Sustaining growth, ending poverty and benefiting citizens in the economies of South Asia, the expanding role of India in the world economy and the impact of globalisation in the region were the main issues for discussion at the last meeting of the Socialist International Committee on the Economy, Social Cohesion and the Environment held in NewDelhi, India, on 15 and 16 January.
Political leaders, experts, academics, parliamentarians, representatives from social organisations, think-tanks and foundations participated in the discussions, including, from the host country, former Prime Ministers Sh. H. D. Deve Gowda and Sh. I. Kumar Gujral, and delegations from India's ruling Congress Party, Janata Dal (Secular) and the Socialist Front.
The meeting's discussions, chaired by Christoph Zöpel (SPD, Germany), counted with the participation of SI Secretary General Luis Ayala, the Committee's Vice-Chair Bernard Soulage (PS, France) and delegates as well from Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Greece, Sweden and Ukraine, and were opened with a contribution by former Prime Minister of India, Sh I. Kumar Gujral. Delegates underlined issues of concern, among them peace and security, in relation to the conflicts today affecting the global agenda. Committee members heard contributions on the advances and challenges for strengthening democracy in South Asia, a crucial precondition for economic progress. The recent positive developments in Nepal and the democratic deficit as experienced today in Pakistan and in other countries were addressed. The changing role of the region in global politics and economics, and the enormous impact that globalisation is having on the subcontinent - where a great proportion of the world's population lives - were highlighted in many contributions. Particular areas in the economies of the region affected by current economic policies internationally, such as the agricultural sector in India, undergoing a serious crisis, were raised. With regard to India, the delegation of the ruling Congress Party presented an overview of government initiatives and programmes, such as the national employment guarantee act as well as the development of rural infrastructure, to tackle, at their very roots, poverty and internal migration from rural areas to big Indian cities.
Contributions and expert analyses presented pointed to the significant momentum of economic growth in India and some other countries in the region, to the development of an entrepreneurial sector willing and ready to compete on a global scale, but also to the need to focus on equity, regional balances and the eradication of poverty. The underlying convergence in the discussions was the need to do what the social democratic movement has done in other parts of the world at national level: to build a consensus to ensure that the interests of those who are left out are looked after and protected, with a concern for poverty, an emphasis on employment, health, education, gender equality, defence of the environment and greater equality in international economic relations.
The closing session of the meeting was addressed by Sh H. D. Dewe Gowda, former Prime Minister of India and Chair of Janata Dal (Secular), touching upon the substantial progress made by India since the 1980s even though the country still had to face major challenges such as food security, the crisis in the farming sector and the existing economic disparities which needed to be addressed as a priority. The conclusions of the debate were presented by the Committee Chair in a Summary. Two other regional discussions are foreseen in 2007, the first on economies in transition in Eastern Europe to be held in Kiev, Ukraine, and a second on Latin America and the Caribbean to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina.