Chairman Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan Dr Mukhtar Ahmed has said that the countries of South Asia must take steps for educational diplomacy for the development of the region.

He was addressing the closing ceremony of the 3-day international conference on ’75 years of South Asia: Past, Present and Future’ online organized by Punjab University (PU) Department of History and Pakistan Studies in Al Raazi Hall on Friday. Former Caretaker Chief Minister of Punjab Prof Dr Hassan Askari Rizvi, Dean Faculty of Arts and Humanities Prof Dr Amra Raza, Chairman Department of History and Pakistan Studies Prof Dr Mehboob Hussain, faculty members, students and researchers participated in the event.

While the Ambassador of Kazakhstan Yerzan Kustafin and Ambassador of Uzbekistan Aybak Arif Osmanov addressed online. In his address, Dr Mukhtar Ahmad said that quality education, housing and a pleasant lifestyle were the rights of the people of South Asia, for which universities can play their role. He said that research conducted in universities should identify problems and provide solutions. He said that measures should be taken for the prosperity of the people by promoting peace instead of wars.

While speaking online, Yerzan Kustafin and Aybak Arif Usmanov called for strengthening people-to-people ties and South Asia for the development of South Asia. He said that work should be done for link roads to provide travel facilities among the countries.

Dr Hassan Askari Rizvi said that the South Asian region could not highlight its positive identity in the world despite being the guardian of old and new civilizations, historical buildings and cultural heritage. He said that tension in India-Pakistan relations was an obstacle in bringing South Asian countries closer. Dr Amra Raza thanked the distinguished guests and congratulated the organizers for organizing the best conference. She said that the subject of history has a special place to know and solve problems.

Dr Mehboob Hussain said that 17 sessions were held in the three-day international conference in which more than 100 delegates from India, Turkey, China, UK and Pakistan presented 120 research papers. He highlighted the recommendations made in the light of the research papers presented in the conference:

The scholars have unanimously resolved that in the past 75 years, the region of South Asia has lagged behind in human and social development due to political, cultural and social conflicts, both in the nature of inter and intra-state, and which have seriously hampered and created hurdles in the way of prosperity and progress of the region. In order to create an environment friendly, for resolving these conflicts, the conference recommended that people to people contact should be encouraged at all levels, academic, cultural and intellectual exchanges among the people of different states of the region should be promoted and encouraged.

The conference recommended that Bangladesh, Pakistan and India, being share-holders of rich cultural, literary, historical and archaeological heritage of thousands of years, must work together to explore this heritage. The participants agreed that joint collaborative projects, such as in the areas of art and architecture, history-writing and archaeology should also be launched. The moot recommended that the looming environmental crises, particularly the dwindling water resources, are seriously impacting the people of South Asia and there is a strong need to join hands to combat the harmful effects of environmental change as no single country with its meager resources can counter such change singlehandedly.

The speakers said that besides that, economic linkages should be developed. Energy, banking and other sectors of one country can learn from the experiences of the other and can focus on collaborative efforts. The conference endorsed its resolve that peace and harmony, instead of war and confrontation, provides windows of opportunity for developing the human potential of South Asian people and for asserting themselves as civilized people of the world. The researchers said that forces of extremism and liberalism are bound to fail and an era of human progress and prosperity would ultimately dawn on the people of South Asia.

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Arsalan Haider is a reporter at Academia Mag and has worked with leading national dailies and news channels. He tweets @arsalanhaider14

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