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Remarks by Minister of State for External Affairs at the first Convocation of South Asian University (June 11, 2016)

June 11, 2016

H.E. Mr. Kamal Thapa, Hon'ble Deputy Prime Minister & Foreign Minister of Nepal
President of South Asian University,
Excellencies,
Distinguished faculty, dear students,

Ladies and gentlemen
  • At the outset I would like to congratulate all the students of the South Asian University (SAU) who are having their convocation ceremony today, for the successful completion of their academic programme. I am happy to be present at this important moment in the history of the University. I also take this opportunity to compliment the winners of the SAU Gold Medals for excellence in academic performance.
  • As many of you would recall, South Asian University was a concept that we had proposed at the 13th SAARC Summit held in Dhaka. Our collective mission was to establish a university dedicated to the region which will have the best in terms of facilities, faculty, academic input and research. Our endeavour was to build a culture of understanding and regional consciousness; nurture liberal, bright and quality leadership among our youth and build the capacity of the region in science, technology and other disciplines considered vital for improving the quality of life of our peoples. I am glad that with the first convocation at SAU, we have reached at a definitive stage towards its realization.
  • Today will also be a glorious occasion for SAARC as a regional group. Establishment of the University is one of the most visible signs of transformation of SAARC from a declaratory phase to implementation phase. Quality education for all, adequately supported by physical, technical and other facilities, has remained a key focus area for SAARC leadership. This was most recently reiterated during the last Summit in 2014, where the leaders agreed to promote regional cooperation in the field of education and training. I take this opportunity to thank all member countries of SAARC for their steadfast support to the University. I particularly thank H.E. Mr. Kamal Thapa, Hon'ble Deputy Prime Minister & Foreign Minister of Nepal for the interest he has taken to be present here today and participate in the Convocation.
  • At this point, I would like to reaffirm that Government of India on its part will do everything needed for the proper functioning and further development of the University. India is committed to bear 100% of the capital cost towards the establishment of the University. The Government has identified and allotted an area of about 100 acres of land. The construction of the campus has started, with the groundbreaking ceremony of the boundary wall taking place in the presence of Hon'ble External Affairs Minister last year. Construction of Phase 2 of the project is to start soon. India is committed to see that the University progresses as a flagship project of the region, and as a catalyst for progress in creation of knowledge pool. I understand that the University will be able to have its full-fledged courses in more disciplines once the campus is ready. We will ensure speedy completion of the project.
  • During the last Summit, Hon'ble Prime Minister of India had expressed desire to see that the University partners with at least one academic institution of excellence in each SAARC country. I note that it has already become a reality and compliment the SAU Administration for their excellent coordination in achieving this. As our leaders have emphasized time and again, the future of our region rests on the pillars of trade, investment, assistance, cooperation, people-to-people contacts and connectivity. Cooperation in the field of education will be of paramount importance if we are to ensure improvement in the inter-linked destinies of the people of South Asia.
    Dear Students,
  • While the programme at SAU must have armed you with academic knowledge and the most marketable and relevant skills needed for the region and the international job market, your stay at the SAU – the friends you have made, the discussions you had and the activities you have organized – would have helped in experiencing the sense of unity which links all of us in the region. SAARC embodies the aspirations of our people. We are united by history and geography, customs and traditions, religions and creeds that have given us our syncretic cultural heritage. Be it sports, cuisine, art and culture, traditions, or films we have a lot in common. Our efforts would be most fruitful if you can keep this spirit alive and continue to foster friendship among yourselves as well as in the region, as you become the leaders of tomorrow. In fact you have now become the ambassadors of South Asian region.
  • As young and creative minds from the region you must also be aware of the challenges that we are facing today. Despite strong growth and huge advances in education, healthcare and rural development, our region still has significant number of people living below the poverty line. We continue to face challenges in delivering food security, health, nutrition and education to our peoples. We have to find ways and means to unleash the true potential of our collective strength for transforming the region through rapid economic growth.. As fresh graduates from the region, you can not only contribute to this process, but shape it. Youth are our future and demography is our advantage. I would urge each of you to think about how exposure and skills gained at the University can be best utilized to find creative solutions to the challenges that we are facing today.
  • In this task of building our region I wish you success. Once again, I congratulate you on your graduation and wish you all the best for the journey ahead.
Thank You.
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