Earlier in Forum







Q: Does people-to-people contact between India and Pakistan help the peace process? 
This is the second instalment of readers’ response

The influential should support CBMs

At a time when India and Pakistan are neither at war nor at peace with each other, many persons in the two countries feel that people-to-people contact has gained new significance. Confidence-building measures could be achieved through increased cultural, educational and sporting interaction, which is possible if the visa norms are relaxed. However, for the CBMs to work for the masses on both sides, diplomatic and domestic support is necessary. The wider the support among the influential (traders, politicians, businessmen, journalists) the greater is the chance of the CBMs succeeding. Even though the people of India and Pakistan want free contact, their governments are silent on the issue. In spite of several agreements, virtually nothing has been achieved. Even some positive steps taken as early as in the 1980s did not prove fruitful. The argument that conservative lobbies in Pakistan are opposed to greater people-to-people contact for the fear of Indian cultural hegemony and the loss of Pakistani Islamic identity, therefore, carries little weight. Any progress in encouraging friendly exchanges between India and Pakistan has been at the non-official level.

SHAGUN, Panchkula

Little steps will take us far

Development and prosperity hinge on the level of integrity and inter-dependence within the nation. History shows that the intensity within us constantly breaks old traditions and re-moulds these. The initiative taken by both India and Pakistan for building peace is appreciable. By holding the India-Pakistan Punjab Games, the Punjab Government has already set an example. The people-to-people contact can be described in the words of Neil Armstrong: "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."


Studies show contact can end prejudice

In the Urdu couplet, "Lahmhon ne khata ki, sadion ne saza pai," the entire sketch of the problem is visible. Even after 56 years of living together as neighbours, the Indians and Pakistanis have nothing to show for it, except a perpetual battlefield. Fear and hatred go hand in hand and are products of suspicion and mistrust, which is born out of communication gap. Now the change in relations seems enduring. This "Dosti ka Safar" that Mr Parvaiz Elahi, Chief Minister of the Punjab in Pakistan, mentioned at Punjabi University, Patiala, should continue. If prejudice was to end and people-to-people contact increased, our rhetoric would remain soft in future. A lot of research has been conducted in social psychology on the ways of reducing prejudice between two groups. Pettigrew, 1997, Wright et al, 1997, gave the idea of contact hypothesis: that direct contact between persons from different groups can reduce prejudice. Increased contact leads to a growing recognition of similarities between the two groups. Although stereotypes are hard to change, these can be altered when sufficient information inconsistent with the preconceived notions is encountered, or when individuals see a number of exceptions to the stereotypes (Kundu and Oleson, 1995). Increased contact may help counter the illusion of our group homogeneity. However, if Islamabad and New Delhi do not solve the Kashmir problem, the peace process will get no boost.


Goodwill will travel to the top

The people-to-people contact between India and Pakistan will revive the hidden emotional links between the people on both sides. Transparent interaction will generate concern for each other and an open mind will remove misunderstanding. Goodwill will travel from the grass roots level to the top. It will generate peace because people are the stuff that makes nations. If people come closer, the nations will draw near. Solutions can travel from the masses to the rulers. When people on both sides care for the well being, dignity and prestige of each other, both can live in peace.

JASWINDER, Jalandhar

Saner minds will take the message across

All persons who follow discipline, non-violence, and good instructions in life will take this concept across the borders. When the saner minds of two nations come in contact, peace shall follow.

AMAN JAIN, Ambala city

Communication between people a must

Earlier, only top political brains from India and Pakistan held meetings across the table to resolve outstanding differences. But this did not help in lowering tensions. However, now the credit goes to the governments of both the countries for initiating various steps towards peace. The Delhi-Lahore bus service has allowed people to interact with each other. This ground level interaction has reminded us of the common cultural background that we share and has restored the feeling of brotherhood that been missing for a long ago. Even after four major wars and amidst constant cross-border tensions, sports persons and artistes are given warm welcome on both sides of the border. They are the real ambassadors of the people and help to change the public opinion. The recent musical programme held at Jalandhar also received huge crowd applaud. Such events prove that the common man on either sides of the border is not in favour of war. People are willing to put the 1947 episode behind and move forward together. Perhaps now the government has also realised that peace cannot be attained through "talks" alone. People-to-people communication is a must.


Political will a prime necessity

The separation of brothers in the past, followed by the wars, has sown the seeds of hatred in the minds of the people and leaders of both countries. The people-to-people contact is a good way of erasing this hatred, but political will is more necessary to resolve bilateral conflict. The decisions on Kashmir or the gas pipeline are made at the political level, sometimes under the influence of world powers, so political will is the pivot around which the final solution to the bilateral conflict revolve.


Music, sport are like balm

Prior to the political approval, comes public belief and contentment. The public will work like a torchbearer for their political masters and pilot them to a healthier and prompt resolution of all issues. Music, sport and literary forums are medicine for the two nations suffering from the enmity flu. If the rulers on both sides want acceleration in the peace process, they should allow people-to-people contact. Without affection, harmony is short-lived. These associations with our neighbour will pave the way for a superior and safer India.


It is mere eyewash

Until the Pakistan Army, which is the controlling power in Pakistan, sheds its anti-India attitude, nothing concrete can be achieved. People-to-people contact is mere eyewash. Even after thousands of delegations, one big blast in J&K or Delhi is enough to bring us again on the brink of war. Until they change the words kafir for Hindus and zalim for Sikhs from their elementary Urdu textbooks, nothing can be normal. The only way forward is that we close the chapter of Kashmir and make LoC the international border. Then we can hope to have lasting peace in our country. However, it is in the interest of Pakistan army to keep the pot boiling, as has been done for last 57 years, so that they have complete control over their population.


Let's forget the past and come together

Cultural, sport, media and tourist exchange promotes peace and friendship between nations. Events such as the India-Pakistan Punjab Games, World Punjabi Conference, Punjab Lok Boli Mela (Okara, West Punjab) have proved that those most affected by the bitter Indo-Pak relations and the tragedy of 1947 (Punjabis) can put their political differences aside and enjoy the company of each other. The people-to-people contact and the spirit of "Balle Balle", if pursued in a genuine spirit and at steady pace, will result in successful, peaceful and meaningful exchanges, enabling a sound friendship. People-to-people contact is especially important for the Punjabis and Kashmiris, who have suffered not only the pangs of a political divide, but also the pain of the division of their historical, ancestral and cultural heritage. Old wounds should be healed by allowing these people to visit their brothers across the border.



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