The future of South Asia


Written by Heli Haapanen 10.06.2013

The future of South Asia

I interviewed a team leader Olli Ruohomäki from South- Asia Unit/ Department from Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.  He studied law in the University of Helsinki and completed his doctoral in London.

Before working in Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, he worked for United Nations as development Officer in Cambodia and project manager in Laos.  He started to work in Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1999.

We discussed about relations between Finland and Countries in South Asia and about projects what they have together.

I asked what are the most important countries and projects and also what can possible happen in the future.

One of the most important countries is Afghanistan. The development cooperation between Finland and Afghanistan is a long-term mission.  Finland also finances The United Nations program in the region.

Also, Finland support Nepal through UN women and land program which is mostly concentrated in education, water and sanitation, forestry and natural resources.

According to Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, Nepal is one of Asia’s poorest and unstable countries and inequality is a major problem. Majority of the population lives in rural areas and a quarter of the population still lives in extreme poverty. The status of women is not good, common problems are lack of education, illiteracy and sexual violence.

In the rural area the maternal health is poor and this affects children, child malnutrition causes death. But in the last two decades, infant mortality rate has decreased.

Olli Ruohomäki mentioned that, India is estimated to overtake China in population growth in 2025 and people often thinks that China is the future superpower but they forget the India. It will be the most populated country in the world. It is a rich country and its middle class is growing so the demands will increase too. Instead, Europe will tail off.

India is very interesting country both culturally and in economic terms.  India is a diverse and has lot of to offer, not only as tourist destination. It´s role  in international policy is growing.

The international business sector is growing and enterprises should pay attention to its growing potential.

For example, in 2011, India became Finland’s third largest trading partner.

The relationship between India and Europe is also very interesting and it has been developed to extensive co-operation which comprises many different areas, like trade, investments and development cooperation.

Mr. Ruohomäki commented that Young people should take this into account; it is a country where they speak English and there are jobs available.

The human rights problems are big and complicated issue in India. The system and attitudes needs to change but this takes time and it’s not easy.

Violence against women, has received a lot of attention in the media, it has been written international and national magazines. In India, this has caused protests.

The brutal rapes which has caused even death of the victims, for example death of a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi in December 2012. There have been many assaults to local and tourist women and it has shocked how brutal these have been and how often this happens. Part of the problem is that the public officers are not reliable; policy officers might even not register the rape (if someone reports a crime)

Attitudes should change at the grassroots level. The police officers should take the reports seriously.

Other problems are corruption, targeting minority groups and the lack of freedom of expression.

When asking about the human rights issues Mr. Ruohomäki mentioned that there is tension between India and European Union because of this. Even though India is defined as a developing country, it is rich and does not want other countries to intervene.

Regardless, South Asia is very interesting region and part of the international system and India´s economic and population growth makes it important in the future. It is impossible to know what will exactly happen but Asia has become more and more important.

Even though, we need to fight against poverty, inequality and human right violations.

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