BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Urdu Hindi Pashto Bengali Tamil Nepali Sinhala
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: South Asia  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Tuesday, 3 September, 2002, 17:52 GMT 18:52 UK
South Asia shuns world summit
Smoke stacks representing pollution
Pollution has a major effect on South Asia

As negotiators at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg try to tackle poverty and save the environment, heads of state from South Asia have been notable by their absence.


We take the summit seriously. We have a very large delegation which is attending the summit

Yashwant Sinha,
Indian foreign minister
South Asia is one of the regions most affected by the problems of environmental degradation, population growth, poverty and poor sanitation.

Officials from the region have argued that it was not convenient for their heads of state to attend.

Their absence has provoked criticism and questions about whether South Asia has lost its voice in the environmental debate.

Official list

The official United Nations list of the heads of the countries represented in the World Summit names about 100 presidents or prime ministers across the globe.

Performers protesting in Johannesburg
Performers criticise Western leaders
The official list of speakers names one familiar name from the South Asia region, Nepal.

But Nepal's Prime Minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, is also not present.

He was due to address the summit but at the last minute changed planes and went somewhere else.

The responsibility of representing South Asian countries has fallen on either senior ministers or on other senior bureaucrats.

India 'not apologetic'

President Bush of the US has been condemned for his absence, not least because many critics consider the US the biggest polluter in the world.


South Asia is a region which is responsible for most of the problems such as poverty, illiteracy, population... their absence is very disappointing

S Venkat Narayan,
journalist
But does the absence of heads of state in Johannesburg indicate that South Asian countries do not take the summit seriously?

India's External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha says not.

"We take the summit seriously," he says. "We have a very large delegation which is attending the summit."

"Two ministers of the government of India have come to attend the summit and therefore we are not minimising its importance.

"But the fact that the prime minister has not been able to travel to attend is not something we need to be apologetic about.

"There are some heads of state who have come - others have not because it was not to their convenience."

Tensions

It is claimed that the Indian prime minister has been unable to attend the summit because he had to go to the UN General Assembly session, which begins later this month.

South Asian women affected by poverty
Women especially are victims of poverty
The same explanation has been given for the absence of the Pakistani President, General Musharraf.

But Pakistan's representative at the summit, Environment Minister Shahida Jameel, has another explanation.

She blames the current military stand-off between India and Pakistan for the president's absence.

She says: "The situation in the region is volatile and, to keep an eye on it, Mr Musharraf has to be in the country."

'Disappointing'

Journalist S Venkat Narayan feels let down.

"South Asia is a region which is responsible for most of the problems such as poverty, illiteracy, population.

"When almost the entire world leadership is present here to discuss these issues, their absence is very disappointing."

India's biggest neighbour, China, is represented by Prime Minister Zhu Rongji and 300 other delegates.

Similarly, almost all the heads of states from the countries of the African continent are present.

On Monday, in their speeches, the presidents of Namibia and Zimbabwe even raised the issue of Africa versus rich countries.

So has the South Asia region lost its voice on the biggest environmental forum?


Key stories

SPECIAL REPORT

TALKING POINT

AUDIO VIDEO
See also:

03 Sep 02 | Africa
28 Aug 02 | Africa
25 Feb 02 | Science/Nature
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more South Asia stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more South Asia stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes