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Sonia Gandhi moots idea of South Asian parliament

Speaking at HT Initiative, she said it could expand the perspective on South Asia among all its countries.

india Updated: Dec 13, 2003 09:25 IST

Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday mooted the idea of a South Asian parliament that would debate issues of regional concern and importance.

“Such a body could expand the perspective on South Asia among all our countries,” Sonia said, while delivering the keynote speech on India's roadmap for peace at the second session of the Hindustan Times Leadership Initiative on “Peace Dividend: Progress for India and South Asia” meet.

Sonia dealt with the crucial challenges that confront South Asia. In this connection, she said India had to remain an exemplar of an open, liberal, pluralistic democracy, committed to secular values. She said India would have to fight religious fundamentalism of all kinds and preserve its composite heritage.

“We must fight those forces that seek to use regional tensions to polarise our own society,” Sonia said. “The fundamental task we face is to create an all-inclusive social architecture in which there is no place for bigotry, for intolerance, for obscurantism of any kind.”

Our social systems, she said, were too fissured, resulting in a growing feeling of alienation. As a result, violence had become endemic in many regions. To address this problem what was needed was “a determined search for the common ground, a serious pursuit of a consensus that allows us to move ahead, even while having differences,” Sonia added.

The Congress chief also said nation-states were far too centralised. “That had logic at a particular point of time over half a century ago. Today, what we need is a multi-tiered democracy, an empowered and decentralised democracy. There is no other system which is both representative and durable, both accountable and transparent.”

Sonia quoted Jawaharlal Nehru’s answer to Andre Malraux, the renowned French writer, on what his great challenge was. Nehru had said he wanted “to build a just society by just means and to establish a secular state in a religious society”. And this, Sonia said, could only come about by building a representative democracy, which would result from development that was both efficient and equitable.

What the region needed was a process of globalisation that was sensitive to the fact that South Asian countries were greatly dependent on agriculture and needed to generate jobs, she said.

In her view, our economy had done well, but not well enough to deal with the problems of poverty, malnutrition, disease and unemployment.

First Published: Dec 13, 2003 00:00 IST