Realising a South Asia that is at peace with itself and the rest of the world and that reaps the benefits of economic inter-dependence and cooperation has been and is a goal of policy makers and leaders in the region. The challenges that make the road to peace and stability hard to travel — such as conflict, terrorism, and lack of investment in the social uplift of society — remain to be dealt with by a combination of political will and economic insight. One such endeavour towards a prosperous South Asia can be seen in the shape of the collection of essays and speeches under review.
An outcome of the Eight South Asia Economic Summit (SAES) and Eighteenth Sustainable Development Conference (SDC) held side by side in Islamabad in 2015, the title of the anthology makes no bones about what the authors of the book aim at — securing peace and prosperity for the region. One of the important aspects of the book is that it brings together insightful minds from across the South Asian region who have tried to see the issues from a regional angle, rather than just individual countries.
The compilation has a simple but symbolic cover illustration that shows a dove breaking through a barbed wire, an obstacle that has long held peace hostage. But the thrust of the book is that such is not the fate of the region; that the countries have a great political and economic potential to fight hunger and illiteracy.
The collection is divided into four sections, each section dealing with factors that can help bring long-lasting economic stability and peace in the region. It begins with the section titled, “A panoramic view of sustainable development in South Asia.” This section takes into account the key indicators of growth and prosperity, such as the SDGs, the possible new role for Saarc, the relation between human development and public policy, the role of women empowerment in securing peace and prosperity for sustainable development in South Asia, the role of the private sector, and the menace of rising inequality.
The first chapter, “Setting the Scene,” a speech by Dr Abid Qayum Suleri, Executive Director Sustainable Development Policy Institute, welcoming guests at the Eight South Asia Economic Summit in Islamabad, points to the centrality of such forums that are set up to discuss “regional cooperation and sustainable development in South Asia”. He calls the forum “a perfect manifestation of South-South and South-North cooperation”.
The desire and the need to achieve goals for development and sustainability are further elaborated in the next three sections of the book: securing economic sustainability, water governance, and dynamics of social justice encompass issues that have a direct bearing on the peace or the absence of it in the entire region, economic lull, and the promises that each county in the region offers for the other.
Some chapters in the book rightly point out, and which the blurb also sums up, that “monitory policies that provide social protection and ensure access to basic services to the disadvantaged and marginalised groups,” do “contribute directly to sustainable economic growth, political stability, peace and security.”
The book is one stark reminder of the fact that strained relations between one or more countries in the region — India and Pakistan being the unfortunate examples — means denying a peaceful and prosperous life to more than a billion people. That also means the rising graph of people living in abject poverty and without the basic amenities of healthy food, potable water, health facilities, and education. The book serves as a good reference material for students and researches of South Asia who want to look beyond biases and hate tunnel vision.
Publisher: Sang-e-Meel Publications