Islamabad, December 23 : At a special session on South Asia in 2060, at the twelfth annual conference of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute in Islamabad, participants from all over the region emphasised on the need to focus on education and skill development if the region has to realise its potential in the next fifty years. The session was chaired by Professor Adil Najam.
The Frederic S. Pardee Professor for Global Public Policy, Boston University, USA, and the panellists were Professor Amitabh Mattoo, Professor of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University New Delhi, Dr Ishrat Hussain, Former Governor State Bank of Pakistan, Ambassador Nihal Rodrigo from Sri Lanka who had served as Secretary General of SAARC, Dr A.K. Enamul Haque, Economic Research Group, Dhaka, Bangladesh and Dr Deepak Gaywali, Director of the Nepal Foundation, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Professor Amitabh Mattoo, in his presentation, emphasised that the region was at a tipping point. It could move towards being a virtual janat in the next fifty years or descend into jhanum or continue in this state of instability. Mattoo argued that decisions taken now and in the next five years will determine the future of the region over the next half century. And civil society, particularly, had an important role to play to ensure the region’s transformation.
He also argued that while there were predictions about India emerging as one of the great powers, it could not escape South Asia. And unless India takes the region forward with it, the region will pull it down.
There was a consensus amongst the panelists that the most important need was to ensure that the young men and women of the region be provided the opportunities that will ensure that South Asia can take advantage of its huge demographic dividend. The rest of the world is aging, while South Asia will have the largest pool of youth in the globe. The challenge was to move South Asia from a region of darkness into becoming the knowledge hub of the planet. Investment in skill development, and education was critical and civil society must pressure on governments to reduce their defence budgets and use it for education programmes. A lively discussion follwed the presentations.