M.L. Sondhi & Shrikant Paranjpe

The Asian Age, June 26, 1996

It is from this primary function that other functions take shape.  The parliament would have the following powers:

  • Informational: it would have the right to be informed about developments in South Asia.

  • Perhaps in the initial stage security-related information may be withheld.  But as the process of integration takes on a better shape and as cooperation in defence gets under way the scope of information may include security areas.

  • Representational, grievance ventilation, educational and advisory role; a parliament is essentially a popular institution.  It is a forum through which people can seek to realize their aspirations, urges, expectations, ventilate their grievances and difficulties.  Ventilation of grievances, can be the best mechanism for reducing tensions.  The human dimension of the problems of South Asia have a basic similarity.  A debate on those problems, of political or other nature, would enable one to appreciate the views not only of the respective governments but also of peoples.  Problems like Kashmir, Punjab, the Tamils of Sri Lanka, Chakmas of Bangladesh, Gorkhas can be debated in the SAARC parliament from a variety of angles, without prejudice to existing territorial sovereignties.

  •  Crisis resolution:  The emergence of parliament as a potent conflict resolution mechanism and a leading mediating force in rational politics has been well accepted.  Debates and discussions bring out underlying tensions and resentment in society.  Parliament can emerge as a legitimate area for power struggles for crystallization of political activity or for acting out conflicting roles and interests.

  • Developmental:  South Asia experiences a diversity in the patterns of social, economic, industrial, political, cultural and other areas of development.  Here the parliament can act as an agency for ensuring that the impetus stays and also as a channel for communication that would ensure free flow of information across the subcontinent.  The facility to get authentic information is crucial to development and social change.

 Committees:  The present technical committees would continue as 10 functional committees.  They would include the following areas: (a) Agriculture, (b) Health and Population Activities (c) Meteorology (d) Postal Services (e) Prevention of Drug Trafficking and Abuse (f) Rural Development (g) Sports, Art and Culture (h) Science and Technology (i) Telecommunications (j) Transport (k) Women in Development.

All these committees are already active in their areas.  The membership would have to be restructured to include members of parliament and experts in equal number.  Besides these committees the following two committees may be created:  Security Coordination Committee and Economic Affairs Committee.  The Security Coordination Committee would be entrusted with the coordination of internal and external threat-related issues.  Items under the Convention on Terrorism would be included in the activity of this committee.  The committee can also plan for confidence building measures in the defence sector.  These may include greater exchange of information, on-site inspection and joint exercises.  This would have to be a high-powered committee, with membership drawn from all countries.

The Economic Affairs Committee:  The Male Summit focused on economic affairs.  It took the decision to extend cooperation to some economic areas and prepare a strategy to mobilize regional resources.  This committee would have to look at the economic agenda from a more cooperative framework and prepare strategies for regional development.  It would be almost like a planning commission for the region.

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