International South Asia Forum Founded
One hundred and twenty four delegates with origins in different countries
of South Asia (Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) and
from both sides across the Line of Control in Kashmir met in Montreal
on September 4 and 5, 1999 at a Conference hosted by South Asia Research
and Resource Center (CERAS). Participants came from New York, New Jersey,
Massachusetts, Ohio, Illinois, Washington, British Columbia, Ontario,
Newfoundland, Quebec, France and England. There were also specially
invited guests from India, Pakistan and France. The Conference expressed
serious concern about the deteriorating human rights situation in South
Asia. It took note of the worsening quality of life for the masses,
growing militarization and acquisition of nuclear tools of mass destruction,
the emergence of fascistic and bigoted political forces and the increasing
hostility between India and Pakistan as evidenced by the recent war
The objectives of the Conference were to build solidarity among the
various people from South Asia, and to formulate programs for strengthening
secular and democratic forces among the South Asian Diaspora - especially
among the youth - and to contribute to the betterment of life for the
people of South Asia.
The Conference unanimously adopted the following Resolution, which
has also been endorsed by the Secular People's Alliance, Edmonton, East
Indian Workers Association, Toronto, Non-Resident Indians for Secularism
and Democracy (NRISAD), Vancouver, South Asia Research and Resource
Center (CERAS), Montreal and Pakistan Association of Quebec, Montreal.
Text of the Resolution
The rise of religious fundamentalism, its open links with organs of
state power, accompanied with nationalistic jingoism, intolerance of
dissenting views, and militaristic postures have combined to create
an alarming situation in the sub-continent. The gradual Talibanizatin
of Pakistan and the spread of the Sangh Parivar in India pose serious
threat to polity of these countries. These dangerous forces are nurtured
and supported by the politics and economics of globalization and neo-liberalism,
which are not only imposing anti-people agenda on the lives of the people
in the region, but also denuding it of its vital natural and environment
The forces of religious extremism have increasingly permeated all levels
of civil society. Consequently replacement of the BJP government in
India or a change of government in Pakistan would not be sufficient
to ensure peace, human rights, secular values and democracy in these
The state-to-state relations between India and Pakistan, which have
never been good, have taken a turn to more hostile postures with unsettling
consequences for the whole of South Asia.
On the other hand, there is a tremendous, almost palpable, longing
for peace, friendship and amity among the people. There is a realization
that half a century of hostility and military confrontations have not
solved any problem. The massive deployment of scarce resources should
be used to meet the basic needs of the ordinary people - education,
health, housing, and general economic well-being. In recent years people-to-people
exchange and dialogues have begun to occur in the form of cultural programs
We, the members of South Asian Diaspora located in North America and
Europe, desire peace, harmony and good neighborliness among the countries
of South Asia, and social justice and economic wellbeing for the people
there. We also have a responsibility to make a contribution in these
directions. Over the years many of us have been engaged in individual
or organized capacity to work for secularism, democracy, human rights
and social justice. Time has come for us to come together and work in
concert with each other.
Accordingly, this Conference resolves to create a Forum, hereby named
as the International South Asia Forum (INSAF), with the following objectives.
1. To work for peace and friendship among the people and countries
of South Asia.
2. To join hands with the people and organizations in South Asia:
(a) to work for demilitarization and de-nuclearization in India and
(b) to demand that all contentious issues among South Asian countries
- especially between India and Pakistan - be resolved through negotiations
in a spirit of mutual respect and good neighbourliness. The Kashmir
issue should be settled in accordance with the wishes of Kashmiri people;
(c) to promote the rights of the minorities in all countries of South
(d) to promote the protection of human rights of the people, especially
of the most vulnerable sections of the society such as women, dalits,
tribal people and poor peasants;
(e) to demand that the human, social and economic resources in the region
be deployed toward improving the quality of life of the people;
3. To carry out extensive educational and organization work among the
members of the South Asian Diaspora, especially among the youth - in
order to fight the forces of fundamentalism, narrow chauvinism - and
to promote goodwill among the Diaspora;
4. To seek the support of trade unions and other democratic organization
for the struggle of South Asian people for human rights, peace and social
1. Sponsor seminars and invite speakers from South Asian countries
to further these objectives.
2. Coordinate and sponsor cultural and social events of mutual interest.
3. Act as a center for issuing statements to the media on political,
economic, enviornmental, social and cultural developments in South Asia
and among the South Asian Diaspora.
4. Create a Web site for popularizing its activities and promoting
5. Publish a newsletter to promote the objectives of INSAF.
6. Encourage all organizations and individuals affiliated with INSAF
and other democratic individuals to work at all levels of community
7. Develop specific programs in accordance with local conditions to
encourage participation of youth with South Asian identity into progressive
nonsectarian associations and institutions.
1. INSAF will function as a coalition of groups and individuals.
2. Affiliation to INSAF is open to all groups and individual in any
country subject to their compliance with democratic, secular and nonsectarian
3. INSAF does not aim at interfering with activities of its affiliates.
4. Affiliate members are encouraged to identify their affiliation with
5. Affairs of INSAF will be conducted by a Coordinating Committee elected
at this conference and its mandate will last until the next Conference
of INSAF. Additional names can be added to the Coordinating Committee
at the suggestion of affiliate organizations.
6. The Coordinating Committee will decide upon most efficient and economical
way of advancing the mandate of INSAF.
7. Given the specifics of India-Pakistan relations and their influence
on South Asian politics, an Indo-Pak subcommittee of INSAF be constituted
to specifically deal with Indo-Pak issues.