Tag: Fight

Set aside your differences and have a happy meal

The rivalry we have had with our far-fetched cousins (read India) is a family history of about seven decades now.

There have been many instances in this history when we have tried to resolve our matters, but have always met with uninvited calamities; the attack on the Indian parliament in 2001 and the murderous rampage in Mumbai in 2008, for example.

We are constantly stuck in this tornado of misunderstandings, unresolved issues and political tension. At the cost of the other, both countries try endlessly to be on the better side of the great power, America. Yet both complain that the other is favoured more. The visit of the PM Nawaz Sharif to Washington could be to reach grounds that India has already reached, yet again proving the constant tussle.

Shiv Sena’s recent anti-Pakistan outburst has also raised many important questions.

Will the political tension never end? Is this just more propaganda or is this the current ruling party’s view? And do most Indians think the same way about Pakistan?

We are constantly stuck in this tornado of misunderstandings, unresolved issues and political tension

Because of the many unresolved matters, there are lots of travel constraints that both sides face, making it nearly impossible to have personal contact with our friends on the other side.

I got my hands on a handful of people who have travelled across this border from both sides, to see if these love-hate relationships and the recent political tension altered their views.

Bina Saeed, a Karachi housewife recalled her visit to Agra: “They could hardly figure out that I wasn’t Indian, it was only during shopping when I bargained I used my ‘I am your guest card’ and that would increase their hospitality.”

Farhat Asrar, a retired banker from Karachi visited India for his wife’s operation’

“There were a lot of pre-conceived notions when I was travelling; that my wife wouldn’t be given the best care, etc. My eyes popped out when I saw that the doctors and the nurses didn’t care where I was from. What mattered was her life, being a Pakistani was a plus point as they were extra courteous towards us,” he said.

The political views of a country do not necessarily depict its people’s views or the other way round.

Madhavi Bansal, a Public Policy student from Dehli, feels “hatred shouldn’t be there, the public display of such things is for image formation. The hatred is the root cause of that. I for one have always met good Pakistanis who are great friends. These things have not and will not alter my opinion about them.”

Programs like Aman-ki-Asha have given a boost to many non-governmental organisations in both countries, which are working hard to increase the person-to-person contacts.

One such programme is Aaghaz-e-Dosti, a collaboration of Mission Bhartiyam and The Catalyst. They work to create unwavering bonds between people, conducting workshops, peace conferences and interactive session with students.

Laraib Abid, an MPhil student, was part of their recent Global Youth Peace Festival, and has bought back many good memories from her four day trip to Chandigar.

“Those who have negative views are the ones who haven’t met people from across the border,” she said. “Having friends in India, interaction and dialogues have made it clear to me that political concerns are just controversy.”

The media role is powerful in catalysing these views and ideas. Had it played positively matters could have been different.

Indian and Pakistani expatriates around the world share lives; some are married, others are batch mates or work in the same office

Tridivesh Singh, a researcher in Jindal, explained his viewpoint.

“It is easier for the media to exploit tensions since the level of people-to-people contact is low, therefore people on both sides have wrong notions,” he said.

“The personal contact may not help in peace or resolving political issues but is helpful in removing misconceptions. Media propaganda can only be blunted if people know each other better.”

The bright side to the Shiv Sena scenario is that the portion of the society that can make a difference are free thinkers, whose mind set isn’t altered easily.

“India is a big country, a large percentage is uneducated here, and these political games are the only way to stay in power. Qualified people know they are being polarised by the political parties to gain sympathy of the innocent public,” said Hassen Chisti, from Imphal.

The task sounds pretty easy but may be a laborious one, but building personal relationships is the ultimate key to peace in the subcontinent.

Indian and Pakistani expatriates around the world share lives; some are married, others are batch mates or work in the same office. The friendship exists as personal levels. This should be expanded and many NGOs are taking such initiatives.

The childish rivalries both have in the name of patriotism or religion do not justify the cause. It is high time the cousins set aside their difference and have a happy meal.


Originally Publish in Pakistan Today

This column has been appreciated across the border too in Imphal Free Press Articles

Read the appreciation column here 

On the eve of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to America, let’s discuss the dynamics of Pakistan with another growing power structure, possibly the Asian Pivot, as said by Hilary Clinton herself, India, and the USA.

Pakistan’s geopolitical significance is undisputedly important to USA, India and China.

Though Pak-US governments try to maintain a strategic partnership, there definitely is a trust deficit.

The recent spanner in the works in, so to say, in the relations between India and Pakistan was thrown in with the Mumbai attacks on 26 November, 2008.

It was on this day that a group of militants simultaneously attacked multiple targets in Mumbai, killing around 183 people, including 22 foreign nationals, while some 327 people were injured.

During December 2008 the Pakistani government admitted that 26/11 might have been partly planned on Pakistani soil, while strongly denying accusations that the perpetrators were aided by Pakistan’s intelligence.

Keeping in mind the coming visit of the Pakistan PM to the US, it would be of great use to go through some of the most prominent incidents between Pakistan and India, Pakistan and US and the US and India, and how these incidents have shaped the relations between these countries over the past few years.

On 16 June 2009, on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Yekaterinburg (Russia), Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on meeting President Zardari flouted traditional norms of diplomacy, saying that, “my mandate is to tell you that Pakistani territory should not be used for terrorism against India” in the presence of the international media.

On 16 July 2009, PM Gillani met with Singh in the Egyptian city of Sharm-el-Sheikh during the NAM summit. They issued a joint statement which stated “both prime ministers recognised that dialogue is the only way forward. Action on terrorism should not be linked to the Composite Dialogue Process and these should not be bracketed.”

During this time Pakistan and the US had good relations.

Oct 2009 – Kerry-Lugar Bill passed, which granted $7.5nbillion of non-military aid under certain circumstances showing USA’s distrust in Pakistan’s military.

On 1 December 2009, President Barak Obama decided to broaden the relationship with Pakistan on foundations of mutual trusts and respect.

In February 2010, the Obama administration requested an additional $3 billion in aid, for a total of $20.7 billion. It should be noted here that from 2002 to 2010, Pakistan had received approximately $18 billion in military and economic aid from the US.

On 4 February 2010, India officially offered to restart foreign secretary-level talks with Pakistan. Without clarifying the scope of the proposed discussions, Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao invited her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir for talks to New Delhi.

Delegates went to India, where they were handed over three dossiers. They demanded that thirty-three individuals, including two serving Pakistan army officers as well as Indian fugitives allegedly involved in terror acts, be handed over to India.

Pakistani foreign secretary reminded India on this occasion that his country had witnessed “hundreds of Mumbai’s” and lost 5,366 civilians in 3,043 terror attacks since 2008 and, therefore, was not ignorant of the dangers of terrorism after their incessant allegations. Evidently both countries failed to bury the hatch at this meeting.

By mid-February Abdul Ghani Baradar, Taliban’s second-in-command, was captured in Pakistan by Pakistani forces.

During March 2010, India again requested to conduct a second round of meetings to which Pakistan refused mentioning that it wanted result oriented talks.

The SAARC summit was held in Bhutan from 28-29 April, 2010, and it led to a meeting between the two PMs. This was after the 47-nation summit on nuclear security that took place in Washington in early April

US and SAARC members’ pressure played a vital role in the agreement the two countries came to in Bhutan. They held three meetings, including a one-on-one discussion that lasted over an hour. An agreement was that there was a lack of trust that necessitated dialogue. Terrorism and prosecution of terrorists allegedly involved in the Mumbai attacks were issues highlighted by Manmohan Singh, to which the Pakistani premier reassured that terrorism was a threat that the country was working against.

24 June 2010, Nirupama Rao visited Islamabad to meet Salman Bashir where the agenda for a meeting between the foreign ministers in July was set. The talks, as Rao put it, “provided an opportunity to talk to each other and not at each other”.

India’s proposal dealt with trade and humanitarian issues and to ensure that Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) chief Hafiz Saeed is prevented from issuing anti-India statements or making contentious speeches.

In May 2010, Ajmal Kasab, the protagonist of 26/11 was sentenced to death by Indian courts. In which the Law Minister Moily termed a message to Pakistan to abandon its “state policy of terrorism”. A similar statement by Home Minister Chidambaram also makes for ominous reading, warning Pakistan to refrain from “exporting” terror to India.

During January 2011, Raymond Davis shot dead two Pakistani robbers, this threatened the Pak-US relation, as US said that Davis enjoys diplomatic immunity and Pakistan wanted to prosecute him. He was freed after US gave blood money to the Families of the dead.

In February 2011, ‘foreign secretaries of Indo-Pak countries met in Thimpu (Nepal) agreeing to resume peace talks “on all issues”.

In May 2011, Saleem Shahzad, a Pakistani journalist, was killed. The US Admiral Mullen alleged that the killing was “sanctioned by the government” which ISI denied liberally.

On 2 May 2011, the event of the century took place in Abbottabad: Osama Bin Laden, Taliban’s head, was killed by the US Navy SEALs on Pakistani soil, in the operation Neptune Spear. Pakistan wasn’t informed until it was over. The US thought that any effort to tell Pakistan authorities about the mission could expose it.

US-Pakistan relations tumbled again when 24 Pakistani soldiers died in an air strike by the US Army.

As a result of the attack, Pakistani government ordered US army to evacuate Salala air base which was used against Taliban and militants. Moreover, the government also halted NATO supplies for United Sates.

In November 2012, India executed Ajmal Kasab, hanging him just days before the fourth anniversary of the attack.

Shakil Afridi, a doctor cooperating with the US in Neptune Spear, was sensed to 33 years of prison for treason.US Congress cut 33 million dollars from Pakistan’s aid.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen urged Pakistan to restore NATO supply routes to Afghanistan. Pakistan had not been invited to the crucial 25th NATO summit to be held in May in Chicago.

However on 19 May, Zardari did attend the NATO summit. But Pak-US couldn’t reach a conclusive deal

8 June 2012, US Assistant Defence Secretary Peter Lavoy arrived in Islamabad, in a fresh attempt to bring an end to a six-month blockade on NATO supplies.

11 June 2012, USA withdrew from talks as they failed.

3 July 2012, key supply routes were reopened in Afghanistan, after Hillary Clinton apologised on the loss of lives in the air strike.

Some hope rose in September 2013 when PMs of India and Pakistan met in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Both the leaders agreed to end tension between armies of both sides in the disputed Kashmir.

In 2014, Pakistan initiated Operations Zarb-e-Azb against all militants, good or bad.

Early in January 2014, India and Pakistan resumed secretary-level trade talks in New Delhi. The meetings were held for the first time in 16 months, with hopes for increased market access, non-tariff barriers and free flow of goods and investment.

On 12 February, 2014, India and Pakistan agreed to release trucks which were detained in their respective territories, putting an end to a three week standoff triggered by seizure of a truck in India-administered Kashmir coming from across the de facto LoC for allegedly carrying brown sugar.

On 1 May, 2014, Pakistan’s army chief General Raheel Sharif calls Kashmir the “jugular vein” of Pakistan and stressed that the dispute should be resolved according to the wishes of Kashmiris, keeping in mind UNSC resolutions for lasting peace in the region.

Modi, allegedly the architect of the 2002 Gujarat riots and as a result of his personal beliefs, views, ideological and party affiliations, is not viewed as someone who can deliver peace.

This viewpoint gained further credibility as his election manifesto which was heavily anti-Pakistan, spoke of the revision of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution pertaining to Kashmir’s special status; reviewing of India’s nuclear doctrine with the possibility of the adoption of no NFU clause.

On 27 May, 2014, Narendra Modi held talks with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in New Delhi. Both sides expressed willingness to begin new era of bilateral relations.

In 2015, Strategic Dialogue session began in Islamabad. John Kerry met with Sartaj Aziz to review progress in the existing five Working Group areas, namely economic and finance; defence; law enforcement and counterterrorism; security, strategic stability, and non-proliferation; and energy, and the sixth group—on education, science, and technology.

A notable outcome of the engagement was Pakistan’s agreement to formally ban the Haqqani Network of Afghan insurgents that operates from its territory.

Originally Published in Pakistan Today 

Malala – Someone to Inspire From

Malala’s confidence struck me like a lightening; her words were well constructed and full of passion. If this spirit for education, women empowerment and freedom from violence survives in our society, then our country has a future. And if most of the girls in our society start thinking the way she does, then there is no stopping of growth.