Bulletin Board [Back]

December 12, 2003

PM's inaugural address at the Symposium on the Peace Dividend: Progress for India and South Asia

When the Hindustan Times Leadership Initiative invited me to this Conference, what really attracted me was the powerful imagery of the peace dividend as the engine of progress in our region. At the same time, I must confess to some sadness that – over half a century after all the countries of our region attained independence – this truth still needs to be emphasized.

The peace dividend for South Asia is the creation of new hope and opportunity for its billion and a half people. We need no stronger justification for peace than this simple statement. The investment inputs required to reap this dividend are pragmatic policies, rational economics and popular participation.

There can be no argument about our inherent advantages, common interests and complementary strengths, which present a tremendous opportunity for our region to realize its full potential:

  • First and foremost, our rich and varied human resources. Our citizens have created waves around the world with their technical, financial and managerial expertise. Their energies and talents can find greater application in regional cooperative enterprises.

  • Second, our populations are younger than the world average, and will therefore constitute an increasing proportion of the global workforce in the future.

  • Third, our technological advances have put us at the vanguard of today’s Knowledge Economy, enabling us to accelerate our development process.

  • Fourth, the size and increasing purchasing power of our collective market create economies of scale for cost-effective production.

  • Fifth, efficient exploitation of our synergies can vastly enhance intra-regional trade, even as we work towards a rule-based international trading regime.

  • Sixth, the region has massive untapped capacities for hydropower and unexploited hydrocarbons, which can more than meet its huge energy deficit.