South Asian Youth Invitation Program
"What Japan and South Asia can do Aiming at Peace and Stability in the World"
At the invitation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan, participants from all countries of South Asia visited the Mita Conference Center, Tokyo from 3rd September to 5th September 2002 to deliberate on the issue of "What Japan and South Asia can do Aiming at Peace and Stability in the World" under the auspices of the Japan and South Asia Youth Forum.
This Forum was initiated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan in 1983 to provide an annual forum for the promising youth of South Asia to interact with their counterparts in Japan in order to exchange views and work towards a better understanding of each other's cultural, religious, economic, political, international relations aspects.
This year, there were 49 participants from the South Asian countries (India 12, Sri Lanka 7, Nepal 6, Pakistan 10, Bangladesh 8, Bhutan 3, Maldives 3) whilst there were 33 participants from Japan. The Youth Forum participants included students, journalists, civil servants, accountants, lawyers, social workers, academics and professionals.
The delegates were divided into four groups aiming to discuss and generate proposals on four separate areas of interests and responsibilities. Their views, proposals and resolutions are as follows:
The members in this subgroup identified the following core issues from a list of initially identified 49 topics:
- Border Issues (Kashmir)
- CBM, Respect, comprehensive negotiation
- Multilateral arrangements
- Role of international community
- Role of Japan
The delegates of the entire forum then resolved as follows:
1. Border disputes (Kashmir)
All delegates accepted the necessity for establishing a sustained resolution to threats and conflicts to the Peace and Security of the South Asian region with particular emphasis on the disputes between Pakistan and India.
In this regard the Japanese participants offered to both India and Pakistan to mediate a Conference on the issues.
The Japanese participants had suggested a common design or framework for finding solutions e.g. observer status in Kashmir and provide financial support for peacekeeping and observation.
However, the Japanese delegates expected all the parties to make all efforts to prohibit all forms of extremist and militant activities in their countries before providing such assistance.
The delegates also took cognizance of the border disputes and similar problems of other South Asian countries and resolved that efforts must also be made to decidedly resolve all other border disputes, including water sharing disputes in order to relieve bilateral tensions and in particular ensure the mutually beneficial sharing of resources such as water in the region.
The delegates also recognized the dire need for permanent nuclear disarmament making the region a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in South Asia.
The delegates also resolved that there is a need to take into consideration the effect on the other countries in the regional, the world and in particular Japan). They also supported Command and control assistance being supplied by the world community in the interim in order to ensure greater stability and security in relation to Weapons of Mass Destruction to Pakistan and India.
The delegates highlighted the benefits that resolution of the issue, greater peace and stability and strengthened Command and Control will have on freeing resources for economic development in both countries.
The delegates condemned Terrorism and resolved that there should be a ban on any kind of extremist violence targeted at civilians or minorities. They also supported prohibition against aid being provided to countries that do not take measures/efforts to ban such extremist groups.
The delegates resolved that there should be International observation for cross border terrorism and violation of human rights.
The delegates most importantly resolved that all efforts must be made by the countries in the region and the World Community should understand, identify and find solutions to eradicate the causes of such extremism and violence.
The delegates resolved that Confidence Building Measures must be established between India and Pakistan in order to ensure a peace process by a lasting resolution of disputes between the two countries for the peace and stability of the region and the World, keeping in mind the unique interests of Japan.
The delegates also recognized the need for confidence-building measures also to be established among the other countries in the region and their stakeholders in bilateral and multilateral frameworks.
The delegates resolved that all countries must establish and demonstrate sustained respect for all minorities irrespective of caste, creed, religion, and ethnicity in order to have confidence building measures.
It was also resolved that there was a need for comprehensive negotiations on all core issues as a vital measure towards confidence building.
The delegates also resolved that all countries should attempt to establish No War Pacts and establish secure and reliable channels of communication to avoid misunderstandings and build confidence between the countries.
The delegates also accepted that countries should not indulge in saber rattling if serious about building confidence and resolved that stoppage to all such rhetoric is a precursor to comprehensive negotiations.
The delegates highlighted the need for countries to try to make efforts in order to attempt government to government and military to military exchanges of officials to achieve a better understanding of each other's concerns and also examine the possibility of forward warning of military exercises so as to try and build confidence between themselves.
5. Multilateral Arrangements
The delegates stressed the need for an organizational framework alternative to existing frameworks to attempt to tackle matters of mutual concern to the countries of South Asia.
The delegates also resolved that their countries should take proactive measures to join Global alliances and Multilateral frameworks to work towards solutions regarding International and regional security issues.
6. Role of International Community
The delegates resolved that the World Community should provide support for all of the above matters including cooperation, assistance, mediation and negotiation of solutions by socio-economic means.
7. Role of Japan
The delegates resolved that Japan should play a major role as a member of the International community as well as being an Asian country with traditional links with the region to become a Diplomat for Peace in the region.
The Japanese delegates proposed:
-providing assistance by funding or sending security forces under the auspices of the United Nations for peacekeeping and observation purposes;
-providing reform in the ODA Charter to promote the funding of peace and stability in South Asia;
-facilitating and mediating opportunities for dialogue to all countries;
-to promote and ensure a better understanding of nuclear fall outs to the region and the World in general as a result of its special status as a country having suffered the nuclear holocaust.
-to provide increased training and technical assistance to the region in order to upgrade the institutional development, administrative, security, negotiation and foreign relation infrastructure of the countries.
-to provide financial assistance to create and strengthen institutional development, multilateral frameworks and confidence building measures in order to protect the interests and increase cooperation of the region and World community.
All delegates resolved that the proposals of the Japanese delegation stand accepted.
South Asia's Economic Development and World Economy:
The delegates of the Forum endorsed the proposals that were presented by the subgroup dealing with this topic which was as follows:
Japan and South Asian countries have been collaborating for the past many years. The history shows that Japan has been very kind in helping the countries in the region in many areas through ODA and other schemes. For instance, Japan's aid to countries of the region in the year 2000 in billion yens was approximately for Bangladesh-547, India-1661, Nepal-63, Pakistan- 645 and Sri Lanka-5151. Still the region remains one of the most disadvantaged in the world. Lack of technical know-how, uncontrolled population growth and inefficient mobilization of available resources are pushing some of the countries in the region towards increased poverty.
Looking at the future, many thrust areas have been identified by the group of young people from South Asia and Japan. These problems and challenges have been very diverse, so the group has identified and brainstormed on five broad areas, which are discussed as following. Attempt has been made to cluster these problems and how Japan can help South Asian countries to overcome these issues. There are many sub issues that have been raised and discussed for possible short-term and long-term feasible solutions from Japan.
The Five Thrust Areas identified:
- Official Development Assistance
- Cross-cutting Issues
The most important points have been identified as population, education and poverty, economic development, sustainable environmental development and so on. It is noteworthy that there are many pockets of excellence in South Asian region. Complementary issues like the software power of the region and hardware power of Japan, tourism potential of the region, skill development in small industries, handicrafts, development specially in areas of leather, garments, sports goods, gems and jewelry can be explored and further developed with the help of Japan.
Detailed issues discussed and possible collaborations between Japan and South Asian countries:
In start of the discussion, population and areas like education were given primary importance, where NGOs from the region and Japan can collaborate. Areas such as rural paramedical services should be developed and exchange programs at all levels and all areas can be undertaken. Self-development of local governments, community development and remote area development can be clustered into the first broad heading as discussed by the group.
- Education, Exchange program, free and compulsory middle and lower class education
- Medicare and health care services; women and child health, infant mortality and AIDS
- Local training, local government (Japan as the role of model)
- Identification and Development of Pockets of Excellence in South Asia
- Minimizing the gap between rural and urban areas
- Consultancy, mutual consultancy
- Remote area development
- Reducing the child labor
- Role of NGOs
- To ensure the human dignity on equitable basis
2. Economic Sustainable Development
Second came the economic sustainable development as a very important issue. The feasible areas should be the ones where Japan is a leader and meanwhile the region's software power can complement with Japan's hardware and semiconductor power. As discussed by the group, development of small-scale industries together with handicrafts can be carried out, meanwhile the training of human resources in rural areas should be given primary importance and investment should be made to develop the basic infrastructures, which will ultimately help other industries in the region to grow.
- Japan is a leader in technology specially in hardware, semiconductor, small and medium size enterprises
- Transfer of technology and adaptation for appropriate technology are helpful in high productivity and low cost
- Labor-intensive technology
- Human resource development; Basic human infrastructure;
- Training on priority basis in rural, handicapped people, community based development
- Export-led growth in selected areas
- Basic physical infrastructure development like dams, transportation, telecommunication, housing, bridge and power
- Agriculture; weather forecasting, fishing techniques
- Helping in mobilizing finances
- Reducing debt
- Flow of money
3. Environmental Issues
At the third level, Sustainable Environmental development, a big global and regional issue, came under discussion. As we all know that Japan used to be one of the most polluted countries but now it is categorized as the most neat and clean country, so keeping in view the practical example of Japan, such strategies including waste treatment should be designed for the developing countries of South Asia. The practical areas of collaboration were identified as, awareness campaigns, developing natural resources, water management, sanitation and developing non-conventional energy resources. Certain measures have been suggested for disasters, like earthquakes and floods. Techniques of agriculture for more yield and saline water recycling have also been identified.
- Awareness and education for environmental protection
- Sustainable development of environment; use of oil/gas/woods, renewable sources energy like solar energy, wind power, biomass, wave energy, etc.
- Environment impact assessment
- Air, purification plant
- Plastic materials
- Hazardous materials,
- Medical and Industrial waste management
- Soil conservation
- Water management; desalination
- Precision agriculture tools and techniques for high yield of agriculture products, storage facilities, pest control, environment-friendly, low-cost, technology, fishing
- Housing; low cost housing using local available materials
- Disaster management - prediction, compensation, eradication of diseases, earthquake resistant houses
- Waste management - Sanitation; technical know-how, efficient treatment plants
- Global warming draught, flood, Chlorofluorocarbon and ozone layer
- Restoring natural flora and fauna, tree plantation, joint animal resorts
- Regional, economic and environmental Bloc formation of South Asian region
4. Development Aid and Official Development Assistance
At the fourth level, we focused on Official Development Assistance, which has contributed a lot towards the development of the developing economies in which still more is to be done. Policy-making and project approval should be done with mutual understanding and consultation from the donor and recipient countries.
- Making preferences for investing in areas with joint consultation
- Special purpose vehicle (SPV) for projects
- Mutual consultation in executing activities/ projects
- Proper monitoring for sustainable development, even after completion of projects
- Securing and guaranteeing the completion of projects and their objectives
- Natural disaster/ emergency compensation
- Packaging of Infrastructure
- Capital in the form of assets, machines, hardware, tools, not only cash which can be misused
- Project management for better implementation of projects
- Emphasis on Basic Human Needs
- Help in self-reliance of individual countries
- Help in micro investment for long term development of the region/ local community
- Community/ citizen participation, engagement of all stakeholders - donors, recipients, affected people
- Joint feasibility study
- To promote Local development, ODA for long-term benefit and self-sufficiency
- Employment generation
- NGO movement
- Automobile, oil exploration
- Cluster development by identification of promising areas
5. Cross-cutting Issues
In the end, there are many multi-field issues, which we cannot categorize, like capacity building in leadership, fight against corruption, transparencies in governance, elimination of domestic unrest and insecurity etc. These may be important toward success of development of South Asian countries. Development could be achieved only when such foundation is solid.
- Accountability by sending parliamentary committee members and other observation groups to south Asian countries
- Reducing military expenditure
- Southeastern countries' unity to strengthen their economic power and global society
The delegates thus resolved that:
First of all, sustainable development should be implemented by donors and South Asian central and local governments. Without these developments, the gap between the rich and the poor is going to widen. To cut this vicious circle, development assistance should be focused on Basic Human Needs, poverty alleviation and social development, particularly in primary education including literacy education to compensate their lack of information. Socio-economic development brings sustainable development, promoting safety net for the poor. Additionally gender equality and environmental concern should be promoted in every field.
Japan, as the largest bilateral donor country for South Asian development, can play a vital role to revitalize the economy in the South Asian region and can help to restore peace in the region through enhancing the economic activities. Japan should provide skill and technical know-how as well and train the South Asian countries to mobilize their natural and human resources for the development.
Finally, South Asian Nations should be united to intensify their economic power in the global society. Therefore regional block building would be suggested for dealing with environmental issues, for constructing political stability and for economic assistance each other to develop South Asian countries drastically. It was resolved that Japan should assist in implementation of all the above measures keeping in mind global and regional solidarity.
Democracy, education and poverty
The delegates of the forum resolved that:
South Asian experience with democracy and poverty has raised serious questions regarding the very promise of democracy. The group noted with concern over the persistence of extreme poverty despite half a century of independent governance.
It is widely known that the countries of South Asia rank far below in socio-economic developmental indices. It is a disturbing fact that the region has a long way to go in achieving primary human security. The group discussed various factors that are responsible for this dismal state of affairs. In order to understand the real causes of backwardness and deprivation most participants felt that it is essential to grasp the complex process of state formation in South Asia, especially in view of the fact that many South Asian countries are composed of diverse social, religious, linguistic, and ethnic identities. Inter-community relation, in this regard, is an important issue to be noted. Inequitable distribution of land, prolonged monopoly of power by an elite and lack of education have been seen as major causes of South Asian backwardness.
Politically stable democratic government in each country constitutes the prerequisite for South Asia's development. The house was divided on the exact nature of government that should ideally be practiced in South Asia. However the need for good governance was unequivocally emphasized.
The contemporary profile of South Asian democracy does not suggest encouraging prospect for future. Nor does South Asian past experience offer any source of inspiration. It is also unfortunate that independent nation states which emerged after the demise of colonial rules have failed in fulfilling the promises they had made. The group generally felt that all countries in South Asia should gradually adopt more democratic form of governance, which ensures the rights of its citizens regardless of religion, gender, ethnic, linguistic and caste affiliations.
On the question of poverty alleviation and democracy, the general opinion emphasized the linkage between democracy and persistence of poverty. Many participants underlined the need for grassroots democracy which would enable the deprived people to participate in the developmental activities as well as governance. In view of the complex process of nation formation in the region, it was felt that proportional representation and decentralization of power are the immediate need of the time. There cannot be any programme for effective poverty alleviation without the active participation of different deprived sections.
The process of majoritarianism was seen as a hindrance in achieving greater levels of participation in the political process of South Asian countries. It is also unfortunate that the rights of a large number of minority communities are consistently violated in many of these countries.
Therefore, keeping the above in view, the house resolved to make the following are proposed for more humane, democratic and poverty free South Asia.
1) Land reform
Overwhelming majority of the discussants felt that effective land reform should be carried out by the respective government of each South Asian country as the first major step towards poverty alleviation. It was also reiterated that effective land reforms would help to bring about equitable distribution of resources in predominantly agrarian regions.
Education, which was unequivocally emphasized, holds the key to long term development of the people. Need for a holistic approach to free primary education encompassing education for all, vocational training and adult education was reiterated.
Each government must undertake policies with a view to empowering the deprived sections by pursuing the ideal of positive discrimination.
4) Proper planning
The need of the hour is to have proper planning to encompass all the crucial economic issues within the purview of development. National policies should emanate from below, rather than being imposed on the people from above.
5) Infrastructure development
The house was unanimous upon the need for paying special attention on the issue of overall infrastructure development, particularly in key socio-economic sectors.
6) Problem of the debt-trap
Given the increasing dependence of South Asian countries on the global financial institutions as World Bank and the developed West, the house expressed concern over the possibility of South Asian countries slipping into an inevitable debt-trap. The developed world must appreciate the vulnerable financial positions of these countries and help in bailing them out from their critical positions.
7) SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) as an effective forum for regional cooperation
It was unanimously resolved that SAARC must set in motion a new agenda of regional cooperation that can integrate all countries in the region a single economic unit and encourage free movement of goods and capital.
8) Removal of mutual distrust between religious and ethnic identities
The social discord in South Asia originates largely from the distrust and misconceptions between different identities. The house called upon respective government to take measures to build up mutual trust and confidence. In this regard, school curriculum and media are important areas that can bring different communities closer together.
Expanding Mutual Understanding And Cultural Exchange
The delegates formulated the following questions and gave their suggestions to the same as follows:
1. What kind of image do South Asia and Japan have towards each other?
Views of the South Asian participants
As far as the images about Japan are concerned, the South Asian people understand that after World War II Japan's development in the economical and technological sector has been unprecedented. This is a model for the entire world especially for South Asia. America is perceived as an ally of Japan, resulting in the Japanese foreign policy often being influenced by that of America.
Japan has been assisting in the development of the South Asian countries in different sectors through various means viz., grants, soft loans, Japanese volunteer services etc. It has further improved the ties through cultural and intellectual exchange programs, scholarships etc.
Views of the Japanese participants
The Japanese participants did not have much information about South Asia but they had a little information about cultural and religious information: for example, about the tourist sites of Buddha in different South Asian countries, and about music and films of India.
Further, they were concerned about security in South Asia, due to conflict between Pakistan and India and ethnic war in Sri Lanka.
However the participants felt that there was an inappropriate dissemination of information by the media and lack of credible source of information.
2. What are the obstacles in reaching deeper mutual understanding beyond stereotypical views between Japan and South Asia?
The Japanese side noted that they did not have proper information about the South Asian culture, history, civilization, religion, and environmental sites, which is considered a big obstacle for the mutual understanding and cultural exchange.
The language barrier is also considered an obstacle towards mutual understanding. The South Asian people are comparatively more conversant in English than the Japanese. Some of the Japanese participants pointed out that their formal education did not cover the contemporary issues.
The South Asian countries allocated a large part of their budget for defense against social and infrastructure development. The South Asian participants were of the view that South Asia did not figure among the high priorities of Japanese foreign policy. This is also an obstacle in the way to reach the deeper mutual understanding and cultural exchange.
The South Asian embassies and the Japanese embassies were not working effectively to disseminate information about their culture and civilization.
3. How can we expand exchanges between Japan and South Asia (youth exchange, intellectual exchange and tourism)?
Formation of a Youth Club (South Asia - Japan Youth Club)
During the discussion session the need was felt for a friendship club. It was resolved unanimously that a South Asia-Japan Youth club must be formed to interact with each other. The club's web site will have the information and links regarding culture, civilization, history, education system, and admission procedure etc. for the benefit of the Japanese and South Asian people. This club will also carry out group discussion sessions on the net.
For this purpose 7 participants from the seven countries of South Asia and 8 participants from Japan have volunteered and formed the core team who will coordinate the club activity.
It has also been agreed by the participants that they will work under the aegis of South Asia-Japan Youth Club towards arranging financial assistance through industrial and governmental organizations and scholarships and college festivals, seminars.
Suggestions to the Governments of South Asia and Japan:
It is resolved that the Governments should work on a more credible and transparent system for the dissemination of information regarding their culture, history, civilization and eco-sites (environmental locations). The South Asian participants were of the view that Japan is spreading its culture through different channels but on the contrary the South Asian countries are lacking.
It was resolved by both Japanese and South Asian participants that there is a need to introduce more fellowship programs for the youth of Japan and South Asia on a reciprocal basis. Furthermore, the South Asian participants felt the need of AIEJ entrance examination centers in South Asia. The enrollment procedures in the Japanese universities should be made more foreigners friendly. It was resolved that the Japanese universities should consider reserving a few seats for the South Asian youth. It was also resolved both by Japanese and South Asian delegates that Japan and South Asia should start more fellowship programs for their youths in their respective countries.
Pop culture provides a common ground for the South Asian and Japanese Youth to interact. It is resolved that there need to be more exchanges between all South Asian countries and Japan.
The delegates' answers and views to the formulated questions were resolved by the forum.
The South Asian countries thanked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan for the opportunity to be able to exchange views and reach a deeper understanding of their problems and the hospitality and cultural experience provided. The Japanese participants also showed their appreciation for the opportunity provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan to the Youth of Japan to better understand the culture, religions, politics, international relations and economy of the South Asian countries. All the participants resolved that they would continue to maintain the valuable friendships fostered in this Forum and work towards a more humane, prosperous South Asia in particular to make all efforts to promote Peace and Stability in the region with the active cooperation of Japan.
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