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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 22 New Delhi May 21, 2016

Towards a Democratic Union of South Asia An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Monday 23 May 2016, by Bharat Dogra

One out of five persons in the world lives in South Asia. This is also a region where a very large number of farm animals live and where there is a rich diversity of other life forms and their diverse habitats. However, with very serious accentuation of the ecological crisis and science-based prediction of the likelihood of worse to come, human life as well as most other forms of life in the region face unprecedented threats due to man-made factors. While these threats are many-sided, perhaps the most catastrophic may be the enormous loss of life and the even bigger displacement caused by the rise in the sea level along the vast and densely populated coastline of the region, a very real possibility linked to climate change. This is just one of the many-sided worsening of disasters which is likely for this region as can be judged from the available scientific evidence.

This is also the region of very huge accumulation of highly destructive weapons including nuclear weapons. This is also the region where many terrorist organisations are active and have a very strong base. This is a region where several destructive wars have already been fought while civil war-type conditions have also existed in some areas for prolonged periods. This is an area where the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons in a future war has been frequently discussed at the international level and the prospects of nuclear weapons or dirty bombs being acquired and used by terrorists have often been mentioned.

South Asia is also an area where very large scale poverty and deprivation, hunger and malnutrition exist. Concern has frequently been expressed that this can aggravate in the future due to an increasing shortage of water, linked also to climate change and some other important factors.

There are several ways in which these problems can be resolved. However this much is becoming clear that without some very significant action to ensure peace and eliminate the possibility of destructive war, the badly-needed prioritisation for checking ecological ruin, preparing for climate change and related disasters as well as reducing poverty, hunger and deprivation significantly may not be possible.

One of the most effective means of achieving these highly desirable and in fact essential objectives is to establish, by voluntary accep-tance of all nations of this region, a Democratic Union of South Asia including all the nations of this region. This Union should be based on equal rights of all the citizens of South Asia. Equality at all levels, including nationality, religion, gender, caste, ethnicity, should be a basic precept to be mentioned in the Preamble of the Union’s Constitution. This Union should be based on the principles of equality, justice, secularism, peace and high priority to environ-ment protection at all levels.

At the international level also this Union should promote the same principles, with special emphasis on peaceful relationships with all neighbours of this Union particularly China. This Union should be committed strongly to the worldwide elimination of all weapons of mass destruction. This Union should be committed to according very high priority to mitigation and adaptation efforts relating to climate change.

This Union will be in a much better position to face catastrophic events relating to climate change compared to individual nations.

This Union will enable South Asia to enter a new phase of peace, prosperity and stability while also providing adequate opportunities to prepare better for meeting the most important but neglected challenges of ecological threats including climate change.

Bharat Dogra is a free-lance journalist who has been involved with several social initiatives and movements.