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Wednesday, July 14, 2010
TRAVEL AND TOURISM
There would be a 70 to 80 per cent instant growth in the airlines industry
Aijaz Haroon, Managing Director, Pakistan International Airlines: “If there is lasting peace between Pakistan and India and visas are easily issued to the citizens of both countries, PIA could run six daily flights to Mumbai from Karachi alone. Making air travel easy between the two counties will also greatly help the airline industry. I envisage a 70 to 80 per cent instant growth, if visa-related issues get resolved. “We have 1.5 million Gujrati-speaking people living in Karachi. Almost all of them have family members living right across the border. The two airlines won’t even have to worry about empty seats if that happens. Just in the month of Muharram, PIA arranged four extra 747 flights for members of Bohra community who went to India to see their spiritual leader. “We have already seen thousands of Sikh pilgrims coming to Pakistan every year. Many more cannot come because of difficulties in obtaining visas. “Then there is the Lollywood and Bollywood connection. A lot of Lahoris are crazy about the Indian film industry. There is no dearth of Pakistanis wanting to travel to Mumbai because of Bollywood. Cheap entertainment venues in India like Goa could attract thousands of tourists from Pakistan.”
IMAGINE « »
NEIGHBOURS IN PEACE
…more choices in the sort of medical care people want...
Dr Samrina Hashmi, former general secretary of Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) Karachi: “We could each share what we have and help the other in what it lacks in terms of medical research, training and technology – that would be very important in terms of making our mark in the region. “Without visa restrictions, a common Pakistani would have a broad choice to opt from regarding the sort of medical care they want. There is a dearth of cardiac surgeons in Pakistan, and they are often beyond the reach of a common man. “One look at the long line of patients sleeping outside hospitals shows the urgent relief needed for the people of Pakistan in terms of health care. And what better way it could be achieved then corroborating with India with whom we share same language, physiology and a way of living.” Dr Nighat Shah, consultant gynaecologist at Aga Khan University Hospital Kharadar, member of Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Pakistan: “Exchange of any kind gives us a chance to learn from each other. Visiting each other’s countries will help us develop trust for each other through which we can form our own Asian Union, including other countries in South Asia. “Many of Pakistan and India’s medical problems are similar, including in areas like congenital diseases and fertility issues. We could better deal with them if we join forces. Rather than going abroad and returning with hypotheses that cannot be applied to our society, we would be able to conduct research in the region. “Moreover, the price of many medicines is relatively cheaper in India than Pakistan. “There is so much goodwill to draw upon, like the recent case of a Pakistani doctor who went to India to deliver a lecture. During the seminar, he suffered a heart attack. The hosts took care of him, and did not charge a penny.” Dr Munir Amanullah, Paediatric Cardiac surgeon at Aga Khan University Hospital Karachi: “Lifting visa restrictions would mean doom for Pakistan as we will lose a lot of revenue to India. The option of going to India is tempting only because their media has glorified the healthcare system there, whereas our media is hell bent on demonising doctors. If on top of it you allow an open border with India, it would be our loss on all fronts, as most people will opt for something better. “It is not that Pakistan has a dearth of cardiac surgeons, it is just that they are not being publicised. We need to very sincerely focus on our country and look for ways that makes us depend on ourselves. Ten years ago India was in the same boat as we are but with continuous efforts, they have emerged as one of the leading centres of the region for congenital cardiac surgery. We are not far behind and with support by our people, media and hopefully one day by the government we would be able to match any country’s results.”
Yahya Polani, Chairman, Travel Agents Association of Pakistan, South Zone: “Even ten daily flights between India and Pakistan won’t be enough to meet the demand if tensions subside between the two nations. My experience in the tourism industry tells me that people of South Asia region really want to travel to each other’s’ countries. They try to find similarities with each other. After all, our roots are not much difference than those living in India or Bangladesh. “It is very difficult to travel across the border right now. Indian and Pakistani embassies discourage citizens from traveling. They should get over their past. They suspect each other of spreading terrorism -- although it is internal terrorism that is causing the damage in India and Pakistan. “Look at Sri Lanka. The country fought war for 28 years with separatists but it did not let that affect its tourism industry and gives visas on arrival. That is what we in Pakistan and India need to do. “Pakistan has so much to offer to Indian tourists, from Karachi to Khyber. All we need is provision of facilities.” Salahuddin Berchu, tour operator and Manager Tours, Travel Walji»s, Islamabad: “If the governments implement the accord they had agreed upon some years ago, to allow tourist visas for groups of 12 and above, we would get up to 5,000 Indian tourists a month. The approved groups would stay in 4 or 5 star hotels, spending around USD 2000 per person, minus airfares and shopping. This could generate about half a billion dollars a year for Pakistan. “Even keeping in view security concerns and keeping sensitive areas out of bounds for such tourist groups, there is still plenty for Indian tourists to see in Pakistan and for Pakistani tourists to see in India.”
E D U C AT I O N
Mehmood Arshad, business student: “There would be more opportunities for economic growth for people of both countries if there were no visa restrictions, and people were allowed to cross the borders freely. “Pakistan and India both have some unique competitive advantages over each other which can be used to change the lives of millions of poor people on both sides. If we compare South Asia with East Asian countries we see that our zone continues to be a low-income region while the East Asian region, which was not so developed half a century ago, now ranks among the world's progressive and developed regions. “Also take the example of European Union – their countries had enmities going back centuries but when they realised that their hatred will eat up their potential, they removed visa restrictions, allowed people to move freely and became friends. “If India and Pakistan bury their differences to resolve their issues which are the main obstacles in the way of peace, there is no limit to what both nations can accomplish together.” Syed Asim Ali, Faculty Member of Department of Computer Science, University of Karachi: “If we (India and Pakistan) communicate and coordinate in IT industry and education, it will bring a world of good to both the countries. With Bangalore already established as the Asian Silicon Valley, Pakistan could gain immensely in terms of technical capabilities and skills. India could also benefit by gaining access to the best human resources in Pakistan, as it (India) sometimes has to refuse projects because of non-availability of skilled workforce.”
Two neighbouring countries with a bitter legacy of hostility, enmity, mistrust. And yet - two neighbouring countries whose citizens, when they meet √ often in a third countr y √ meet not like enemies but like old friends reunited; who, even if they are strangers, shower each other with hospitality, affection, respect and love; equal citizens of two sovereign countries. Who cannot understand the reasons for the policies that prevent them from meetingº the needless restrictions, the difficult visa application process, the constricting bureaucracy. No wonder that the response to the Jang Group and Times of India»s Aman ki Asha initiative, par ticularly to the Milne Do (let people meet) campaign, has been so overwhelmingly positive. Emails, letters, ar ticles and phone calls have been pouring in. Detailing the obstacles and inconveniences of obtaining a visa for the neighbouring countr y; details that have featured in the pages of our newspapers and in millions of lives. These are ordinary people
from both countries, simply looking to cross the border to catch up with friends or relatives, perhaps see some sights, or reconnect with a place they once called home; many are expatriates who even as citizens of foreign countries find it hard to get visas for the «other» countr y. Stopped, circumvented and delayed at ever y turn, made to jump through endless hoops, crawl through miles of red tape, only to receive a short window for an entr y, with illogical conditions √ enter and exit from the same point, using the same mode of transpor t; restricted to one or two cities; police reporting; tons of paperwork and so on. But it wasn't always this way. These rigid boundaries were once porous, allowing people to cross over fairly easily to visit friends and family, or just to go and watch the latest Bollywood blockbuster. With the long-simmering tensions, likened to an undeclared war between the two
countries, visa requirements and limitations have increased. Even as both governments pay lip service to the cause of letting people meet, they introduce new restrictions. India has recently introduced new rules that require visa applications to be referred to New Delhi, making the even process longer than before. Pakistan is likely to «reciprocate». The negative fallout will be on ordinary people, businessmen, journalists, and divided families. Since the mid-1990s, several people-to-people organisations have questioned and lobbied against the policies that divide us. Aman ki Asha»s Milne Do campaign reflects these voices and provides a public platform to question, why? The overwhelming response that has been coming through to us with increasing force and urgency is, NO: It does not have to be this way. Easing these restrictions would help diffuse tensions, reduce miscommunication and negate the stereo-
types that have developed in our minds against each other. Many other countries have moved past years of enmity to allow trade and people-to-people contacts - China and Japan, USA and China, France and Germany and other European Union countries. Why not India and Pakistan? If we cooperate, we will together create a stronger front against terrorism, and also contribute to improving the lives of millions of our citizens. Let people meet, let families reunite, let trade and tourism flourish. The need is to push for facilitating cross border movement rather than placing hurdles in the path as an unstated state policy. As the foreign ministers of the two countries meet tomorrow, we hope they listen to the thousands of people who have stood up and echoed, Milne Do! Let us meet!
Given our common medical problems, collaboration would benefit the people
To support Aman ki Asha's Milne Do Campaign, and petition against visa restrictions, please visit the following online petitions, started by ordinary Indians and Pakistanis: http://www.ipetitions.com/p etition/pakistan-india-travel/ and http://bit.ly/afnXBx+
NOTE: Credit for the title of this page goes to Chowk.com, the online forum for Pakistanis and Indians (‘unflinching idealism since 1997’) started by a Pakistani-Indian couple living in the USA. ‘Imagine: Neighbours in Peace’ was the title of a book of essays published by Chowk.
Amin Hashwani, Pakistan-India CEOs Business Forum: “The South Asian region can historically been considered a mini-super power. These empires that compromised India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have held and utilised much economic potential in times when they operated as more unified entities. Contemporary wars and tensions in the region have hindered prosperity and growth. “For example, Pakistan constituted a model economy in the 1960s to the extent that experts from Korea and Japan came to us to study and replicate our success. The war of 1965 however proved to be an immense burden on our resources. We were fighting a much larger and powerful foe and ended up diverting critical resources from our economic foundations to the war effort in the hopes of maintaining a military equilibrium with India.
“The wars and heightened levels of military tension in the periods between them ensured a steady decline as we were compelled to divert a disproportionate amount of resources from vital sectors such as health and education. To reverse this trend would require a serious cutdown in military-related spending, which in turn would require a comprehensive and lasting peace with Pakistan’s large neighbour. “Presently, the world is witnessing the rise of Asia, particularly countries like China and India. Peace and economic cooperation between India and Pakistan would help Pakistan make full use of this Asian economic boom. Not only would peace between India and Pakistan result in both countries finally investing resources to address critical domestic issues adversely effecting both countries such a widespread poverty and lack of
education, it would result in economic cooperation which will be its own reward. Such an atmosphere of peace, stability and cooperation will also encourage many other countries to invest in the subcontinent without the constant fear of war and instability. “These would be requisites to propel the subcontinent towards achieving sustainable, long term growth and robust economies that would help lift the quality of life for countless people in our poverty ridden countries. “Other than strictly economic cooperation, collaboration on a number of increasingly important issues like climate change, water shortage, population control, child mortality, women, healthcare, poverty and disease would be immensely beneficial. Pakistan and India confront many of the same challenges due to their geographical proximity and demographic similarities. Pooling resources and expertise to address them would be the obvious and logical course to pursue in our increasingly challenging world.”
Shahid Shafaat, Founder Katha Theater Group: “Art in Pakistan would really progress if these restrictions were lifted. That would also contribute towards developing a more healthy society in both Pakistan and India. “Without these restrictions, we would be able to do more collaborative theatre or exchange programs in which artists from both countries can arrange workshops with each other. All this will improve mutual ties and help in growth of the industry.” Taal Karisma, percussion rock band: “If there were no visa restrictions, the Pakistani music industry would be much bigger as Indian movie industry relies heavily on songs by Pakistani singers such as Atif Aslam and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, despite the prevalence of not so amicable ties between the two countries.” Alan Simon, tabla player: “It would be like a
dream come true. We only got our passports back with the Indian visa only hours before our flight to India where we were playing music for the play Shakuntala. If there were no such restrictions on visas we could have spent more time in India and attended the performing arts festival at the National School of Drama, Dehli. “Music is universal. It has no boundaries. It has been my dream to play a small tabla piece with the legendary Ustad Zakir Hussain. If there were no restriction on the duration of visa, I would have definitely tried to fulfill my dream.” Ahsan Bari, vocalist: “If there were no restrictions I would spend most of my time there. I would love to do a couple of tracks with
Shankar Mahadevan and create some instru- mas. “When my students wanted to go to Iran, the mental fusion music.” language barrier created restrictions. Going to Maheen Zia, documentary filmmaker, teacher, USA or anywhere in Europe is very expensive. and member Executive committee Kara Film The best option for educational exchanges is with India.” Festival: “Given the similar faces, similar language, similar culture and similar people on both sides Nahid Raza, artist: of the border, without visa restrictions both "I have only managed to go to India twice, Pakistan and India would become the largest for artists' workshops. It was a fantastic exmarkets for each other. perience both times. Unfortunately we lost “Without these visa restrictions, I would be touch with each other as at working on a feature film right now which that time there was no could be shown to a email and it was diffibigger audience. I cult to maintain would have betcontact. If there were no visa reter competition strictions, artists and the film would be able to could be collaborate much shown in better, drawing several cineupon our shared legacies and experiences, and share new techniques and thoughts."
rance and Germany provide an excellent example of how people-to-people contact and the media can play a positive and constructive role, and also bring the people of two former enemy countries closer together. Other factors important factors in overcoming centuries of hostilities in this case, including suspicions among various sections of the population, have been the political leadership and the governments’ efforts to encourage people-to-people contacts through several systematic initiatives. These are: s Systematic policy of twinning: This is more than just official banquets and platitude. It involves signboards with the other country’s language and flag in the twin city, linkages between the Chambers of Commerce, colleges, schools, hospitals and even families. “I was 14 when I went to stay with a German family for a month to learn German. My German friend came to my home the following year and learnt French,” says a French diplomat. “The idea requires a low budget and results in life-long friendships.” s Public money spent on institutional youth exchanges: Each government puts in 50 % of the cost required to place youth (young professionals, say under 35 years of age) in various sectors in each other’s country – doctors, lawyers, graduate students. This is, as a diplomat puts it, “a fantastic way to change mindsets and make people more accepting of each other.” s Political sustainability and continuity: These policies don’t change when the governments do. The budget for the youth exchange is never questioned or amended. France and Germany even conduct joint cabinet meetings in which the Prime Minister along with three to five ministers each meet to discuss various focused issues twice a year – for example, environment, textbooks, water or other shared resources. s Joint history textbooks: French and German historians have been working on this project for about two years now. The textbooks will not be compulsory but will serve as a resource and an alternate way of looking at things. Other countries with a history of hostilities, like Japan and Korea, have also shown an interest in this concept.
Pakistan would gain technical capabilities and skills. India would gain access to more human resources
Reported by Zeeshan Azmat, Saad Hasan, Saher Baloch, Rafay Mahmood, Kumail Wasif, Laleh Habib and Beena Sarwar
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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.