Look at our past: the two-nation theory, Hindus and Muslims, the fire of hatred, prejudice and enmity. And the splitting of the Indian-subcontinent into Pakistan and India. Opposites, binaries, the relationship of polarities. Is it strange to recall that opposites always attract? Can’t we dream of a bond of mutual co-existence? We can! And we have done so in the recent past. We can continue to build on paradigms such as the “Aman ki Asha” (Quest for Peace) that has initiated a mitigation process that does away with past feelings of enmity.
There is no denying that there has been consistent disagreement and warfare between Pakistan and India. It has been observed that time and time again our governments have failed to address and solve the issues ( like Kashmir or the partition of water).
Nevertheless, there is a strong realisation on the part of people of both countries that it’s the political ends of the two governments that don’t let the people come closer and work together towards prosperity at any level. It’s what is called “generational consciousness” that is especially prominent among the youth of both countries.
We, the youth, believe in dreams! Just as Martin Luther had a dream! And Faiz Ahmed Faiz had a dream! Like them, we also believe in translating our ideas and dreams into reality.
We have seen that the easing of tensions between us has led to an increase in bilateral trade and a relaxing of visa conditions on both sides despite what the establishment on both sides might say. After the tensions started to ease I saw a few of my friends visiting their relatives back in Delhi. I personally met the Indian singer Baldeep Singh in a conference at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). He had travelled by bus all the way from Amritsar to give a lecture on mysticism – a discipline which binds people across faiths. In the informal discussion I had with him, I will never forget the delight on his face as he talked about his journey and how he was looking forward to stronger ties between the two countries.
The media has also played a vital role in this regard. Recently there have been many collaborative projects in electronic media (Aman ki Asha) in which our artists have played the role of ambassadors of peace. Indian actors have come to Pakistan to give live shows and participate in different projects including music videos, and plays. In a similar vein, Pakistani actors have participated in Indian cinema productions and are still participating. Nusrat and Rahat Ali Khan are only two of the big names who have greatly contributed to creating peace and a feeling of kinship among people of both countries.
Our differences also need to be addressed through education and awareness programs. Our policies should change to take account of what the people are urging. Our books should not encourage or contain negative stereotypes. We need to emphasise human values and the shedding of biases and grievances based on religious or cultural differences. We need to teach our children a lesson in humanity!
Moreover, the sharing of knowledge should be encouraged through online blogs, websites and exchange programs between educational institutions. There should be online channels (like Facebook) where we can connect with one another, where an aura of friendship may prosper. I have many Indian cyber friends whom I met through Yahoo! chat. If such platforms are especially designed and run, I am sure that no one can stop us from treading the path to prosperity and happiness together.
This is why I emphasise that the framework of this relationship should be redefined in terms of acceptance and tolerance based on principles of humanism & universalism. We can indeed AGREE TO DIFFER. We don’t need to make religion a barrier. We do share our cultural heritage – our cultural symbols are embedded in the past.
In my opinion, bonding at all levels – including the government level, the Greater We level and the trade level – is necessary to bring about change in the perspectives of both countries.
We cannot rewrite history but we can change our future through the efforts we make today.