|Saturday, 10 January 2004|
Please forward your comments to the Editor, Daily News.
Email : email@example.com
Snail mail : Daily News, 35, D.R. Wijewardene Mawatha, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Telephone : 94 11 2429429 / 94 11 2421181
Fax : 94 11 2429210
The centrality of India
International Affairs Advisor to the President, Lakshman Kadirgamar's recent pronouncements in the course of an interview to the Hindustan Times on the centrality of India in the South Asian region, contained many a home truth on the international politics of this part of the world which need to be borne constantly in mind by South Asian policy planners and decision-makers.
Very often it is forgotten that this is very much an India-centred region where constant interaction with India on a number of fronts is almost a fact of life for many a South Asian state.
Our close geographical proximity to India, its vastness and the multiplicity of commonalities it shares with its close neighbours, oblige the latter to act out of concern for India's legitimate interests. Chief among these are its security concerns. Likewise, the same factors compel India to relate empathetically to its neighbours. This latter policy parameter constitutes the gist of the Gujral Doctrine, which won great acceptance among India's neighbours. Since the latter could be said to be part of what may be called the South Asian fraternity of states, epitomised by SAARC, India's neighbours are obliged to reciprocate India's magnanimity, expressed, for instance, in the Gujral Doctrine.
It is important to note that what is expressed here is South Asian cooperation, solidarity and fraternity and not "hegemony". The expression of concern by India for its legitimate security interests, accordingly, should not be construed as "hegemonic" thinking, by her neighbours. As observed by Kadirgamar, if India's neighbours always have an "abiding concern" for India's security, there are unlikely to be any tensions in India's bilateral relations with her neighbours.
Unfortunately, a tendency to ignore these requirements clouded our relations with India in the past - for instance, in the mid-Eighties when Indo-Lanka relations all but crumbled in the wake of Eelam War I. The Lankan government of the time acted indifferently to India's security concerns by forging close ties with some extra-regional powers who were seen as inimical to India's interests. Consequently, Indo-Lanka relations entered a stormy era.
The coming to power of President Kumaratunga helped to improve our relations with India and subsequent governments have seen the wisdom of keeping Indo-Lanka relations on a cordial footing. Needless to say, this foundation should be built on and preserved.
It comes as a pleasant surprise that India is no longer viewed with suspicion by those sections of the Lankan body politic, which, about 15 years ago, chafed at what was seen as "hegemonic designs." India's equitable and objective stand on Lanka's ethnic question, has, undoubtedly, contributed towards this positive opinion climate. Constant dialogue and interaction with India would help to keep it this way.
In Contact, the movie based on Carl Sagan's book, Jodie Foster's character jumps for joy after getting an 'intelligent signal' from outer space. It has not happened yet in real life, but we are still listening.
Scientists around the world are engaged in the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, analysing cosmic sounds with the aid of computers. Astronomers scan the universe optically for other sun-like stars and planetary systems. These stars might have planets harbouring life, even intelligent life.
This is why scientists are euphoric about the discovery of a 'solar twin' named 18 Scorpii in the constellation Scorpio, just 46 light- years from Earth. A light-year is about 10 trillion km, the distance light travels in a year. This is quite close by in galactic terms.
The two stars are remarkably similar. They are both about the same age, between four billion years to five billion years old. They share identical measurements for mass, radius and surface temperature. They take approximately the same amount of time to rotate - around 25 days. The Earth occupies an optimal orbit around the sun to support life. It has surface water, the right amount of sunshine and other factors that nurture life, from bacteria to humans. Chances are that 18 Scorpii and countless other stars in the universe could have planets with similar conditions.
Are we alone in the Universe ? This is one of the most fundamental questions pricking mankind's collective conscience. Even as a NASA robot scours Martian soil for signs of life in our own solar system, Man is setting his sights further in the search for life. Scientists have already found planetary systems around distant stars; They have now found at least one clone of our sun. It is thus difficult to believe that life is confined to just one insignificant planet.
Earthlings have been broadcasting their presence to the galaxies for nearly a century. A Pioneer spacecraft is speeding through space with Earth's call sign. Hundreds of radio telescopes are filtering interstellar clatter. Physicists are devising spacecraft that could one day make inter-galactic travel a reality. The day we make contact might not be too far away.
Produced by Lake House