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Students want South Asia to develop as EU

ISLAMABAD, May 26(Dawn): Students representing different universities on Friday called for cut in defence expenditure and ending the role of military in politics for a vibrant South Asia, free from hunger and deprivation.

In an interactive group discussion on "New South Asia and New Realities", organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here, they also wanted more opportunities for intra SAARC education for creating mutual trust, awareness about celebrating the diversity in common persons, and more investment in human and natural resources in the region.

A large number of students from local universities and the University of Peshawar took part in the interactive session aimed at hearing the views and judgments of students on the philosophy of a 'New South Asia', free from poverty, hunger, conflict and social injustice which rejects hegemony and oppression in the name of religion, ethnicity, caste and culture.

The students agreed that South Asia had great diversity and wanted the governments and policy makers of the region to make serious efforts to celebrate this diversity, as did the members of the European Union and other such initiatives in the world.

Most of the students identified intolerance, political instability and disputes within and among the South Asian states, neglected social sectors, military interference in politics, gender differences, lack of culture of accountability and transparency, and non-participation of students in politics as the key challenges to the region. They urged the peoples and governments of the region "to acknowledge, respect and celebrate the diversity of our region and make collective efforts to make South Asia a free and prosperous region".

They suggested that promotion of labour intensive rather than capital intensive industries, HEC scholarships to study in South Asian states, promotion of tourism, political orientation of layperson, and change in attitude and mindset will help the region and people to overcome the challenges in the era of globalization.

Dr Abid Qayum Suleri and Afshan Ahmad of SDPI moderated the proceedings. They said South Asia was victim of disputes because governments inked agreements for the regional cooperation but did not implement them.

Drawing a comparison between European Union and SAARC, they urged the South Asian governments to get rid of the burden of past and imagine a new peaceful and prosperous South Asia instead of inflicting injustices on their peoples in the name of national security and interests.

The exercise with university students was part of an Imagine a New South Asia (INSA) initiative. INSA was conceived as a broad-based citizens' initiative to advance a shared sense of South Asian mission to promote more policy convergence on key issues, more regional cooperation, joint initiative at the government as well as civil society level.
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