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A Vision for South Asia*

Akmal Hussain

South Asia Can Lead the World   South Asia is at a historic moment of transforming the economic conditions of its people and playing a leadership role not only in the global economy but also in the development of human civilization in the 21st century. For the first time in the last 350 years, the global economy is undergoing a shift in its center of gravity from the continents of Europe and North America to Asia. If present trends in GDP growth in China, U.S. and India respectively continue, then in the next two decades China will be the largest economy in the world, U.S. the second largest and India the third largest economy. However, if South Asian countries develop an integrated economy, then South Asia can become the second largest economy in the world after China. Given the geographic proximity and economic complementarities between South Asia on the one hand and China on the other, this region could become the greatest economic powerhouse in human history.   Yet the world cannot be sustained by economic growth alone. Human life is threatened with the environmental crisis and conflicts arising from the culture of greed, from endemic poverty and the egotistic projection of military power. Societies in this region have a rich cultural tradition of experiencing unity through transcending the ego, of creative growth through human solidarity and a harmony with nature. In bringing these aspects of their culture to bear in facing contemporary challenges, the people of this region could bring a new consciousness and institutions to the global market mechanism. In so doing South Asia and China can together take the 21st century world on to a new trajectory of sustainable development and human security. It can be an Asian century that enriches human civilization.   South Asia and the New Paradigm of Policy   All great epochs of economic and cultural achievement are associated with an intellectual renaissance. So must it be for South Asia as it faces the prospect of a leadership role in the 21st century. Let us begin with a critical examination of the theoretical postulates that have formed the basis of economic and foreign policy of modern nation states. The policy paradigm underlying the last three centuries of economic growth within nation states and political relations between states, has been characterized by two propositions that are rooted in conventional social science theory: (a) Maximization of individual gains ...

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