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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Happy Peaceful New Year Pakistan & India

A year of tentative beginnings, a year of rediscovery and a year of hope that promises to pave the way for a sustained environment of collaborative success - the Aman ki Asha initiative has had a successful year-long journey and made many of us look forward to a better future as the next milestones in this journey becomes visible. It has been my privilege to be a part of Aman ki Asha campaign.

On January 3rd, 2010 when I read about the Aman ki Asha quest for peace between India and Pakistan I felt that there was new hope for our world. The authors of this initiative GEO TV & Times of India are to be congratulated for their courage and vision. Unless we learn to appreciate our profound interdependence, we will fail the test of our time. The authors of the Aman Ki Asha initiative have understood that it is no use waiting for the politicians and leaders to act; ordinary men, women and children must make their wishes known. History also shows that the dedicated action of just a few individuals, often decried by their contemporaries as impractical dreamers, can make all the difference. In a world that seems so often to be spinning out of control, we need such action now.

Different surveys in the year 2010 reveal that despite a history of conflicts, mistrust and estranged relationship, an overwhelming number of Pakistanis and Indians want peace and friendship between the nuclear-armed South Asian nations. Although, the process of composite dialogue between Islamabad and New Delhi remains stalled since the 2008 Mumbai carnage, 72 per cent Pakistanis and 66 per cent Indians hope to see 'sustainable friendly relations' in their lifetime. Compared with last year, the number of Indians hoping to see peace in their lifetime has surged by 17 per cent.

According to the survey, awareness of the Kashmir problem as being central to the state of relations between the two countries, particularly in India, has increased. The survey results show that 77 per cent Pakistanis and 87 per cent of Indians feel that peace can be achieved by settling the protracted Kashmir dispute. The survey showed that the issue of Pakistan-India relations featured in the thoughts of 73 per cent Pakistanis and 68 per cent Indians. The survey results said apart from settling the Kashmir dispute, 80 per cent Pakistanis and 91 per cent Indians think 'stronger relations and better defence' would also contribute in achieving the goal of peace. Around 77 per cent of Pakistanis and 87 per cent Indians consider that international pressure may help in bringing peace, while 71 per cent Pakistanis and 72 per cent Indians pin hopes on greater people-to-people contact to pave the way for friendly relations. Eighty-one per cent Pakistanis and Indians see people-to-people contact as an effective 'instrument of peace'.

Unless a larger numbers of people in both countries stop viewing each other as the enemy and realise that those across the border pay a heavy price due to the protracted conflict and that they are also too caught up with the survival struggle like us to obsess over an enemy until then vested interests will be able to continue the conflict by cashing in on our fear of the other. Aman ki Asha is an attempt to make the population of both the countries aware that they have paid a huge price in developmental terms due to the continued conflict; that they may find it easy to live without the peace dividends, but that they won’t be able to sustain the mounting costs of conflict for too long. It is an effort to remove mistrust & hatred fed from early childhood of suspicion and animosity and open up to the opportunities of peace & development. Also, for achieving a permanent solution to any long drawn conflict, it is important to build a strong peace constituency that supports concessions and compromises required in such deals.

It is said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. I have made many Indian friends through Aman Ki Asha campaign and I look forward to a rewarding journey towards a better, shared destiny. In the New Year, one hopes this initiative can be extend its scope to deal with some of the intractable issues between our countries and still hope for peace.

It gives me pleasure to wish the Aman ki Asha friends and all the peace loving people of the two countries a very happy 2011 !

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