Sustainable development: South Asia’s future lies in cooperation, says Najam

SDPI conference concludes with hallmark session on Indo-Pak peace.

Aimen Bajwa December 13, 2013


While presenting an agenda for South Asian region, an eminent scholar and academics has stressed the need for bringing human development aspect to sustainable development with focusing on environment and pluralistic culture.

“Security and development are viewed as key but opposing challenges and hope for an integrated future lies more with the citizens than South Asian states,” Dr Adil Najam, said while addressing at the concluding session of a three-day conference on sustainable development in the federal capital on Thursday.

The 16th conference on “Creating Momentum: Today is Tomorrow” was organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).

Dr Najam, a  Pardee Distinguished Professor of International Relations, Earth and Environment, Boston University, USA, in his H.U Beg Memorial Lecture gave a presentation on “South Asia 2060: Envisioning Regional Futures”, which is also the title of a book he has edited.

According to him, the book does not predict a certain scenario, but rather, it marks the way in which an imagined, pluralistic future is nearer as it tackles South Asia as a region instead of casting lens on separate national identities.

Pointing out how culture has an economic value today in a globalised world, he provided a five-pronged answer to the India-Pakistan conflict.

There was a visible urge to hold on to ‘South Asianness’, even though the idea of this identity is stronger than its structure, in terms of trade and water. Competitiveness rather than cooperation has defined the South Asian region. The nation-states have generally been overbearing and fell short of their citizens’ expectations, he observed.

Aside from these propositions, he highlighted the need to bring the human development aspect to sustainable development, since environment has been largely out of the popular discourse. The rationale for this was that human development is as important as security, keeping in mind that insecurity breeds hazards for the environment as well.

He also delineated the significance of water as an important issue in regional politics, saying that the source of connectivity makes for an in-built logic of cooperation.

Regarding the actualisation of the peace process, the former vice-chancellor of the Lahore University of Management offered four propositions stating that there remains possibility for persistent solutions to peace, seeing that even in the Kashmir issue, there have been innovative solutions developed.

There is a logic of development and a people-to-people logic as well as logic of water (in terms of regional cooperation) at work; and that ripeness is rare but not permanent, and this particular instance in time is most ripe for reconciliatory processes.

The nationalistic domestic constituencies historically opposed to reconciliation, which are now talking about peace is a definitive sign. He further stratified conflict into three “buckets”: Territorial, security and insecurity (regional concerns), and socio-economic cooperation (water, trade, energy etc).

Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, the Executive Director of SDPI, who presented a summary of the three-day proceedings, discussing eye-opening findings such as satisfaction with social service delivery in conflict-prone areas, which is surprisingly high with little resistance to intervention.

He also commended the efforts of his team for organising a successful conference, which even attracted the PM’s attention who will meet the team after returning from abroad.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 13th, 2013.


Farooq Agha | 8 years ago | Reply

Mr. Najam's talk was spell-binding as it is always. But this time his focus was not on climate change as is normally in his talks but on South Asia. It was a most refreshing view of what is now a stale topic. Impressed always by how much this man does on so many topics. The book he presented , with nearly 50 authors, seems like a great resource but was sad to find that it is not easily available in Pakistan market yet.

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