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Thursday, July 22, 2010
A senior Indian journalist takes a critical look at mistakes made by both India and Pakistan during the Foreign Ministers’ meeting – and their acts of courage - points that people on both sides may find hard to swallow. However, it is only when we try to see beyond our own perceptions that there can be any real understanding leading towards productive dialogue
What went wrong at Islamabad
rom the moment the Pakistan Foreign minister, Shah Mahmud Qureshi, agreed to take a second round of questions from the Pakistani journalists at the joint press conference on Thursday last week, it was apparent that the much awaited and carefully choreographed meeting between the two foreign ministers had exploded in their faces. The anger felt in India is therefore understandable, but it has obscured the question that everyone should have immediately asked: what went wrong? With the benefit of hindsight it is apparent that, starting from the meeting of the two prime ministers at Thimpu, both sides had indeed prepared meticulously for the talks. What seems to have been absent from their preparations was an understanding of the other side’s needs and constraints and of the demands that would emerge from them. Neither had therefore fashioned constructive responses that would take these into account. The first exchange that revealed the gap between the two delegations was Qureshi’s retort to Krishna’s mention of Hafiz Sayeed, that the Indian Home Secretary’s statement to the Indian Express, that the ISI and Sayeed had actually guided and monitored the terrorist attack on Mumbai, was ‘uncalled for’. Qureshi did not say that the statement itself was wrong, only that it should not have been made in a public forum on the very eve of the Islamabad meeting. It is difficult to disagree with him. The news itself was not new. It had come out of Ajmal Qasab’s confession at his trial and been corroborated by David Headley Coleman’s admissions to India’s National Intelligence Agency. Both
By Prem Shankar Jha
he good news at the end of the much hyped-up meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Pakistan and India was that the two countries will continue the dialogue. The bad news was that none of the gains that had been expected were in sight – easing of visa restrictions (which would benefit ordinary people from both countries as well as boost local economies), forward movement on Kashmir (Pakistan’s hope/expectation), a commitment from Pakistan on ‘terror’ (India’s hope/expectation) to name some. “They’re just saying we’ll keep talking but we’ll also keep biting,” commented a disgruntled senior colleague at the post-press conference reception in Islamabad. However, in the context of India-
The more they talk, the less they’ll bite
Pakistan relations -- more they talk, the less they’ll bite. And the more they talk, the closer they can get to understanding each other’s perceptions and moving closer to taking steps that the other side would welcome. This is not to endorse ‘talking just for the sake of talking’ but to underline the point that, given the lengthy periods in which there has been no dialogue, any contact is better than none. As senior Indian journalist Prem Shankar Jha notes in his analysis published on this page, during the recent meeting, neither side fully understood the constraints of the other – including domestic compulsions. Then there was the media hype. Their biggest mistake was the much delayed press conference. Journalists, waiting for over six hours for something meaty to file or broadcast, were just raring to go. Those who were called upon – including in the question session extending beyond the original format of two questions from each side – let rip with provocative questions. That is after all what journalists do. Not to mention that some of those who asked provocative questions are known to have links with the conservative ‘establishment’. Why must they be called upon every time? Perhaps because there are powerful interests in the establishments on both sides who don’t want peace – or who, at the very least, want to push their own agendas that have no space for the political constraints of the other side. What this press conference – as well as during previous occasions --
transcripts had been handed over to the Pakistan government in a succession of dossiers. But by making it public just before the talks India brought both the Pakistan army and the large right wing of the Pakistan media into the picture. Last Thursday both were seething with rage. Qureshi was therefore left with only two choices: he had either to brazenly rebut the accusation, or get something
There is no alternative to talks
made abundantly clear was that talks between Pakistan and India should be held away from the media glare. “Peace is not an event but a process,” as a Naga woman said, addressing a gathering of South Asian women some time ago. This is something that the governments on both sides need to understand. Time to stop playing to the media gallery and the public, and move towards a sustained, consistent and open-minded communication. The bottom line is that there is no alternative to dialogue. And that while the governments sort out their political differences, they should at least not let the people suffer – ease visa restrictions, let people meet, allow trade (yes, even transit trade), remove non-tariff barriers. In short, behave like civilised neighbours in the 21st century. – Beena Sarwar
Neither side really understood each other’s constraints
else out of the conference that would allow him to claim a measure of success. He tried to do the latter. According to reports in the media, while on their way to lunch Qureshi suggested to Krishna that they should make a statement in the press conference (then scheduled for 2.00 pm), that the two governments would take up the Kashmir and Siachen issues in their next meeting. Had Krishna understood the pressure Qureshi was under, he could have met him half-
way with ease. All he had to say was that India would gladly pick up the threads of the Manmohan Singh-Musharraf dialogue whenever Pakistan was prepared to. But the moment he heard the K word, Krishna dug his heels in. This left Qureshi with nothing to show for the conference. Despite this, the talks did not break down. Qureshi accepted Krishna’s observation that Kashmir had an elected government and chief minister. He also referred to Indian administered Kashmir in his press statement as Jammu and Kashmir and not “Indian-occupied Kashmir”. Krishna, on his part, also tacitly accepted that the Home Secretary’s statement had been uncalled for. These were remarkable acts of courage. It is ironic that they are precisely the ones for which both foreign ministers are being pilloried in their own countries. But if Delhi did not understand Islamabad’s constraints, Islamabad did not understand Delhi’s either. India has been under attack from terrorists based in Pakistan for more than a decade. Pakistan has resolutely insisted that it is unable to control them and is itself their victim. Then come two pieces of detailed, firsthand, information – from the confessions of Qasab and David Coleman – according to which the Pakistan army was behind the Mumbai attack, and the ISI is not only sheltering the Lashkar and elements of the Taliban, but helping them to forge links with Al Qaeda. Delhi could not make any commitments, let alone timebound ones, till Pakistan was at least prepared to admit that its army, or sections of its army, had continued to use terrorism as an instrument of policy abroad. But that is something that no elected government in Pakistan has so far had the courage, or indeed the power, to do.
July 15, 2010
Dear Aman ki Asha…
Asalam-o-Alaikum I had a chance to browse through your website www.amankiasha.com a few days back. I felt great to know that you are trying to bring together the people of Pakistan and India so that love and friendship can develop between the people of both countries and they can live happily in a peaceful environment, allowing our region of South Asia to progress. We appreciate your struggles and pray that you may succeed in your efforts. We are all with you. The divided families of India and Pakistan are facing a lot of difficulties in obtaining visas. Most of the people are unable to get visas as the procedure is very complicated. Besides that time and money is also wasted. A relative of ours lives in Ajmer Sharif and is very sick. We planned to visit him during his lifetime as there’s no guarantee of life. We started inquiring about the visa process and realised how very complicated it is. It requires an affidavit, bills of electricity and gas from India along with election card and ration card. We obtained originals of all these documents from India, filled the forms, and travelled to Islamabad to submit them. After being in line for a long time, when our turn came, the officer objected that the affidavit was not attested and there are no attested signatures, and that the other documents - electricity and gas bills - were also not attested. We had the original bills with us. The website of India’s embassy does not state that original documents should also be attested. In the same way, the officers rejected the forms of other people on minor issues and we saw them also turning back hopelessly. Most of them had come from Karachi and Hyderabad. We request you to write to the ambassador of India to adopt an easy process in place of the difficult one, and not to reject forms on the basis of simple mistakes. Furthermore, notifications or procedures should be written in Urdu so that people who understand only Urdu can get benefit from it, as lot money and time is wasted because of small mistakes. Plus such information should also be provided on Aman ki Asha and a filled form should be uploaded on the website as a sample so that people can fill their form by looking at it. Along with that, it would be useful if you obtained information about the mistakes that people commonly make and the objections that are raised on incorrect forms and add this information to the website. We pray that you succeed in your efforts. Irshad Ali, North Karachi
eace building takes many forms but the most sustainable is the medium of healing through education exchanges, and learning solutions to common challenges from basic to most complex forms of knowledge generation, management and its dissemination. Since 2006 many of us ‘education walas’ have been engaged in an exciting initiative that began in Lahore at a conference on February 1-2, 2006 titled “Local Governance, Texts and Contexts Perspectives from South Asia.” The conference concluded with the formation of the South Asia Forum for Education Development (Safed). Safed in Urdu is ‘white’. It is also universally known as the colour of peace. Well known professors Ayesha Jalal and Krishna Kumar, in their keynote addresses, urged South Asians to rise to the challenge of ‘education beyond borders’, seeking answers to education relevance, how children learn, what for, so that we can together undertake fundamental education reforms. Mian Imran Masud, then Minister Education Punjab, endorsed Safed for its work in the core areas of quality and learning; promoting girls education; cross cultural research; education in emergencies; human rights and sustainable development; ensuring linkages of higher with basic education. Since 2008 Safed has teamed up with Indian institutions like The Pratham Education Foundation, Jamia Millia University, Women In Security, Conflict Management and Peace (Wiscomp), National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT) and Ankur Society to find common ground for problems in education. In each endeavour the focus has been to engage in meaningful programs of learning and becoming, beyond an event mentality as a long term enterprise. Linked to all this are the efforts of Professors Radha Kumar, Janaki Rajan and Veena Sikri at Jamia who spearheaded the South Asian Women Network (SAWN) across eight sectors including education, peace, health and microcredit with women and men of South Asia. In August 2009, SAWN and Safed
Education without borders
Peace building through education
Baela Raza Jamil on an exciting educational initiative that began in Lahore at a conference in 2006 and has continued to gather momentum across disciplines
invited Sharmila Bhagat and her team from Ankur to a week-long workshop at Kinnaird College Lahore for a publication on documenting narratives of young women living in disadvantaged conditions. The idea was to enable them to share narratives that were empowering and liberating. This initiative will be completed in 2010 for publication. Rukmini Dr. Banerji, Dr. William Wadhva, Madhav Chavan, Dr. Shahid Mehdi (former VC Jamia) and their volunteers from Pratham and Annual Status of Education Review (ASER) India have supported an amazing initiative for border-crossings through a citizen-led household-based assessment of learning levels of children between 3 and 16 years. This effort in sharing skills for a citizens’ led survey has taken place in Pakistan along similar lines as in India, with ASER Pakistan 2008 being launched in Islamabad and Lahore. The collaboration has been absolutely amazing in terms of people extending gratis technical support. In 2008/9 the rural survey was completed in Pakistan covering 17,373 children in 6,520 households across 326 villages in 11 districts. It has been well received by government as a timely supplementary diagnostic tool to for appropriate actions. ASER is poised for a five year replication in Pakistan in close collaboration with ASER Centre India and East Africa – a South initiative that will keep us on track with respect to our national and international goals of education for all (EFA) and millennium development goals (MDGs). This endeavSome well known educators included: Dr. Usha Nayar, Dr. Anil Sethi, Yasmin Lari, Romana Husain, Prof. Radha Kumar, Navina Jafa, Blake Allen, Dr. Mary Ann, Dr. Anita Rampal, Mc Garry, Simi Kamal, Prof. Vikram Soni, Ranjana Sakhia and Prof. Anita Rampal. Pakistan’s High Commissioner Shahid Malik and Deputy High Commissioner and Riffat Masood in Delhi played a stellar role in this conference. Major collaborations were proposed for saving the Rivers Ravi and Chenab much like Yamuna; preserving heritage and environment in our daily classrooms encounters, both within and without walls. We need to not just talk but practice peace from primary to tertiary education through an absolutely impregnable inclusive medium suggested by Professor Usha Nayar, of Education Without Frontiers, echoing Ayesha Jalal. Professor Vikram Soni was in Lahore as I write this piece calling for public interest science, speaking to researchers, activists, teachers and students to demystify science with mutlidisciplinary crossovers for our sustainability. Simi Kamal from Hisaar Foundation, the architect and conservationist Yasmeen Lari and child
our needs the support of the media, corporate sector and concerned citizens alike. In 2010 ASER Pakistan will reach 35 districts and 2011 in all districts across the country. There have also been cross cultural collaborations for a South Asian educators’ group in heritage, environment and peace. On March 21, 2010 a week long conference, funded by the US Dept of State, was held on education leadership in Delhi and Karachi simultaneously with over 60 educators from Pakistan, India and the USA.
rights activist and artist Rumana Hussain (Children’s Museum for Peace and Human Rights) have volunteered for action. Under the banner of Aman ki Asha we urge hosting of a unique two day conference of 16 eminent educators from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, our icons of education and thinking, who will hold conversations with 2,000 youth on the substance of Education for Tomorrow, Yesterday and Today. Bring together eminent educationists from India and Pakistan like Professor Anita Ghulam Ali, Raza Kazim, Yaspal ji, Ayesha Jalal, Krishna Kumar, Madhav Chavan, Amartya Sen, Manzoor Ahmed, Abid Hussain, Anita Rampal, and Dr. Ashraf Ghani from Afghanistan. Aman ki Asha could do this both face to face and virtually in four locations simultaneously. Some of us can volunteer to organise this. Yashpal ji, Vice Chancellor, Jawaharlal Nehru University is pining to visit Lahore one more time. “Baela, a visit to Lahore, and I shall be at peace with my maker.” Can we deny this honour to our eternally young and Grand Educator, who does not go to bed until he is intellectually provoked by 100 questions from children: ‘Why is the colour of the sky blue?’, ‘What makes sea water salty?’ ‘How do puris puff?’ Each day is a multiple disciplinary journey. Our youth across borders needs to be in the company of inspiring regenerating icons and thinkers. This would be a moment to seize, passing on an invaluable, diverse and rich mosaic of living intellectual heritage of South Asia. It needs to urgently find spaces amongst our youth, valid as narrations and constructions of history, shared today and working as the masala for a resilient future so that South Asian societies will live in peace, diversity and dignity through contemporary powerful knowledge and experience avatars both virtual and actual. The write is Director Programs, Idara-e-Taleem-oAaghi (ITA) and Coordinator SAFED. Email email@example.com
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A peace initiative whose time has come... ‘Destination Peace’: A commitment by the Jang Group, Geo and The Times of India Group to create an enabling environment that brings the people of Pakistan and India closer together, contributing to genuine and durable peace with honour between our countries.