Context: As per the report, India is projected to become the most populous country by 2027 surpassing China, and host 1.64 billion people by 2050; the world as a whole could be home to 8.5 billion people in just over a decade from now, and the number could go up to 9.7 billion by mid-century.
New challenges for India:
- India will have a vast number of young people and insufficient natural resources left for exploitation.
- At the national level, achieving a reduction in fertility rates in States such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh — which are high as per Sample Registration System data — is a challenge for India as it seeks to stabilise population growth.
Need of the hour:
- Stabilise population numbers by raising the quality of life of people, and achieve sustainable development that will not destroy the environment.
- State governments must singularly focus on improving education and health access for women, both of which will help them be gainfully employed.
- A growing population of older adults is a certainty, and it opens up prospects for employment in many new services catering to them.
- Urban facilities have to be reimagined, with an emphasis on access to good, affordable housing and mobility.
- The progress in poverty reduction, greater equality, better nutrition, universal education and health care, needs state support and strong civil society institutions.
- Making agriculture remunerative and keeping food prices stable are crucial to ensure nutrition for all.
Why South Asia must cooperate?
Significance of South Asia:
- Covers only about 3.5% of the world’s land surface area but hosts a fourth of its population, making it a region of significant importance for international development.
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- It is one of the world’s least integrated regions.
- Intra-regional trade is a meagre 5% of the total trade these countries do globally, while intra-regional investment is less than 1% of the region’s overall global investment.
- South Asia’s average GDP per capita is only about 9.64% of the global average. Accounting for more than 30% of the world’s poor, the region faces myriad economic and environmental challenges.
- While the countries share a host of common development challenges, economic cooperation remains less than adequate.
- Most South Asian countries have made good progress in ending extreme poverty, but they face persistent challenges to goals related to industry, innovation and infrastructure, zero hunger, gender equality, education, sustainable cities and communities and decent work and economic growth. Most of South Asia continues to be vulnerable to climate change and climate-induced natural disasters.
- The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the platform for regional economic cooperation in this region, has become moribund and remains unsuccessful in promoting regional economic cooperation.
What needs to be done?
- A regional strategic approach to tackle common development challenges can bring enormous benefits to South Asia. SDGs related to energy, biodiversity, infrastructure, climate resilience and capacity development are transnational, and here policy harmonisation can play a pivotal role in reducing duplication and increasing efficiency.
- To address institutional and infrastructural deficits, South Asian countries need deeper regional cooperation.
- On financing the SDGs in South Asia, countries can work towards increasing the flow of intra-regional FDI. The private sector too can play a vital role in resource mobilisation.
While A few noteworthy regional initiatives such as the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) Initiative have been undertaken to bring the countries closer together, economically and socially, there is scope for much more. For a region with common development challenges of inequality, poverty, weak governance and poor infrastructure, a shared vision of attaining the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provides enormous opportunities for cooperation, collaboration, and convergence (3C).
If the countries of South Asia, the fastest growing region of the world, can come to a common understanding on regional integration and cooperation in achieving the SDGs, it can unleash a powerful synergistic force that can finally make South Asia converge. A convergence towards achieving a common socio-economic agenda gives hope that no one in South Asia will be left behind in the journey towards eradicating poverty and enduring dignity to all.