PM prescribes unified currency at HT meet
Vajpayee also advocated open borders in his road-map for peace in South Asia while inaugurating the HT Initiative in Delhi on Friday.india Updated: Dec 13, 2003 14:16 IST
Prime Minister AB Vajpayee on Friday drew up a roadmap for a harmoniously integrated South Asia. He said open borders and even a single currency for the region were not unrealistic and utopian if "we can put aside mistrust and dispel unwarranted suspicions" and develop "mutual sensitivity to each other’s concerns".
Delivering the keynote address at the first Hindustan Times Leadership Initiative on the “Peace Dividend — Progress for India and South Asia”, Vajpayee said the investment inputs required to reap this dividend were pragmatic politics, rational economics and popular participation.
The Prime Minister said: "Our people, businesses and organisations are waiting to interact more closely with each other. This includes producers and consumers, investors and markets, doctors and patients, artists and audiences, students and universities. They are all part of the supply and demand dynamics of a vast sub-continent. They see the unexploited potential in their own neighbourhood. They have waited for over a half century for its fulfilment and are now impatient to move ahead.
“We can sense this impatience in the outpouring of popular sentiment after our initiatives. We have to respond to this desire by seeking every possible way to banish hostility and promote peace,” Vajpayee said.
Welcoming the HT initiative ahead of the forthcoming SAARC summit, the PM said, “Our search for pragmatism, maturity and wisdom will have to involve both governments and civil society. It will also require a widespread understanding that, in today's context, collective regional interest is an expression of enlightened self-interest."
Vajpayee said as countries in South Asia develop greater economic stakes in each other, "we can put aside mistrust and dispel unwarranted suspicions. We will also develop mutual sensitivity to each others' concerns and promote our common interests."
He said, "If we provide legitimate avenues of free commercial interaction, we can eradicate the black market and underground trade. We could jointly tackle smuggling, drug trafficking, money laundering and other transnational crimes, which today flourish in our region because of mutual rivalries and inadequate coordination.
"Once we reach that stage, we would not be far from mutual security cooperation and open borders and even a single currency. If this seems unrealistic and utopian, perhaps we are being unnecessarily cynical.
"Let us remember that the world did not anticipate the sudden end to the Cold War or the collapse of the Berlin Wall. No one thought apartheid South Africa could be transformed bloodlessly into Mandela's rainbow country.
“Our most important common war today is against poverty, disease, hunger and underdevelopment. If we in South Asia look back objectively at the experiences of our freedom struggles and of our nation-building, the one stark lesson that stands out is the imperative of forging unity based on our commonalities.
"Whenever we have dissipated our energies in internal squabbling, external forces have come in to sort out our differences and stayed on to exploit our resources. We should never create the possibility of reliving these historical experiences in new forms and on different fronts," he said.
In her welcome address, Hindustan Times Vice-Chairperson and Editorial Director Shobhana Bhartia said there could be no speaker whose credentials were more appropriate than Vajpayee's.
"As Prime Minister, he has constantly and continuously put his reputation and career on the line in his quest for a peaceful South Asia. He has demonstrated in his actions that he understands the importance of peace and recognises the dividends that accrue from following that path."
She said HT had launched the Leadership Initiative because "we believe a serious newspaper must do more than just mere reportage or carrying interesting articles. A great newspaper is one that defines its role in terms of contributing to intellectual debate and shaping the future. We hope to gather the best and the brightest and to provide a platform for free and candid exchange of ideas".
HT Editor Vir Sanghvi, who proposed the vote of thanks, said the difference between politicians and statesmen was that while politicians thought of the next election, statesmen thought of the next century.
He said, "By that reckoning, the Prime Minister has shown his leadership. For the cause of a harmonious South Asia, he has often put his career in trouble."
"We will have to think beyond Pakistan, of other countries in the region and how we can all work in harmony."
The HT vice-chairperson presented a memento and a caricature of Vajpayee, drawn by HT cartoonist Sudhir Tailang, to the Prime Minister.
PM’s 3 steps to S. Asian union
•Kick-off with free trade. Develop greater economic stake in each other
• Move on to mutual security cooperation and open borders
• Finally, countries in the region should go in for a common currency.
First Published: Dec 13, 2003 00:00 IST