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I was honoured last week to be invited to a Conference on the ‘Changing Scenario in South Asia: Leveraging Economic Growth for Collective Prosperity’ organized by the Centre for Rural and Industrial Development in Chandigarh. Indian think tanks have always impressed me, and participating in discussions with the range of intellects they bring together has always been a pleasure as well as a learning experience.

This particular Centre was not one of those that is associated with government, like IDSA, the superb strategic analysis outfit that was almost simultaneously hosting another dialogue of particular interest to Sri Lanka. But CRID also attracts government attention and support, as was apparent from the fact that the Conference was opened by the Indian Minister for External Affairs. This indicates the interest the Indian government has in independent thought and analysis, and suggests the direction we too should move in. We must begin consultation of a wider scale, and building up consensus in the many areas in which that would be so easy, if we are to harness all our energies to pursue the immense task of development and national integration that we must now concentrate on.

The Conference was intended to cover a broad range of topics, and speakers were asked to choose from a range of issues, from Economics to Religion and Ethnicity. I thought of addressing two concerns together, namely Security as well as Ethnicity, since it seems to me that, in the current context, they are inextricably linked. I thought however that I should think in terms of cooperation, since we are in great danger of turning our backs on this, both internally and regionally. The solipsistic mindset that seems to dominate national discourse, following the recent vote in Geneva, needs to be overcome, if our national interests are not to be sacrificed on the altar of big power politics.

I have always believed that, to ensure our security, we must have good relations with India. The disasters that happened in the eighties made it clear that, if India were hostile, no one else would come to our rescue. And though commentators with no sense of time or causality still attack India for encouraging terrorist movements in the early eighties, the simple fact is that we started the distrust by trying to become proxies of the West in the Cold War. Unfortunately the West in those days – and perhaps now – has a polarizing view of international relations, and demanded total loyalty, which was combined with unremitting hostility to India, which it saw as a Soviet ally. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rajiva Wijesinha

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