Time For Peace: Introducing The Border Peace Forum
By Irfan Pullani, independent peace builder and law student in Delhi University, and Amile Gulzar, advocate, Lahore High Court
After prolonged discussions. the Directors-General Military Operations of India and Pakistan made a joint statement issued from Delhi and Islamabad on 24th February, 2021, that both sides agreed to “a strict observance of all agreements, understandings, and cease firing along the LOC ( Line of Control ) and all other sectors, effective from midnight 24/25 February.” The statement said that existing mechanisms of hotlines and flag meetings would be used to resolve any misunderstang. The statement further said:
“In the interest of achieving mutually beneficial and sustainable peace along the borders the two DGsMO (India and Pakistan) have recently agreed to address each other’s core issues and concerns which have the propensity to disturb peace and lead to violence like cross border firing.”
By this joint statement the two countries agreed to honour the 2003 Vajpayee-Musharraf agreement, which had unfortunately been not fully observed consequent to a series of unfortunate events that followed, including the tragic 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, the Pulwama attack and the Balakot strike. Cross-border shooting was a common occurrence, resulting in deaths of innocent civilians and damage to property on both sides.
In a speech delivered recently Gen Bajwa, the Pakistan army chief, displayed great maturity by.saying “It is time for India and Pakistan to bury the past and move forward.”
Defense analysts and media from both countries have begun to debate. There are also reports of back-channel dialogue between Ajit Doval the National Security Advisor of India and Moeed W. Yusuf, who serves as National Security Advisor to Pakistan’s Prime Minister. All this may lead to a breakthrough; but it is important to decode the realities across both the sides of the border.
Ever since Partition and an unsettled Kashmir, India and Pakistan’s relations can be described as those harbouring hostility.
However, it was within this civilization, on the banks of the Indus and the Ganges, that both Hindus and Muslims lived in amicable co-existence for centuries. Both countries have huge natural resources and cheap skilled labour, which if pooled together could make this region into a paradise on Earth, with our people enjoying a high standard of living. But instead we have been fighting each other, thus wasting our precious resources and energies, and keeping our people poor and hungry, with record unemployment, and lack of proper healthcare and good education for the masses.
The 2019 Global Pandemic disrupted the entire world order. We live in a time where collaborations and mutual efforts are desperately needed; not only for regional stability but also for the world to heal. It is high time for both countries to encourage dialogue between citizens to foster an environment of peace. It is is trust between India and Pakistan that is needed most.
Our ancestors lived together and broke bread together, We share the same blood, as well as a common rich heritage and culture for centuries. We also have the common human principles that we can share with the world that connects our nations.
This year, the United Nations has called 2021 as the International Year for Peace and Trust. With this momentum by developments such as India allowing Imran Khan to use Indian airspace, speculations of UAE brokering peace deals, and Prime Minister Modi wishing greetings to his neighbouring country on Pakistan Day, let us utilize all this to walk towards the greatest peace movement the world will ever see.
Some of us in both countries have jointly set up an organisation called the Border Peace Forum to undertake non-profit activities involving research in policy & advocacy with a focus on peaceful resolution of conflicts and crises across the borders. We shall promote non-violent dialogues with actors across the borders and to foster mutual collaborations between the countries in the subcontinent to counter common challenges like poverty, malnourishment, unemployment, and contemporary economic instabilities.
We seek to draw India and Pakistan closer together through permitting free travel without visa restrictions and free trade without import/export taxes. We seek to make all educational institutions in the subcontinent open to admission to both Indians and Pakistanis to increase mutual understanding in our region. We wish to see work permits granted to nationals of each other so that Indians and Pakistanis can earn a living throughout the entire subcontinent without any restrictions to boost our region’s economy. These things will bridge India and Pakistan together for a more peaceful South Asia and the world.