Explore alternatives as SAARC discouraging: Hamid Ansari

Mumbai, Observing that the experience of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) comprising eight countries in the region has not been “encouraging”, Vice-President Hamid Ansari on Wednesday urged the need for exploring an alternate strategy.

He said that proposed new structure would have to be voluntary and “devoid of overt or covert coercion”, and lessons may be learnt from other similar regional organisations.

“A beginning, therefore has to be made in regional cooperation with a focus on human security problems, on movement of people and on trade without unreasonable restrictions,” Ansari said.

He added that the common traits in cultural traditions and historical narratives need to be transmitted to a younger generation through conscious promotion rather than studied prevention of cultural exchanges, films, and other cultural activities.

Hence, Ansari said “the practical approach would be to make haste slowly”, to be accommodative rather than exclusionary so that negative perceptions are allowed to fade away.

“Political commitment and modalities have to surface to resolve outstanding areas of disagreement. Foremost amongst these is the Shimla Agreement of 1972, called ‘a final settlement of Jammu and Kashmir’. Its domestic dimensions, as well as trans-LOC incursions, have been in the news of late,” the Vice-President pointed out.

He said the state is doing all that is necessary to control and repel terrorism, and the state also has a duty to ensure that the rights and dignity of our citizens there are respected and ensured, and shortcomings effectively addressed as alienation of any segment within our land does not contribute to the overall health of the Republic.

Ansari was speaking after releasing a book “August Voices: What they said on 14-15 August 1947” authored by veteran journalist Sudheendra Kulkarni this afternoon.

Ansari said idealism, however, lofty, has to be tempered with realism since common action is easier done on areas of convergence than of divergence.

The convergence is to be sought by moving beyond the traditional paradigm of conventional security into those of ‘human security’ and ‘human wrong’.

“Both are ignored by the governments and societies in our region.. There is a crying need for the recognition and implementation of both. Only then would we develop the perception and capacity for correctives,” Ansari said.

Kulkarni’s book explores what eight eminent personalities from the era of the freedom struggle said, wrote or did on August 14-15, 1947. They are: Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Maharshi Aurobindo, Swami Ranganathananda, Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Anand Coomaraswamy.

The author, who was an aide to former Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee, has also discussed the possibility of a three-nation confederation of India-Pakistan-Bangladesh by 2047 for the betterment of all.

However, for this to happen, he said it was imperative for Pakistan “to completely eliminate the scourge of terrorism, fuelled by religious extremism, from its soil”.

Currently, Chairman of Observer Research Foundation, an independent public policy think tank, Kulkarni is a campaigner for Hindu-Muslim relations and normalisation of India-Pakistan relations through his initiative ‘Mumbai-Karachi Friendship Forum’.