“The present intra-SAARC trade is only 4 per cent of the region’s global trade.
There is enormous potential of intra-regional trade and investment that we must
not leave untapped,” Pallam Raju insisted.
Hailing the ‘democratic moment’ that the
South Asian region has witnessed, the minister urged the South Asian
nations not to be complacent but “work towards reinforcing the processes
of change by building more capable institutions, improving governance,
tackling the problem of corruption, reaching out to the vulnerable
sections of the society and strengthening the feedback loops.”
Insisting that “Think South Asia” should
be the motto for all of us to connect with one another and build bridges
across artificial divides that inhibit the process of regional
integration, Pallam Raju said that the “Initiatives taken by the SAARC
forum provide excellent frameworks for cooperation.”
Further, throwing light on the global
financial crisis that is also casting its shadow in the South Asian
region, the minister urged the regional community to “institutionalize
regional efforts for cooperation at various levels” to combat the
situation while urging that the finance ministers and the central bank
governors should come together and discuss the crisis at the earliest.”
Instead of wasting energies on mutual
differences, the South Asian states need to focus on the region’s rich
“human and natural resources” and its “demographic dividend” in the form
of its vast youth population and use them for strengthening the
foundations of democracy and ensuring transparent governance and
inclusive development, said the minister.
While Prof S D Muni, Senior Visiting
Fellow at IDSA, critiqued the very idea of stability giving his
analytical opinion about the situation prevailing in most of the
countries in the region that are all affected by political uncertainty
and fractured political consensus, he stressed upon the fact that the
issues leading to conflicts in different states remained unaddressed.
“Therefore South Asia would continue to be haunted by instability in the
days to come”, he said.
While talking about the ongoing process of
democratisation in their countries and the challenges they confront,
delegates from Myanmar, Maldives and Afghanistan highlighted the common
problems of lack of strong institutions, poor governance, corruption,
irresponsible media and corrosive role of religion in politics as the
primary challenges on the way of all-round progress. Dwelling on
Pakistan, an Indian analyst, argued that an interventionist judiciary, a
well-entrenched army and immature opposition and above all a partisan
media would pose a critical challenge to consolidation of democracy in
The two day conference that is to continue
till November 7, 2012, is the sixth in the series of annual South Asia
conferences that IDSA has been holding since 2007.