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South Asia needs regional cooperation

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ISLAMABAD, Nov 1: No single country in South Asia, including India, can effectively cope with its security issues. Regional cooperation is, therefore, the only way forward for South Asian nations.

This was the view of Farooq Subhan, a former foreign secretary of Bangladesh. He was speaking at a discussion, “Security architecture for South Asia” organised by the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI).

Mr Subhan said the mistrust between the regional members was the main impediment to South Asia’s development, adding that the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) had failed primarily because of such bilateral disputes.

He said various traditional and non-traditional security threats were being faced by the region, including terrorism, water security, health security, and the energy security.

To tackle them, he proposed joint initiatives such as exercises by armed forces, disaster management and economic cooperation between the nations.

He maintained that visa free travel in South Asia would allow both governmental and non-governmental organisations to assist in removing the mistrust between the nations.In response to a question pertaining to India’s role in the region, he said the Indian government was no longer trying to create hegemony in the region, and was now much more willing to participate in regional dialogues.

When questioned about the influence of external powers in the region, he said it was up to the nations to focus on their own issues instead of focusing on external powers.

Ashraf Jahangir Qazi, the director general of ISSI, said the importance of tackling the challenges was largely acknowledged but it was imperative to take action too. This required the efforts of civil society as well as political imagination.—Asad Najeeb

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