Sunday, 17 January 2010

A wish for peace

Can India and Pakistan ever see eye to eye, can they live together peacefully and flourish side be side or can they be good neighbours at all? To be very frank, it’s hoping for too much in present circumstances when both countries are at loggerheads and suspicious of each other’s motives.

Three wars have been fought. Thousands of lives have been lost. Much blood has been shed in six decades. Tensions have prevailed through the years. Bilateral ties have been restored on surface level and snapped again.

The gap between the two ‘arch rivals’ continue to widen which otherwise would have economically benefited each other immensely by exchange of goods and services.

Yes, there are differences, serious ones. There are problems of blames and counter blames. For Pakistan, Kashmir is the bone of contention and for India, Pakistan’s patronage and abetment to militancy in the valley. Both claim Kashmir in full but rule partly.

The differences are purely political, but have overshadowed every aspect of our bilateral relations. But, why deprive nations which can gain from cooperation in every sphere, including sports, culture, business and trade. Cordial ties will particularly benefit the business community on either sides of the fence which can import and export goods at a much lower price.

There are a set of people on both sides who are more liberal, tolerant and who genuinely want people-to-people contact happen and who are working towards building confidence measures that would lead to restore normal relationship and, which, in turn would help in lessening the tension between the two nations.

But, is it a utopian dream to have? No, I think. I personally believe there is so much to gain from each other and to benefit each other and there is so much people can do at their level to enhance trust, peace and harmony. And, make the Indian subcontinent a better region to live in.

To achieve this, there is a need of dialogue. Without having a two-way talk we will never be able to know each other and will never be able to get rid of our preconceived notions about each other.

Dialogue can be held on multilateral levels, through any medium-- be it music, poetry, people, cricket, art and craft, diplomacy, you name it. As long as we communicate, it will hopefully serve the purpose. It will give us a chance to know each other better and thus dispel many myths surrounding our minds.

Nevertheless, dialogues have been held on and off, harbingers of peace have occasionally visited each other … but somehow their efforts got lost in diplomatic disasters.
However, Bollywood is one fine example of trans-border cooperation and bonhomie.
Pakistani singers and comedians are singing for Hindi cinema and performing on Indian shows respectively. They are much appreciated by audiences here. And Indian artistes are adored in Pakistan. Pakistani stations play Indian singers, while Indians enjoy Pakistani gazal and sufi singers.

It is said music transcends language barrier. But for a majority of north Indians and Pakistanis the barrier doesn’t exist as both share similar linguistic and cultural heritage.

Singers are yet again doing their bit. Rahat Ali Khan from Pakistan and Kailash Kher from India on Jan 16 echoed the Purana Qila (old fort) in New Delhi with their mellifluous voice to spread the message of peace and harmony, foremost of humanity. Amen!

I remember one of my Pakistani friends asking me one day, “why is there so much animosity between the two peoples? How can we ever have normal and friendly relations?” But more than the ‘why’ we were interested in the ‘how’.

My answer to her was “we needed a dialogue, a real dialogue between people and we didn’t need to know each other through jingoistic media reports and over-hyped political statements.” She agreed wholeheartedly.

Leaving the media-created perception of India aside, she knows the ‘beautiful’ India and its various cultures through Bollywood movies, through her Indian friends, through talking to them and hanging out with them. She wants to come to India and see for herself, to meet her friends and to attend their weddings. But is it all that easy? If she does want to meet them perhaps a third country like England or Dubai is best suited. What a shame!

She often expressed her desire to see Goa or the Himalayan region but always ended her sentences with a long sigh. But when she happens to listen the musical concert held at the purana qila, I know for sure, she will smile and will become hopeful that one day peace will prevail upon the region and she may actually visit India as a tourist.

And like her many other peace loving people on both sides of the border will thank the initiative ‘Aman ki Asha’ (A wish for peace) taken together by India’s daily English newspaper Times of India and Pakistani newspaper ‘Jang’. The music concert is a result of the initiative which strives for highlighting the positives India and Pakistan share, instead of drumming up their rivalry.

Over six decades have been lost. If we can’t make up for the lost time, can we hope for a better and peaceful future?

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