Sustainable peace in South Asia: New Strategies for a better tomorrow
15th South Asia Peace Initiative
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good Evening !
It gives me immence pleasure to attend this distinguished gathering organized by South Asia Peace initiatives(SAPI) on the theme "Sustainable Peace in South Asia: New Strategies for a better tomorrow". I welcome all the dignitories from different countries of South Asia and aboard, who have come to Nepal to attend this grand Seminar and wish you a very happy stay in our beautiful country.
When we talk of sustainable peace in south Asia, we must remember that this region is not only the cradle of civilisation since last 4 thousand years, but it is the place where the greatest messenger of peace and son of Nepalese soil Lord Buddha first spread his message of peace among the South Asian people and the people all over the world 2500 years ago.
Siddhartha Gautam who was born in Lumbini spent his life in search of peace and serenity in human life. After a long and arduous meditation, he found four noble truths about human suffering. This includes the root cause of suffering as human desire and selfish thoughts. So he advocated for the act of renunciation and non-violence as the only path for peace.
South Asia is also the continent, which gave birth to one of the great emperor transformed into a great Buddhists; the emperor Ashoka about 2300 years back. He had conquered almost all the small states in the region and as a conqueror, he should have been happy. But he could not get the real happiness and peace. The great emperor had all the regrets for the bloodbath ensued during his campaign of conquest. So he took the path of Buddha, the path of peace, non-violence and salvation. He made painstaking efforts to take the message of Buddha all over the world. This is an important lesson for all.
Even before Buddha, during the Vedic ages, the sages meditated in the Himalayas and created world's biggest epics and other books of learning, such as Veda and Puranas. The Vedas are replete with the sacred chants of peace which primarily advocates for peace in three realms, namely, adhi-bhautik meaning physical world, adhi- daivika or the divinely world and adhyatmika or internal world. Without maintaining peace everywhere, the world cannot make progress, according to the Vedas. The Himalayas and mountains of Nepal have always given refuge to all peace seekers from the Vedic times. We all must be proud of our own civilization, heritage and history.
Unfortunately, the greed and self-interest pervaded against all the words of wisdom spread by ancestors. Wars have ravaged almost all the continents of the globe particularly during the twentieth century, which saw two world wars. Those wars were fought mainly for power, pride and resources.
Ladies and Gentleman,
I believe, there are four major aspects of sustainable peace in our region.
First and foremost, social harmony and peace in society;
Second, peace among and between the countries in south Asia;
Third, peace with nature; and
Fourth, Prosperity and social equality as a precondition of sustainable peace:
1) Social harmony and Peace:
The South Asia is a region of social diversities; thousands of languages, thousands of ethnicities, hundreds of religions and hundreds of value systems. The region has been through devastating conflict between different ethnicities, religions, values systems, ideologies and identities. These conflicts contributed in the decline of great Himalayan civilization; from an affluent society to a poverty ridden region. This region is still continuously facing the identity based violence in many parts. Building and maintaining social harmony between and among different identities and value systems is precondition for the sustainable peace and prosperity in the South Asia. Democracy, secularism and tolerance are the rock bed for social harmony.
2) Peace between and among the countries in south Asia:
The South Asia has been the region of conflict between the states from ancient periods. This has continued to the 21st century. The countries have fought many wars and suspicion and irritants in between these powers have frequently led to the brink of war. We all know, there are two nuclear powers within this region and a nuclear power adjacent to it. The irritants and suspicions may lead to misunderstandings and misperceptions that increases a risk of escalating conflict in the region with devastating effects. That is the reason, why Nepal has always stood for disarmament in general and nuclear disarmament in particular. In our opinion, this is the only way not to repeat the futile wars in the 21st century and further.
There are many positive developments towards maintaining peace and stability in the region, combinations of many confidence building measure, bilateral and multilateral cooperation and various initiatives. But we should work more to ensure better cooperation. One of the initiatives that have contributed towards the better cooperation and regional integration is the SAARC. I believe, upcoming SAARC summit will contribute towards greater linkages and integration in South Asia.
3) Peace with the nature:
Many South Asian cities are among the some of the most polluted cities. Our region is among the regions having highest level of air pollution and water pollution. This has not only increased the health hazard but also the physical devastations.
Human encroachment into the nature has contributed to alter the natural process, disturbed ecosystem and polluting environment. Our own activities are responsible for deforestation, desertification, glacier melting and many other environmental deprivations. This has increased the danger of natural calamities and extinction of biodiversity. This has exerted tremendous pressure on the human life. Until and unless, we maintain peace with nature, human devastations and displacements caused by natural calamities keeps on troubling the human race.
It is self evident that, we can’t attain sustainable peace without maintaining harmony with nature. We have inherited the earth from our ancestors and it is our duty to preserve this for coming generations. I believe, precondition for sustainable peace is sustainable development in harmony with nature.
4) Prosperity and social equality as a precondition of sustainable peace:
Talking of our own continent Asia, the internal wars and colonial wars have made the region impoverished for last couple of hundred years. Until just a few hundred years before, Asia used to be the most prosperous region of the world. But due to internal strifes and colonization by western powers for long, the region lagged behind. Once affluent Asia, today inhibits one of the largest populations living in poverty and deprivation.
In my opinion, the root cause for the lack of peace in South Asia is the presence of widespread poverty. The poverty is our common enemy which must be eliminated if we are to establish sustainable peace in the region. South Asian countries should not find faults with each other on petty interests but find common path for eliminating poverty, discrimination and deprivation from the face of the region.
The poverty elevation efforts should address problem like socio-economic inequality, marginalization and unemployment widespread in the South Asia. Institutionalization of democracy with social equity, good governance and political stability for socio-economic transformation can only lead to prosperity and social equality, which are foundations of sustainable peace in South Asia.
Ladies and gentlemen
Although we ourselves had to go through a ten year period of insurgency recently, due to the wisdom shown by all sides, we were able to reach a comprehensive peace. As you all know, the painful process of negotiation on constitution making is still going on. We still have certain forces who are yet to understand Einstein's saying that peace cannot be kept by force, it can be only be achieved by understanding. Once we deeply realize the need of long term peace, we will reach understanding. We don’t have any other alternative than to conclude ongoing negotiations, promulgate the constitution and lead the nation towards socio-economic transformation and development.
I can say with delight, Nepal has ended the state of insurgency by peaceful means and our political parties have the resolve to settle their differences in a peaceful manner. In this way, Nepal has not only been spreading message of peace but it has set example by rejecting any form of extremism and terror tactics to resolve the conflicts in opinions. South Asia has recently seen the rise of terror tactics by the the followers of various extreme ideas. Terrorism is not acceptable in whatever cover or pretexts. The Nepalese left and democratic forces have already proved the futility of violence and blazed the path of peace to resolve conflicts. I hope that this experience of ours will encourage others also to bring change by peaceful means.
Ladies and gentlemen,
At the end, Lets' work towards the consolidation of peace in the communities, between and among the countries, maintain harmony between development and nature and prosperity of the whole South Asia. That will only ensure sustainable peace. Let the wishdom prevail on all of us.
I hope that this South Asia Peace initiative will also contribute to find common ways for the sustainable peace in the region. I wish you all a fruitful deliberation and complete success of this seminar.
Thank you all.
(Speech delivered by former Prime Minister of Nepal, Hon. Madhav Kumar Nepal in Hotel Annapurna, Kathmandu, on 8th November, 2014)