Tasks for SAARC
The appeal in many a heart in South Asia
is that SAARC would now make the all-important transition from symbol to
substance. By saying this we do not intend to imply that SAARC has not
achieved anything concrete so far but do so to indicate the increasingly
proactive role it needs to play in easing the lot of the average South
The SAARC Heads of State and Government have met for their 14th
Summit and this is indeed a joyous occasion which symbolizes the unity
and solidarity of the members of SAARC, who represent around one fourth
of the world's population.
These annual Summits do have the effect of reminding South Asians of
their common identity and of the pledges they have given each other to
work towards the collective good of the region.
However, as President Mahinda Rajapaksa reminded SAARC yesterday, the
regional grouping is badly in need of a practical orientation or a
dynamism and resourcefulness which would help translate the region's
dreams of progress and prosperity into reality. In other words, SAARC
must graduate fully from symbol to substance.
Practicable programmes and ventures, therefore, are a crying need.
For, the majority of the region's population is continuing to wilter in
poverty and hunger and its lot needs to be urgently alleviated.
Some heart could be taken from the fact that President Rajapaksa
dwelt on the condition of the rural poor at some length too. His
suggestion that the SAARC Eight adopt a resolution to work dedicatedly
towards elevating the condition of the rural poor, needs to be
considered very seriously. For, there could be no development without
equity and satisfying the legitimate needs of all is central to the
concept of equity.
However, underdevelopment and terror are the twin evils of South Asia
and they are mutually reinforcing. Lack of development leads to
disaffection, unrest and militancy and the latter degenerates into
terror. Terrorism, on the other hand, when unleashed on a sustained
basis, often stymies development. This truth Sri Lanka has learnt and
LTTE terror is a glaring example of this causal link.
However, as the world has learnt, of the terror groups in South Asia,
the LTTE is the most heinous and destructive. It has just demonstrated
that it has an air capability of sorts and this makes the case for
stamping out LTTE terror increasingly urgent. Besides, the LTTE has
manifold links with other terror group in the region and outside it.
Therefore, the LTTE is a threat to the whole of the SAARC region.
Given this background, President Rajapaksa's call to SAARC to work on
a collective basis towards eliminating terror deserves the strongest
consideration. Even as we write, the LTTE is demonstrating that it is
stopping at nothing by spilling innocent blood in Ampara. It is proving
very amply that its taste for blood is insatiable.
Given its region-wide tentacles, the LTTE could be considered a
blight on the whole of South Asia and should be handled on a regional
basis. Therefore, SAARC would do well to do everything within its
capabilities to stamp out terror. This task cannot wait for another day
because the LTTE just does not believe in relenting.
The Indian incentive to demerge
Though obviously it is in Sri Lanka's interests
to maintain good relations with all concerned Asian powers, it would
be a pity if it failed to keep in mind the crucial nature of its
relationship with India. If therefore the Sri Lankan Government sees
demerger as a priority, it should seek to convince India of the need
Sir John: A triumphant life
As Prime Minister, Kotelawala led Sri Lanka into
the United Nations and contributed to Sri Lanka's expanding foreign
relations. In 1955 he led Sri Lanka delegation to the Bandung
conference in Indonesia. His party was defeated in the 1956
Lack of jobs hurting Afghan war on Taliban
NATO, U.S. commanders and Afghan leaders agree
without economic progress, without reconstruction and without new
jobs the Taliban insurgency cannot be defeated. Poverty is driving
people into the arms of the Taliban.