Unity is strength
President Mahinda Rajapaksa addressing the South Asian
leaders at the Thimpu Summit that ended yesterday said that
South Asians tend to underestimate their collective strength.
They tend to discount the resources and skills they have that
could meet the challenges before them as well as their social
and security needs, he added.
Instead of looking at their own inherent strength they were
accustomed to look West for leadership. This has resulted in
giving priority to relations with powers outside the region
getting priority. It also gives them a leverage to intervene in
the affairs of South Asian nations and even undermine their
There are, however, historical reasons for such policies.
First among them is the historical legacy that they inherited
from centuries of colonial domination. The colonial rulers left
a class of westward looking elite in almost all colonies in
order to perpetuate their domination by other means.
Things national were looked down as inferior and weak in
relation to those of the West. This colonial mentality still
persists. Though the great movements for national independence
triumphed the former colonial powers found new ways and means to
continue their economic, political and cultural domination.
Globalization that ensued under the dominance of monopoly
capital further strengthened the hegemony of the West in Asia
Hence, the significance of the President's call for regional
cooperation and depending on the potential of South Asia is very
The 21st Century certainly marks the advent of the Age of
Asia. China and India are emerging as big powers followed soon
in their footsteps by Vietnam. The centre of gravity of world
production as well as world politics is shifting East. In this
situation it would be foolhardy to insist on a Western-centric
approach to foreign relations as well as development.
Half a century ago or even a quarter of a century ago it
would have been unthinkable to look East or call for regional
South Asian unity as a factor in development.
Though SAARC celebrates its silver jubilee at present it is
yet to build suitable structures to advance its development so
as to become an effective vehicle for improving the life of its
several million fold population. As President Rajapaksa stressed
it is time for introspection and review of existing structures.
Outdated or malfunctioning structures should be replaced. Those
that could be revived should be revived and invigourated.
The biggest single factor that has impeded the development of
SAARC is the strained relations between its two giant members
India and Pakistan. The future advance of SAARC will depend on
the future development of cordial relations between India and
Though fruitful relations with States outside the zone should
not be and could not be done away with, priority should be given
to intra- regional developments and unity.
There is much potential in SAARC for intra-regional unity and
cooperation. This extends to all spheres including cooperation
in the fields of ICT, security.
Further, as President Rajapaksa underlined SAARC should speak
with one voice in international fora, including those of the
United Nations. On the most significant issue of climate change
which threatens the very survival of the species man, South Asia
should present a unified approach and solutions.
Freedom of the press
Several accredited media personnel, including veteran
journalists who had covered more than a few dozen international
assignments were denied transit visas to fly through the United
Kingdom to report on the T-20 Cricket World Cup that is being
held in the West Indies.
There is no rationale behind this unjust decision. The media
personnel have submitted all necessary documentation including a
letter from the ICC.
The T- 20 World Cup is not a political event. The applicants
are all sports journalists. None of them have been refused visas
earlier. To add insult to injury their passports have been
stamped to say that visa has been refused.
Is this the freedom of the press?
Hope the British media would solidarise with their comrades
in arms from Sri Lanka.