A poem by Indian diplomat Abhay K, whose "Earth Anthem" could be taken around the globe by Unesco, set off a discussion at a recent meeting at the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) secretariat in Kathmandu about an anthem for the eight-nation grouping.
The heads of different divisions of SAARC, as well as the foreign ministers of the member states, have been discussing the merits of adopting the poem as SAARC's anthem.
The regional body also considered forwarding a suggestion on this to the meeting of the SAARC Council of Ministers in Male in February. If approved, the proposal will be considered at the 18th SAARC Summit, to be held in Kathmandu on dates that are yet to be finalised.
The poem was also forwarded for consideration and adoption to the SAARC Cultural Centre, diplomatic sources said.
The idea of a SAARC anthem was well-received, although there are differences about how it should be adopted. "The general view was that the idea would have to be placed before the Standing Committee and Council of Ministers for approval. After that, the SAARC secretariat would announce an open competition among all member states asking for entries," another diplomatic source said, adding that one of the entries would then be chosen as the anthem.
The poem by Abhay Kumar, first secretary at the Indian embassy in Kathmandu, has lines in Hindustani, English, Nepali, Bengali, Pasto, Urdu, Sinhala, Dzongkha and Dhivehi that are spoken in the eight member-nations.
Part of the poem goes thus: From the Himalaya to Hind, Naga Hills to Hindukush/Mahaweli to Ganga, Sindhu to Brahmputra/Lakshadweep, Andamans, Everest, Adam's Peak/Kabul to Thimphu, Male to Kathmandu/Dilli to Dhaka, Colombo, Islamabad/Every step in harmony (English rendition).
"I believe a SAARC anthem, a song that all South Asians could sing together, can act as a catalyst in fostering deeper South Asian consciousness and fraternity. Having received a very warm and enthusiastic reception to the Earth Anthem, which I had written and produced recently, it was my thinking that I could do something similar for SAARC," Kumar, first secretary (Press, Information and Culture) had said at the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu last December.
The Earth Anthem was unveiled last June by Law Minister Kapil Sibal and Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor at the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) in New Delhi. It was then released in Kathmandu by former Nepalese prime minister Jhalanath Khanal in the presence of Axel Plathe, Unesco's Representative to Nepal.
"Since then it has been translated into the world's major languages. The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), India, has put it on its website and I have been informed that Unesco is going to turn the idea of an official Earth Anthem into a global initiative," Abhay K said.
For the record, the Association of South East Asian Nations has "Asean Way" as its anthem, the European Union has adopted the fifth movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 (Ode to Joy) as its anthem, while the African Union's anthem is "Let's All Unite and Celebrate Together".