ICMS Hosts Discussion Program on Intercultural Understanding and Peace


On 22 August 2014, ICMS hosted a roundtable to discuss the research of Mr. Binod Bista titled "Intercultural Understanding and Peace: Identity, Security and Communication Imperatives for Sustainable Peace in South Asia." The discussion program brought together several distinguished members of the academic, diplomatic, journalistic, and security communities to explore how to pursue peace in the region through these three avenues.

Mr. Binod Bista (Research Scholar, MCPR/BHU) notes key findings from his research.

The event began with a commencement address by Acharya Rajeswor which implored peacemakers to first resolve "the crisis within." As he explained, crisis managers must be able to find peace within themselves, through meditation and other means, in order to manage exterior crises effectively. Co-chair of the Asian Institute of Technology and Management Prof. Sudarshan Raj Tiwari, acting as moderator, then invited participants to delve into the theme of the first session: the impact of culture and identity on strengthening peace efforts. Historians and cultural experts Dr. Tulsi Tam Vaidya and Dr. Mohan Prasad Lohani emphasized the importance of the shared culture of the nations of the South Asia, as well as the importance of sovereignty in strengthening regional and national identities. AIG (Retd.) Rabi Raji Thapa and IG (Retd.) Sanat K. Basnet addressed the challenges to national coherence posed by non-state actors and their agenda.

 

Lt. Gen. Sharma, Mr. Rajeswor, and Prof. Sudarshan Raj Tiwari                      AIG (Retd.) Thapa (left) discusses the implications of security for peacebuilding

In the second session, participants discussed security perspectives, bilateral relations, and their influence over peace efforts in the region. ICMS Principal Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Bala Nanda Sharma noted the shift in the definition of security from the ability to counter an threat outside a nation's borders to safeguarding the wellbeing of individuals within those borders. Dr. Sushil Pandey, former director of the International Rice Research Institute, noted that peacemakers must understand security not only through its traditional definition, but also through the more recent concepts of food security and livelihood security which can impact the potential for conflict. Lt. Gen. Sharma echoed this sentiment as he pointed out that Nepal's government has not formulated a plan to address these non-traditional securities, despite the emphasis on their importance to national security.

Mr. Javed Ahmed Umrani (Pakistan Embassy), Dr. Shyam Kant Silwal (Former Dean, Nepal Law Campus), and Mr. Arvid Schwertner (German Embassy)

The third session focused on the role of the media in peacebuilding efforts in South Asia. Former BBC correspondent Mr. Sushil Sharma noted that professional media can make or break the efforts for peace, while former Ambassador Sundar Nath Bhattarai stressed that media must be independent, ethical and unbiased to avoid inflaming conflicts. Dr. Bharat Sharma made the point that unbiased information is difficult to find in the media since interest groups control many outlets. Mr. Javed Ahmed Umrani of the Pakistani Embassy emphasized that media in South Asian countries need to return to the roots of true journalism and identify positive trends that strengthen peacebuilding efforts instead of focusing only on conflict.

The program concluded with a reception afterward, at which students from the ICMS could speak with discussion program participants in more depth.