Vol. 4 Num 36 Wed. July 02, 2003  

Regional cooperation dearth retards South Asian growth
Foreign minister tells workshop

Inefficiency in using available resources and failure in reaping benefits from intra-region'al cooperation among the South Asian countries have turned the region into the poorest in the world, said Foreign Minister M Morshed Khan yesterday.

"Nearly 40 per cent of the world's total poor population live in this region, which is home to almost one fifth of the humanity," said the minister while delivering his inaugural speech at a regional workshop on "Strengthening Cooperation and Security in South Asia -- Post 9/11".

The two-day workshop, scheduled to conclude today, was organised by Bangladesh Enterprise Institute (BEI) at its auditorium. BEI President Farooq Sobhan presided over the inaugural session of the workshop while outgoing US Ambassador in Dhaka Mary Ann Peters and American Center Director Karl Fritz were present.

Young intellectuals, aged bellow forty, from the South Asian countries are taking part at the workshop.

Morshed said in 1949 the per capita income of Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan was higher compared to the Far Eastern and Southeast Asian countries but now the situation has just reversed.

He said the region also remains one of the world's most malnourished regions with almost half of its children suffering from stunted growth.

The foreign minister said as SAARC summit is not held for long time, member countries should initiate talks among them, to reap benefits from the regional forum by using it as an umbrella, on continuos basis at the academic, ministerial, intellectual and private sector levels.

Morshed said it is not a reason of complacency for us that the region has not experienced any major outbreak of conflict in recent years and does not face any major security threat from outside. "Nuclearisation of two South Asian neighbours has put the region into uncertainty," he said.

He said conflict between India and Pakistan, and the Maoist movement in Nepal are not only their local problems but also for the whole region.

Holding of random talks between two countries could reduce the problem of India and Pakistan, Morshed observed.

He said fundamentalism, whether it is Muslim, Hindu or Christian, is harmful for the world. "We hate this...The country is ready to take all kinds of actions against it," he said.

However, the minister said in these days, the word security means economic, health and environmental security, rather than military security. "So time has come for us, the region members, to think security from these perspectives," he said.

BEI President Farooq Sobhan said inter-state conflict between India and Pakistan and nuclearisation of those countries have emerged as the biggest threat for this region's peace. "A SAARC summit, which is facing continuos postponement, may help reduce this threat," he opined.