The foreign minister has urged the South Asian leaders “not to let the engine of growth in "> The foreign minister has urged the South Asian leaders “not to let the engine of growth in "> The foreign minister has urged the South Asian leaders “not to let the engine of growth in ">

Times of Dhaka

Home» Economy »Don’t let the engine of growth be disturbed, foreign minister to South Asia leaders
Don’t let the engine of growth be disturbed, foreign minister to South Asia leaders
Online Desk |:| Mon, 07 Mar'2016, 11:30 PM |:| Online Version
Don’t let the engine of growth be disturbed, foreign minister to South Asia leaders
The foreign minister has urged the South Asian leaders “not to let the engine of growth in South Asia be disturbed” by the scourges of terrorism, violent extremism, narrow interpretation of religion, and cyber crimes.

Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali, speaking at a new regional conclave in New Delhi on Tuesday, said a peaceful and stable South Asia was “required for our own interest as much as it is for the rest of the world”.

He reiterated Bangladesh’s “abiding commitment to peace, progress and prosperity in the region”, and said, “With concerted efforts, we are determined to build a peaceful, cooperative and more prosperous South Asia of the 21st century”.

“Otherwise, we would be held responsible to our posterity,” he said, while speaking at the inauguration of the ‘Raisina’ conclave.

This is the first such global conclave on geo-politics and geo-economics hosted by India’s Ministry of External Affairs with the think-tank Observer Research Foundation (ORF).
India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, former president of Sri Lanka Chandrika Badaranaike Kumaratunga and former president of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai were the speakers at the session.

This conclave is said to be readying to rival the Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD) in content and intellectual heft.

The SLD is a 'Track One' inter-governmental security forum held annually by an independent think tank, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), and it is attended by defense ministers, permanent heads of ministries and military chiefs of 28 Asia-Pacific states.

The forum got its name from the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore, where it has been held since 2002.

According to the Observer Research Foundation, the Raisina Dialogue is designed to explore and examine the prospects and opportunities for Asian integration as well as Asia’s integration with the larger world.
More than 100 speakers from over 35 countries will take part in the three-day dialogue.

Foreign Minister Ali lamented the poor integration among the South Asian countries, and said lack of political will and mistrust among countries in the region has cast a shadow on regional cooperation.
But he said “we are living in an era when the centre of global economy is shifting towards the Asia-Pacific region” as it has been predicted that by 2050, Asia-Pacific would account for half of the world’s economic output.

“So, this is the time that using this leverage of strategic space, we integrate more with the rest of the world to ensure our greater well-being.”

He said it was “imperative that we, the countries in South Asia, join hands and the rest of the world come to our assistance to address our security challenges”.

“As our region grows into a highly interdependent community of interests and destiny, we should take economic development and social progress as our priority and adhere to the spirit of mutual benefit and win-win solution,” he said.

“By so doing, we can effectively mobilize forces, consolidate public support for cooperation and achieve full revitalization of our region.”

He warned that this journey of growth could be impeded by security issues.

“Terrorism and violent extremism, narrow interpretation of religion and communal identity are hurting humanity, uprooting millions of people across the world.
“Cyber crimes, flip side of the smart and digital Asia we are aspiring for, are giving us a tough time,” he said, as he called for a concerted effort.

‘Think differently, act differently’
He highlighted the rapid changes in today’s digitalised world “defined by speed” that was also opening up “enormous opportunities”.
“With people having access to wealth of information, social networking is shaping the politics and economics of the world,” he said.
“New ideas are rapidly spreading and overwhelming the conventional ones; new actors are shaping our policies; new institutions are dismantling their predecessors.
“These changes dictate that we think differently, act differently, and operate differently. And we are left with no option but to keep pace with the changes,” Mahmood Ali said.
The foreign minister said it is a “big irony” that despite geographical contiguity, shared political and strong cultural links, South Asia remained the least connected region.
“Moreover, we have common developmental challenges,” he said. “Facing the challenges together should have been our common endeavour”.
He said Bangladesh’s founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman dreamt of a connected region, and his daughter Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina “is committed to translate the vision into a reality”.
In the last SAARC summit, Hasina had advocated for “connecting ideas, knowledge, technology, culture, people, road-rail-air, movement of goods, services and investment”.
Ali said as for Bangladesh, “we have fostered stronger relations with most of the countries in the region and beyond”.
For example, he said, “our relationship with India is at its best now”.
He also cited examples of myriad of connectivity initiatives under SAARC, BIMSTEC, BCIM-EC, Trans-Asian road and railway networks.
The connectivity initiatives may need “to be more widespread and inclusive to create opportunities for all countries, taking advantage of flexibility, openness and comfort level for all parties”.
“In fact, Bangladesh and India, taking along Nepal and Bhutan are setting a new model of connectivity,” the foreign minister said.
He said water resources management and 'blue economy' were two other sectors that hold “enormous potential of cooperation” in the region.

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