International South Asia Forum Founded
One hundred and twenty four delegates with origins in different countries of South Asia (Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) and from both sides across the Line of Control in Kashmir met in Montreal on September 4 and 5, 1999 at a Conference hosted by South Asia Research and Resource Center (CERAS). Participants came from New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Ohio, Illinois, Washington, British Columbia, Ontario, Newfoundland, Quebec, France and England. There were also specially invited guests from India, Pakistan and France. The Conference expressed serious concern about the deteriorating human rights situation in South Asia. It took note of the worsening quality of life for the masses, growing militarization and acquisition of nuclear tools of mass destruction, the emergence of fascistic and bigoted political forces and the increasing hostility between India and Pakistan as evidenced by the recent war in Kargil.
The objectives of the Conference were to build solidarity among the various people from South Asia, and to formulate programs for strengthening secular and democratic forces among the South Asian Diaspora – especially among the youth – and to contribute to the betterment of life for the people of South Asia.
The Conference unanimously adopted the following Resolution, which has also been endorsed by the Secular People’s Alliance, Edmonton, East Indian Workers Association, Toronto, Non-Resident Indians for Secularism and Democracy (NRISAD), Vancouver, South Asia Research and Resource Center (CERAS), Montreal and Pakistan Association of Quebec, Montreal.
Text of the Resolution
The rise of religious fundamentalism, its open links with organs of state power, accompanied with nationalistic jingoism, intolerance of dissenting views, and militaristic postures have combined to create an alarming situation in the sub-continent. The gradual Talibanizatin of Pakistan and the spread of the Sangh Parivar in India pose serious threat to polity of these countries. These dangerous forces are nurtured and supported by the politics and economics of globalization and neo-liberalism, which are not only imposing anti-people agenda on the lives of the people in the region, but also denuding it of its vital natural and environment resources.
The forces of religious extremism have increasingly permeated all levels of civil society. Consequently replacement of the BJP government in India or a change of government in Pakistan would not be sufficient to ensure peace, human rights, secular values and democracy in these countries.
The state-to-state relations between India and Pakistan, which have never been good, have taken a turn to more hostile postures with unsettling consequences for the whole of South Asia.
On the other hand, there is a tremendous, almost palpable, longing for peace, friendship and amity among the people. There is a realization that half a century of hostility and military confrontations have not solved any problem. The massive deployment of scarce resources should be used to meet the basic needs of the ordinary people – education, health, housing, and general economic well-being. In recent years people-to-people exchange and dialogues have begun to occur in the form of cultural programs and conferences.
We, the members of South Asian Diaspora located in North America and Europe, desire peace, harmony and good neighborliness among the countries of South Asia, and social justice and economic wellbeing for the people there. We also have a responsibility to make a contribution in these directions. Over the years many of us have been engaged in individual or organized capacity to work for secularism, democracy, human rights and social justice. Time has come for us to come together and work in concert with each other.
Accordingly, this Conference resolves to create a Forum, hereby named as the International South Asia Forum (INSAF), with the following objectives:
1. To work for peace and friendship among the people and countries of South Asia.
2. To join hands with the people and organizations in South Asia:
- to work for demilitarization and de-nuclearization in India and Pakistan;
- to demand that all contentious issues among South Asian countries – especially between India and Pakistan – be resolved through negotiations in a spirit of mutual respect and good neighbourliness. The Kashmir issue should be settled in accordance with the wishes of Kashmiri people;
- to promote the rights of the minorities in all countries of South Asia;
- to promote the protection of human rights of the people, especially of the most vulnerable sections of the society such as women, dalits, tribal people and poor peasants;
- to demand that the human, social and economic resources in the region be deployed toward improving the quality of life of the people;
3. To carry out extensive educational and organization work among the members of the South Asian Diaspora, especially among the youth – in order to fight the forces of fundamentalism, narrow chauvinism – and to promote goodwill among the Diaspora;
4. To seek the support of trade unions and other democratic organization for the struggle of South Asian people for human rights, peace and social justice.
1. Sponsor seminars and invite speakers from South Asian countries to further these objectives.
2. Coordinate and sponsor cultural and social events of mutual interest.
3. Act as a center for issuing statements to the media on political, economic, enviornmental, social and cultural developments in South Asia and among the South Asian Diaspora.
4. Create a Web site for popularizing its activities and promoting its objectives.
5. Publish a newsletter to promote the objectives of INSAF.
6. Encourage all organizations and individuals affiliated with INSAF and other democratic individuals to work at all levels of community activities.
7. Develop specific programs in accordance with local conditions to encourage participation of youth with South Asian identity into progressive nonsectarian associations and institutions.
1. INSAF will function as a coalition of groups and individuals.
2. Affiliation to INSAF is open to all groups and individual in any country subject to their compliance with democratic, secular and nonsectarian objectives.
3. INSAF does not aim at interfering with activities of its affiliates.
4. Affiliate members are encouraged to identify their affiliation with INSAF.
5. Affairs of INSAF will be conducted by a Coordinating Committee elected at this conference and its mandate will last until the next Conference of INSAF. Additional names can be added to the Coordinating Committee at the suggestion of affiliate organizations.
6. The Coordinating Committee will decide upon most efficient and economical way of advancing the mandate of INSAF.
7. Given the specifics of India-Pakistan relations and their influence on South Asian politics, an Indo-Pak subcommittee of INSAF be constituted to specifically deal with Indo-Pak issues.Top