Reddy urges Saarc scribes to rise above narrow national identities

New Delhi | Updated: Oct 29 2004, 05:30am hrs
Pakistan and Maldives representatives failed to attend the opening session of the Saarc editors and working journalists conference here on Thursday. Last-minute visa hitch is how some participants described the problem for the Pakistan delagates. According to information and broadcasting minister S Jaipal Reddy, a communication gap (between India and Pakistan) may have caused the visa problem.

The Pakistan team, including the group editor of The News, Mr Mufti Jamiludin Ahmad, reached the capital later in the day. The Maldives representatives are expected here on the concluding day of the conference.

One of the primary objectives of the Saarc conference is free flow of journalists in the South Asian region, said the outgoing chairman, Enayetullah Khan, whos editor-in-chief, Holiday (New Age), in Bangladesh. Dhaka had hosted the first Saarc editors conference last year.

Mr Khan was critical of the way Saarc countries rely on third party intelligence reports for information on each other. Theres hardly any spot reporting, he added, highlighting the significance of free flow of journalists between these countries and easy visa clearance. Mr Khan wants the Saarc conference to be more practical and process-oriented, rather than just a policy on paper. It would be good to have an autonomous body, he said. However, for a few years, active government participation along with inputs from independent media would be desirable, he added.

Mr Reddy, in his keynote address, said that journalists, writers and poets are better than politicians at changing the mindset of people. Therefore, a forum like Saarc editors conference is important, he said.

We are not able to tap the potential we collectively have (in the Saarc countries). Thats a political tragedy, Mr Reddy said. If the Saarc countries unite, they have nothing to lose, but poverty, according to the minister.

He stressed on the need to rise above narrow national identities. There are a lot of diplomatic strategists in Delhi, the minister said. They seem to be causing more problems than anybody else. Many other regional blocks are operating very well, he said, referring to European Union and Asean.

What is true of the Asia-Pacific rim can be true for South Asia as well, the minister added.