Ambassador of Nepal
Ambassador of Pakistan
Ambassador of Sri Lanka
South Asian Memories
the-south-asian.com December 2000
Page 2 of 2
Dr. Warnasena Rasaputram
Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the U.S.
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Is co-operation possible in the region
Of course it is possible. In fact the intellectuals of the region are thinking along these lines, including some former ministers of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. At the political level, of course, there are bottlenecks. When I was in Malaysia, I remember how Malaysians overcame one of their biggest obstacles to development – the communist threat. Malays and Chinese had been fighting a war for years – but the moment the war between them was over, they were able to develop economically. Now they work as brothers.
I am reminded of a Buddhist story where two groups are fighting for water. Buddha tells the two groups that they should, instead, dig for water together. So what is required is unity in order to utilise the resources. That is just what we want today. The important thing is to forget that you have political differences and remember that economic factors will keep people together. I feel we have already laid the foundation for economic growth – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal have liberalised – all these countries can and should initiate cross-border investments. The total amount of cross-border investment within South Asia is less than 3% of their total investments.
The moment you generate trust regarding availability of investment and the possibility of getting together to work together, a new economic class will be born. The trust has to be generated by the intellectuals. The Chambers of Commerce can also be instrumental in this growth because for them nothing is national – everything is international. After all trade is international. What can be better than trade with a neighbour.
Is the quality of leadership deteriorating in South Asia
We cannot go by the past standards for the simple reason that leaders in the past functioned in a limited sphere. They did not face the problems that we encounter. We have to function in a global economy and in a world rife with conflicts everywhere. A good leader is one with vision that is implementable.
In this cold weather I generally read. I enjoy reading spiritual books - books on religions of the world - and also biographies. I have enjoyed reading biographies of Roosevelt, Bandarnaike, Nehru, Gandhi and Subhash Chandra Bose. I listen to Eastern and Western classical music, jazz and Sinhalese music.
Belief in life
I believe in ‘sarva dharma’ – universal religion/truth.
I have the highest respect for Abraham Lincoln. I have been inspired by Nelson Mandela’s thinking and human values. I have also been inspired by the teachings of Buddha and Sai Baba. Among the South Asian minds, Gandhi had the greatest influence – he influenced every individual – however rich or poor.
Qualities appreciated in others
I like people to be receptive, affable and kind. And duty comes first. My father always said
Daily duty duly done
Makes a man, I tell you son
- and that ‘s what I have always followed. Duty is dharma. Also, how you interact with others is important and so is discipline. Discipline removes conflicts.
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