South Asian countries must think in terms of soft borders, because there are similar identities on both sides, said Kanak Mani Dixit on the second day of the Third International Karachi Conference on Saturday.
Dixit has been working in the field of journalism since 1971 and is the editor of Himal Southasian, a magazine in Nepal. He is also the pioneer of the idea of pan-South Asian journalism. In his keynote address, titled ‘Building the constituency for South Asianism’, Dixit gave the example of the Nepal-India border, terming it the most bizarre border of South Asia. “The kind of border that India and Pakistan need to have is the kind that Nepal and India have,” he said.
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Coming all the way from Nepal to be a part of the Karachi Conference, Dixit believes that countries in South Asia should have the goal to soften their borders and to think of South Asia in smaller units.
Terming the conference as a very cosmopolitan event based in a very cosmopolitan city, Dixit said, “I always found Karachi as one of the most important centres of South Asia.” The Karachi Conference tries to consolidate the historical legacy to prepare the younger generation for the future, he said, adding that it is important that the conference move out of Karachi and collaborate with other parts of South Asia.
Speaking about identities, Dixit believes it is necessary that we try not to recognise each other only by our national identities. “It is important that we identify each other by our other identities, and one of the identities that is rarely talked about is that of being from a particular city,” he said.
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Referring to the weakened spirit of ‘South Asianism’, Dixit said it was the job of the citizens to revive the lost spirit. “The term South Asia has been hijacked by the very nation and states that are weakening it,” he said. Dixit believes that the spirit of empathy will take countries forward in the region. “If each of our countries, cities or societies starts to feel empathy for each other or at least begin to express the empathy that is inherent to them, I believe we will get somewhere,” he said.
Dixit was of the opinion that countries in South Asia must have connectivity, especially the economic connectivity which can be achieved by starting trade and commerce in the region. He called the Karachi Conference one of the platforms to bring together the cities in South Asia.
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The Karachi Conference aims to provide a platform to discuss matters related to Karachi, its development as well as its past, present and the future. Addressing the audience, Karachi Conference Foundation president Dr Asma Ibrahim said, “It is a forum that is open to ideas, provides a chance for academic debate and discussions that may invite focus to specific issues.”
Published in The Express Tribune, November 8th, 2015.
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