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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2858

South Asia and the Asian resurgence

By Eduardo Faleiro

The Asian resurgence is one of the most significant developments of our time. The rise of Asia began with the extraordinary economic progress of Japan in the 1950s and 60s; was followed by the remarkable advance of the Asian Tigers (Hongkong, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore) and other countries of South East Asia; and now, the impressive growth of China and India.

The Twenty First century will reportedly be the Asian century just as the Twentieth was the American century and the Nineteenth the European century. By 2050, China is expected to be the largest economy in the world and India the second largest. By that time Asia might hold seven of the ten leading national economies. The Asian Development Bank projects Asia as a region that will achieve an average growth rate of 7% this year compared to the global economic growth forecast of 3.3%.

Samuel Huntington in his seminal work “The Clash of Civilizations and the remaking of the World Order” perceives the ascendancy of Asia in contrast to the decline of the West and attributes the latter to low economic growth, stagnating population, declining savings rates, huge Government deficits and in many Western countries including the United States, social aspects such as low work ethics, family decay, drugs and crime. At present however, the West is overwhelmingly dominant. Western economies are still growing and the West is still the leader in the field of science and technology.

Neither the rise of Asia nor the decline of the West are irreversible. President George Bush in his State of the Union Address last year remarked “in a dynamic world economy we are seeing new competitors like China and India… America should not fear our economic future because we intend to shape it”

In the Huntington thesis, Western strategy to maintain and strengthen its global supremacy is focused on Euro-American unity, it exploits differences among non Western nations and attempts to develop common interests with what it calls “swing civilizations” which are “major actors in world affairs likely to have ambivalent and fluctuating relations with the West and its challengers” such as Japan, Russia and India. Western supremacy is sought to be safeguarded through a three pronged strategy: (i) a globalised economy which the West dominates; (ii) non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and W.M.Ds which should be exclusively controlled by Western powers; and (iii) protection of the cultural and ethnic integrity of the Euro-American societies by drastically restricting the number of immigrants and refugees from non European countries.

Western strategy to sustain it pre-eminent position also involves defining its interests as the interests of the “world community”, an euphemism which is meant to give global legitimacy to actions reflecting the interests of the United States and other Western Powers. Hence, democracy is promoted but not if it brings Islamic fundamentalists to power; non proliferation is preached to Iran and North Korea but not to Israel; human rights are an issue with China but not with Saudi Arabia.

South Asia witnesses increasing economic progress with India leading. The challenge faced by this region is to sustain a high rate of growth whilst making economic development more inclusive to achieve a faster reduction in poverty, illiteracy and deprivation. Regional cooperation is a pivotal element for prosperity in South Asia.

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was created in 1985 to promote economic development and social progress in South Asia through regional cooperation. A Summit meeting of SAARC was held in New Delhi last month. The most significant outcome was the signing of the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA). Effective implementation of SAFTA is likely to accomplish the full economic and strategic potential of South Asia. The establishment of the South Asian University is another concrete achievement of the Summit. The main campus of the University will be located in India whilst the Faculties will be spread through all the member countries.

At the Summit, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced duty free access into India of goods from the least developed countries (LDCS) of SAARC- Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives and Afghanistan. He also announced a liberalized visa regime for students, teachers, journalists and persons from the region seeking medical treatment in India.

India holds the chairmanship of SAARC until the Summit next year. Regional cooperation need not be hindered by bilateral controversies and contentions. The Government of India should now endeavour to turn SAARC into an effective instrument of regional synergy and cooperation within the year.

Eduardo Faleiro is a former Union Minister. This article is based on his speech at the Foundation Day of the Goa University.

- Asian Tribune -

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