This year, The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, which is the oldest think tank in Pakistan, is celebrating 70 years of its founding. It was established as an independent, non-political, not for profit association in 1947, devoted to study and research in international relations, economics and jurisprudence. To mark its 70th anniversary, the Institute is holding a regional conference on Peace in South Asia: Opportunities and Challenges on 15 and 16 November 2017. Scholars from leading think tanks, academia and diplomats in the region are being invited to participate in this conference. South Asia, comprising Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan is the most densely populated region of the world. Its population of 1.8 billion comprises one-fourth of the global population and almost 40 per cent of the population of Asia.
Two of the world’s nuclear powers, Pakistan and India, are located in South Asia and military expenditure in the region has been rising. It is threatened with insecurity because of long-standing inter-state disputes, terrorism, the presence of non-state actors, problems of water sharing, climate change, environmental degradation, the movement of refugees and illegal arms, people and drug trafficking. It has low social indicators and a large percentage of its population lives below the poverty line. On the other hand, South Asia is rich in explored and unexplored natural resources. Also rich in diversity, it is home to numerous religions and a multitude of languages and cultures. It hosts four of the world’s megacities: Delhi, Dhaka, Karachi and Mumbai. The youth bulge in its population can prove to be one of its largest assets for development.
The imperative of peace for the teeming millions in South Asia is high in the 21st century which has been described as the Asian century.
The conference has been divided into two segments:
- Opportunities: Physical, economic and technological inter-connectivity, trade links and corridors, people-to-people contacts, informal diplomacy, cultural exchanges, networking on social and women’s issues.
- Challenges: Reducing regional tensions, settling inter-state disputes, achieving nuclear security, combatting terrorism, resolving water related problems, countering threats from climate change.
Scholarship and dialogue can surely contribute to peace and the resolution of disputes in South Asia.
The State shall endeavour to preserve and strengthen fraternal relations among Muslim countries based on Islamic unity, support the common interests of the peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America, promote international peace and security, foster goodwill and friendly relations among all nations and encourage the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means.
Equally, Article 51 of the Constitution of India also provides:
51. The State shall endeavour to —(a) promote international peace and security;(b) maintain just and honourable relations betweennations;(c) foster respect for international law and treatyobligations in the dealings of organised peoples withone another; and(d) encourage settlement of international disputesby arbitration.
The State shall base its international relations on the principles of respect for national sovereignty and equality, non interference in the internal affairs of other countries, peaceful settlement of international disputes, and respect for
international law and the principles enunciated in the United Nations Charter, and on the basis of those principles shall –
(a) strive for the renunciation of the use of force in international relations and for general and complete disarmament;
(b) uphold the right of every people freely to determine and build up its own social, economic and political system by ways and means of its own free choice; and
(c) support oppressed peoples throughout the world waging a just struggle against imperialism, colonialism or racialism.
The State shall promote international peace, security and co-operation, and the establishment of a just and equitable international economic and social order and shall endeavour to foster respect for international law and treaty obligations in dealings among nations.