Aligarh: “Given a rather complex geographical structure, South Asian countries share a unique relationship,” said former Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan and Singapore, Dr T C A Raghavan, who now serves as the Director-General, Indian Council for World Affairs.
He was delivering an extension lecture on ‘South Asia: Opportunities and Challenges’ organised by the Department of Political Science, Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).
Dr Raghavan added that India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka collectively represent a world of historical ties, mutual legacies, commonalities and diversities that are expressed so extensively in their cultural, linguistic, religious and political structure.
Providing an overall sense of the relationship of South Asian countries through their crests and troughs, he said that the progress in South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) remained frozen even as the world in and around South Asia evolved and changed.
“The weight of history in the relations between India and Pakistan is self-evident. Nonetheless, it is useful to situate this in a broader context of regional and international affairs that may allow for a broader perspective of contentious issues,” said Dr Raghavan.
He pointed out that in the years 1979 and 1989, political development and upheavals in South Asia and the world have had a major impact on relations between the countries of South Asia.
“The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Iranian revolution, execution of Zulfikhar Ali Bhutto in Pakistan, extremist attempt to take over Holy Mosque in Makkah, the demolition of Berlin Wall and Rise of China among other developments played major role in relations between the South Asian countries,” said Dr Raghavan adding that continuing Middle-Eastern conflicts have also become a critical problem to Indian foreign policy.
Speaking of confidence-building measures that remain intact despite tumultuous relations between India and Pakistan, he said that the recently opened Kartarpur Corridor has survived the kind of shocks that are the norm in the ties between Pakistan and India.
“Since the decision to open the Kartarpur Corridor is welcomed by people on both sides of the border between India and Pakistan, we can hope to improve relations between the two countries,” said Dr Raghavan.
AMU Pro Vice Chancellor, Prof Akhtar Haseeb, urged students to take inspiration from Dr Raghavan’s extensive experience in South Asia policy issues.
“It is a glorious history to which AMU is a proud heir, full of accomplishments,” said the Pro Vice Chancellor, while introducing the speaker to AMU and its rich traditions.
He added that AMU grew out of the work of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the great Muslim reformer and statesman, who in the aftermath of the Indian War of Independence of 1857 felt that it was important for common Indians to gain education and become involved in the public life and services.
Prof Mirza Asmer Beg said that Dr Raghavan’s lecture was thought-provoking and will greatly benefit students and researchers in understanding the region of South Asia.
Prof Nigar Zuberi, Chairperson, Department of Political Science extended the vote of thanks; while Prof Arshi Khan conducted the programme.