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
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?
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.
Chair: Bhekh Bahadur Thapa
Shafi Sami: SAARC Future
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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
Gautam Ghosh: We may differ here about
our identity, but when we go abroad, people recognize us as
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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?
- 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.
- 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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
I thank all for participation.