Earlier in Forum







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

Involve the younger generation

A Pakistani player and people reach out to each other during the India-Pakistan Punjab Games in Patiala
A Pakistani player and people reach out to each other during the India-Pakistan Punjab Games in Patiala. ó A Tribune photograph by Pradeep Tewari

After fighting two main wars of 1965 and 1971, people from all walks of life in India and Pakistan have realised that nourishing hatred between each other is not going to solve anyoneís problem. The people from both sides of Punjab have now openly started a campaign of goodwill and mutual tolerance. During my two visits to Lahore where I interacted with the students and faculty of Government College, Lahore (now a deemed university) for two days, everyone sincerely felt that we must forget the past and start a new chapter of mutual trust and faith. What I liked the most was that most of the faculty members put forward a suggestion that the younger generation studying in universities and colleges must be involved in such peace-finding missions. For this, students studying in colleges and universities on both sides should be brought together at the same platform where they participate in debates symposia and discuss international and national issues. It is only possible if the governments of both the countries allow them to meet. Decidedly, younger generation can play a dynamic and positive role in this venture.

Prof S.P. DHAWAN, Chandigarh

Settle Kashmir issue first

Since Independence, India and Pakistan have fought three wars over the Kashmir issue. People-to-people contact between India and Pakistan is not going to serve its purpose until leaders from both the countries join heads and hearts together to solve this problem. They should emphasise the need for a sustained composite dialogue in accordance with the provisions of the Simla accord, which provides that all differences between the two countries should be resolved bilaterally. Though recent culture exchange programmes like the India-Pakistan Punjab Games, World Punjabi Conference, etc. have shown that the people on both sides want to live together in peace and harmony, there is an utmost need to tame hardliners who want to see both the countries divide and implode. The several steps that have been taken to promote peace and friendship may prove futile in the absence of such corrective measures.


Shed mistrust and hatred

The people of both the countries are convinced that they have had enough of hatred and enmity. They have now resolved to have peaceful and friendly relations with each other. There is a need of considerable amount of political will, sincerity and statesmanship of the highest order to establish and sustain friendly relations. These regular interactions among the people would mount pressure on political leadership and the governments of both the countries, which, in turn, would generate political will for normalising relations. A reasonable level of understanding among the people would not allow fundamentalists to mislead them.

The first step towards normalisation of relations would be to shed mistrust, hatred, fear-psychosis, etc. This would save them from incalculable loss of men and material they have been suffering for the last 57 years. Instead of wasting their energy and resources on nurturing and perpetuating conflict, they should rather focus on peace, stability, growth and development. This is the only solution for their pressing problems of poverty, unemployment, inequality, illiteracy and poor health status. Both the countries should transcend the past syndrome and march jointly towards the betterment of their people otherwise posterity would not forgive them for their acts of omission and commission. Let us now translate ďtraditional enmityĒ into ďtraditional friendship and cooperationĒ and jointly usher in an era of peace, prosperity and development.

Dr RANJIT SINGH GHUMAN, Punjabi University, Patiala

Peace and killing canít go together

As far as I can see, there canít be any long lasting peace between the two countries. No doubt the people from both sides want to live together in peace and harmony, but what about those who are killing dozens of people daily in the name of jehad?

India has tried its best to solve the Kashmir problem. Our Lahore bus diplomacy only helped Pakistan to deceive us and intrude into the Kargil region. Above all, they havenít so far honoured the Simla accord of 1972. I fail to understand the immaturity of our political leaders who donít realise that a "no-first-use" nuclear pact with Pakistan would only expose us to the grave nuclear danger. What is the guarantee that Pakistan would honour its commitment? The only way to keep Pakistan in check is to teach it a lesson with greater conventional military might as we did in 1947-48, 1965, 1971, and again in 1999, when Pakistan soldiers in the guise of militants infiltrated Kargil.


Governments must be sincere

No, people-to-people contacts between India and Pakistan will not help the peace process in any way. The fulcrum rests with political bosses. The peace process will not be successful until and unless the politicians shun their ego. People-to-people contacts are just festivities and sight-seeing. Itís human nature to break restrictions and to cross over to the prohibited areas. With the ease of visas being granting for cultural and other social function, the long-cherished desire of people of both the countries to visit each other is fulfilled. Nowhere is the will of both governments involved. Peace is in the hands of governments. Were the governments sincere; there would have been peace long back and the killings of innocent civilians and army men would have been avoided.


It will isolate hardliners

Yes, people-to-people contacts between India and Pakistan will surely help the peace process and isolate the hardliners on both sides. Games, cultural activities, films, trade, visits, educational tours, seminars, diplomatic interactions, release of prisoners and innocents, expansion of bus service, MFN status to India, exchange of information, checking of drug trafficking, etc. will surely give a big boost to the peace process.

Moreover, it seems people of Pakistan are fed up with wars against India. Globalisation and information technology have sprouted democratic aspirations amongst them, and General Pervez Musharraf has realised it well. He wants to solve the Kashmir issue with a face-saving formula. He is even ready to leave the "plebiscite demand". He is reluctant to give priority to people-to-people contact because he fears this process may accelerate democratic pressure further. But it would be impossible for him to ignore such pressure, which is meant to accelerate the peace process.


Maintain regular contact

People-to-people contacts between India and Pakistan will change the environment and the feeling of enmity will convert into friendship. This may take a long time, yet regular contact must be maintained. A country may be governed by any form of government; however, it is the feelings of the people that help decide what course should be adopted. Punjab has taken a positive step towards the peace process by organising a Punjabi conference and games. The delegates will be the ambassadors of peace and harmony. Such events should be organised in other states too, especially where commonality of culture of two countries exist.

Peace can only be restored by discussing both points of views repeatedly at people-to-people level also. The process of people-to-people contact has started after negotiating many hurdles and this process should carry on. The path is difficult but perseverance and determination will lead to peace.

Maj-Gen GAGANJIT SINGH (retd), Patiala

People donít want to fight

Without any shadow of doubt, people-to-people contacts between India and Pakistan will help the peace process. More than that, this seems to be the only way to decrease hate between the two neighbours. The common people donít want to fight: what they need are basic necessities of life i.e. food, shelter and clothes. Then, why do the people of the two countries hate each other? The reason is obvious ó they see each other in the mirrors shown by greedy and selfish politicians. False illusions are created because the people donít know each other. When they will come in contact with each other and find that their neighbours are just like them, that they donít have horns, that they also have similar feelings and they also love peace, they would come together and would not be influenced by the politicians.


Adopt a humanistic approach

People-to-people contact is indeed a commendable effort with some limitations. As long as illiteracy and ignorance haunt both the countries, the progress towards peace would take a backseat. The need of the hour is that we broaden our horizons and think beyond religion by adopting a humanistic approach. Only then will the efforts put in by the government, such as cultural exchange programmes and Indo-Pak games, yield results. One should not forget that the people of India and Pakistan share a common culture and history and both have gone through the similar trials and tribulations in the development process. Therefore people-to-people contact helps to shed fears and apprehensions while reminding the people of their common roots. It further strengthens the bond between the two countries and leads to the fulfilment of the long-cherished dream of a united and peaceful India.

AWAL BINDRA, On e-mail

Ball in the court of politicians

If the peace process has to be taken to some logical conclusion, there is no better way than people-to-people contact between India and Pakistan. Confidence-building measures such as cricket and hockey matches, the Punjab Games, eased visa norms and continuation of bus service can go a long way in achieving a much greater goal of lasting peace in the region. No noble human being would ever want to perpetuate an atmosphere of bloodshed and hatred on either side. Kashmir-like problems canít be solved without an atmosphere of faith and commitment towards each other. The people on both sides should be ready to shun fundamentalist stance on religious matters. A flexible approach is the need of the hour. I sincerely request the leaders of both countries to resolve all the pending issues amicably within some definite timeframe. Now the ball is in the courts of the leaders. Can they play the ace?


Peace process will fail

It is going to be an abject failure. Had personal contacts ever mattered, India would not have been partitioned. Politicians of our country are trying to befool people by such actions. The contentious issue between India and Pakistan is Kashmir. For us it is Pakistan- Occupied-Kashmir (PoK), for them it is IoK. As far as we are concerned, we are facing terrorism in different parts of country for the last two decades, and it is being used as an instrument of foreign policy by the Pakistani government to bring India to the negotiating table on the Kashmir issue. We have not done in kind. Therefore, the responsibility of establishing peace rests on the Pakistani government. Due to illiteracy, religious fundamentalism and poverty, the majority of people in Pakistan do not understand the significance of the peace talks.


Create congenial atmosphere

People-to-people contact between the two countries can play a vital role in cementing the bond between the two neighbours. I happened to be there in Patiala on 10th and 11th of December where the Indo-Pak Punjab Games were being held. I mingled with the players freely and talked to them, especially those who came from Rawalpindi and Jhelum in their Punjabi dialect, as I myself belong to the same area. It appeared as if we were not the nationals of two countries but friends and brothers. Similarly, the persons coming from the other side of the border met the persons of their origin. Hence, I believe that such games can play a great role in creating congenial atmosphere between the two neighbouring countries and I appreciate the step taken forward by both nations by starting the Indo-Pak Punjab games.

ANTAR SINGH KOHLI, A.G. (retd), Punjab, Chandigarh

It is bound to make a difference

People-to-people contact is bound to make a big difference in Indo-Pak relations. If the people on both sides of the border are convinced of each otherís good intentions, only then we can hope for the sunrise of peace. The people constitute a mighty force and their voice cannot be suppressed by any brutal effort. So both governments should ensure the contact between the common men. Unless this step is taken, peace shall remain only a slogan. Social workers and human right activists, too, should come forward to spread awareness about the basic problems that are plaguing both the countries. In fact, the political leadership on both sides lack commitment to peace. Pakistani politicians, who are crying for democracy today, shout slogans of peace when out of power but once they acquire the chair, their moods and slogans change altogether. In this dismal scenario, the people should realise that instead of expecting peace talks from politicians, which may end in more Kargils, they should come together to work for humanityís sake. The youth need to play a major role in this endeavour because they do not bear the baggage of bitter memories of Partition. Unless our words are met with action, yearning for peace shall remain only a dream.

Madhu Shelly, On e-mail

More contact means better business

The environment of doubt created by politicians of both sides can be cleared only by the people of both the sides. Our interests are same, culture is same and both are developing countries. People can convey the message to their respective governments that all issues can be solved amicably without using the gun. More contact means more business opportunities, more exposure for people of both sides. The result will be definitely more development. Nothing is permanent except change; itís now or never that we have to change for a bright present and brightest future.

AMIT SARIN, Amritsar

Participation of common man a must

Communication is a two-way process, and it is said to be more effective when a high degree of intimacy between the participants takes place. In our case, people-to-people contact between India and Pakistan fulfils all the major requirement of communication. It definitely does initiate the peace process, as it provides a platform to both sides to express their opinion. Regular contacts can be helpful in trying to understand each otherís requirements, drawbacks and the need for cooperation to overcome them. The participation of the common man in the decision-making process will also bring harmony among the people.


Donít play with peopleís sentiments

Anything done for a noble cause never goes waste. This gives an answer to the question "Does people to people contact between India and Pakistan help the peace process?" The efforts of our far-sighted leaders in holding the India-Pakistan Punjab Games, World Punjabi Conference, cultural programmes, etc. would certainly bring the desired results. The people of both the countries have shown that they have inexhaustible compassion and love for each other. Now politicians should not play with peopleís sentiments, instead they should take up the challenge sincerely and stand untidily against the forces that oppose "Indo-Pak friendship". The choice lies with the politicians now either to build the bridge of love or create the wall of hatred between the two nations.

NEENA SAGAR, Kurukshetra

Live and let live

United we stand, divided we fall. For each task, especially in a peace process, the efforts do not lay in the hands of one partyógovernment or people. This is a mutual process, which has to be initiated by both the governments and their people. The government should provide the people with a channel to interact and communicate with each other. Any efforts made by the governments without the support of the people or made by the people without the support of the governments would be futile. Actually, we need to clear all doubts existing in the minds of the people. Instead of remembering the bad and hurting past, "live and let live" should be the motto of all Indians and Pakistanis. Ignoring the religious differences, we should view ourselves first as human beings and then only can we proceed for something good. Anybody taking a positive step to initiate the peace process should be encouraged. Therefore, only people-to-people contact can help resolve the differences existing between the two countries.


Erase LoC like Berlin Wall

Yes, when the Berlin Wall can come down after nearly three decades of keeping East and West Berliners apart, then why the LoC cannot be erased? If Partition had not happened 57 years ago, our country would have been more developed and powerful. After fighting four wars, both the countries have realised that these were against their development. Now both governments are on the path of peace, and people-to-people contact is increasing and encouraging. The beginning to find peace started when the players of both countries played cricket and hockey series in Pakistan and India followed by the Punjab Games. Now people are visiting each other in various groups comprising artists, sportsmen, journalists, advocates, etc. Even the Prime Minister of Pakistan has visited India for peace. By easing visa norms, the people of both the countries should be allowed to visit religious and historical places frequently. Only people-to-people contact can help both the countries develop good relations.

M. L. GARG, Chandigarh


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