Monday, February 22, 2010

EPIIC symposium panelists explore conflict in South Asia

EPIIC symposium panelists explore conflict in South Asia
By by Katherine Sawyer and Saumya Vaishampayan

Tufts Daily, February 22, 2010

The 25th annual Norris and Margery Bendetson Education for Public Inquiry and International Citizenship (EPIIC) symposium came to an end yesterday after five days of panels discussing pressing issues in South Asia. This year’s symposium, entitled “South Asia: Conflict, Culture, Complexity and Change,” featured an array of speakers from both the academic and political world.

Institute for Global Leadership (IGL) Director Sherman Teichman called the programming a success. “The content of the panels was sterling,” he told the Daily. “It’s been a very eclectic, very, very powerful five days.”

A key lecture on Friday evening, “Buzkashi: Afghanistan’s Recurring Great Game,” featuring Said Jawad, Afghanistan’s ambassador to the United States, focused on the current situation in Afghanistan.
“The operation ... will put gradually Afghanistan and the Afghan government into a dominant military position,” Jawad said. He continued to speak about the progress Afghanistan has made and the role of international support in this process. “What we’ve accomplished in Afghanistan is incredible,” Jawad said. “The Afghan people are determined to build their country, but we do need your support and partnership.” Jawad also spoke about the impediment corruption in Afghanistan poses to development and the need to establish institutions to fight corruption.

Noor ul-Haq Olomi, leader of the United National Party of Afghanistan and chair of the Armed Services Committee in the Lower House of the Afghan National Assembly, echoed Jawad’s views on corruption. The prime enemy of the Afghan people is corruption, not the Taliban,” he said.

Olomi added that corruption comes in multiple forms, including Pakistan’s role as a safe haven for religious extremists associated with the Taliban. He questioned the lack of results from the United States’ continuing provision of money for Pakistani efforts to fight the Taliban. “The [United States] pays billions of dollars to Pakistan to fight the Taliban. Unfortunately, Pakistan still remains the most important haven for religious extremists,” Olomi said.....

Another panel on Saturday morning “Violent Discontent: Addressing Regional Insurgencies,” tackled the issue of the use of violence to fulfill political demands. In his presentation on the transition to peace after the decade-long Nepalese Civil War, Ian Martin, former special representative of the United Nations secretary-general in Nepal, discussed how the country “owed its success to the determination the people of Nepal showed in the people’s movement for peace and for change.” ...

Hassan Abbas, senior advisor at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University and a former Pakistani government official, shared his insights on the insurgency in Pakistan. Abbas believes that successful reconciliation will require the involvement of both regional and global agents because the success of the militaristic regimes depends on the global response to their actions. In order for effective de-radicalization to occur, there must be “justice, democracy, and reconciliation,” he said.

The “Emerging India: The Use of Hard and Soft Power” panel on Sunday looked at India’s ability to use attractive versus coercive power to develop as a global player.

Jalal Alamgir, assistant professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, discussed India’s inability to wield soft power successfully as a result of a lack of consistency and legitimacy in the country’s strategy. “Soft power derives from a sense of moral authority,” Alamgir said. He explained that until India’s core political values of democracy, non-violence and non-colonial nationalism are reflected in the nation’s policy, India cannot use soft power in its foreign relations.

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