Indo-Pak people-to-people contact can make things right
Ravi Nitesh from India and Abdur Rauf Yousufzai from Pakistan write on the need for the two countries to come together.
“You shall have to divide my body before you divide India” Mahatma Gandhi. “We shall have divide or we shall have India destroyed” Muhammad Ali Jinnah (Freedom at Midnight).
Before partition, mere political differences would give rise to communal clashes. The unavoidable division of Indian subcontinent was not acceptable to Congress, and neither did the religious groups approve of this idea. But it was an inevitable that eventually happened. Thereafter, people of the subcontinent were divided along a human-drawn line that continues to dictate our limits. Pakistan and India fought four full scale wars (1947-65-71-98) and there have been thousands of skirmishes between the two countries.
The core issue between the two nuclear neighbors is Kashmir. Scores of people have lost their lives and several families affected due to the endless war in the Kashmir valley.
“Jang tou khud ek masala hai.” (War in itself is a problem.) We hear this phrase quite often but don’t apply it while dealing with the underlying issues. Let’s work towards acknowledging and celebrating our similarities and put aside the differences.
Strengthening people to people relations is the need of the hour as it would definitely create an environment of peace and help end the war hysteria.
Both countries’ intelligentsia has to play their constructive role for peace, otherwise the history will not forgive and forget them. Poets, writer, actors, players, journalists and peace activists’ role is of immense importance in such a situation. Unfortunately, media on both sides of the border has been acting rather irresponsibly. Laymen take their sensationalized and dramatized news seriously.
After the Indian attack in Balakot, Indian journalists were cheering as they’d just won some cricket match and after Pakistan Air Force’s retaliation, there were reports that people distributed sweets in Pakistan.
A Dutch friend and journalist Suzanna Koster called me to express solidarity and also said that Indians and Pakistanis don’t seem to know what a war between two nuclear states entails.
Let’s discuss the underlying issues including Kashmir as the main factor and respect each other’s sovereignty. Let the Kashmiris decide their destiny. A long history of tensed relations could not solve any of our issue. Therefore, now is the time to think out of the box and normalize the relation. Aggression kills logic and wisdom and makes matter worse.
Any solution for Indo-Pak crisis cannot be instant, because several issues between the both sides were left unresolved over the years. From Kashmir to Siachen to Sir Creek and even water sharing, there has been little dialogue and more muscle-flexing from both sides. These issues cannot be solved through violence, aggression or war. When diplomatic and political actors fail to realize the importance of dialogues, the path of violence and aggression is strengthened.
Governments on both sides need to understand that by resolving conflicts and avoiding aggression, they would ensure their peaceful, progressive and prosperous future. It is a known fact that challenges on both sides are of similar kind and common people on both sides face issues of poverty, unemployment, healthcare for which both countries have a lot of work to do.
Civilian population in India and Pakistan is simple and peace-loving. Our governments need to understand that talking peace is the highest form of patriotism. There is a greater need to enhance people to people communication on both sides, particularly among younger generations as they are the future and they need to be given a safe and tolerant society.
During classroom sessions of Aaghaz-e-Dosti (an Indo-Pak Friendship Initiative where schoolchildren of both countries are made to interact with each other), it is experienced that when students of both sides start talking to each other, it begins with hesitations and with stereotypes that they had developed about the ‘other’ with the time through secondary sources. But through direct talks, they break these misunderstandings and it strengthens their bond with each other. Such initiatives should take place more frequently and must be expanded to target more cities and areas. Those who talk about war must also be concerned about soldiers and common civilians on both sides whose lives are equally precious and need to be saved. Governments and their policies keep changing with time and with changing dynamics of international relations but people must continue their efforts for peace. An ordinary Indian and Pakistani are not enemies. It’s the governments and their policies that are responsible for fanning the flames of hatred between citizens of the two neighboring countries. Strengthening people to people relations is the need of the hour as it would definitely create an environment