The Defence Minister Shri AK Antony today said, the media and think tanks have a major role to bring about changes in perception about countries of South Asia. Inaugurating the 7th South Asia Conference here, Shri Antony said, “Perceptions of neighbours about India and the region are quiet important. We hope that the perception about India will change gradually, as we make earnest efforts to build trust and mutual confidence. The issue that we need to focus on is how to make perceptions favourable to bring about a positive change in the region. In this context, think tanks, civil societies, intelligentsia and media have a crucial and responsible role to play”.
Elaborating further, Shri Antony said, “In international relations, perceptions often prove to be as important as reality. In regions plagued by conflict and under development, mistrust has an impact on the behavior amongst States. In such a scenario, perceptions often get divorced from the reality”. He said the perception of countries about each other in South Asian regions are not too favourable for regional cooperation. He also highlighted the unique role played by India in furthering regional cooperation.
Allaying the fears of suspicion of some neighbouring countries, Shri Antony said “India’s natural predominance is viewed with concern by some states. Such concerns about Indian intentions are far from real and often misplaced”. He also said that “over the years, India has assumed a responsibility to improve its relationship with neighbours. This policy has paid off at bilateral level. However its relationship with some other countries continues to be problematic”. He reiterated India’s commitment to further and maintain peace and friendly relations with all its neighbours. Since, India accounts for 80% of the regional GDP and 70% of South Asia’s population, it has an important role to play in making regional cooperation possible, he remarked.
The two-day long conference organised by the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA) is being attended by delegates from South Asian Countries, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka & Pakistan.