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aman ki asha Destination Peace



Wednesday, March 13, 2013



At a conference in Pondicherry recently, scholars stressed the

need for India and Pakistan to end their animosity and focus on
regional trade and commerce

By Dr. Riaz Ahmed Shaikh

he South Asian
region, although
through almost
all means of
(railways, sea, road and air)
has very low intra-region
trade. Currently regional trade
in South Asia is about $10.4
billion just five per cent of
the areas total trade.
Compare this to the over
$40 billion (twenty per cent of
trade) that economists estimate would be generated by
normalising relations between
the different neighbouring
states (particularly India and
Pakistan) and by extending the
existing transport network.
These issues were the subject of deliberation at a conference on Greater Connectivity
and Regional Integration in
South Asia, held at the University of Pondicherry, India
(Feb 14-16, 2013). Scholars
from different South Asian
countries attended the event,
which was jointly organised by
the UNESCO Madanjeet Singh
Institute of South Asia Regional Co-operation and Public Diplomacy Division of Indian External Affairs Ministry.
The late Madanjeet Singh
was born in Lahore in 1924
and migrated to India after
partition. However, he always
dreamt of a peaceful South
Asia without barriers and hurdles. Towards this end, he established the South Asian
Foundation (SAF) that he
funded generously.
Now chaired by Mani
Shankar Aiyar, the well-known
former diplomat and Member
of Parliament, SAF includes
chapters from all SAARC countries and continues working to
promote goodwill between all
countries of the region.
To further bring people of
South Asia closer, SAF offers

Greater Connectivity and Regional Integration in South Asia: Scholars and students at the end of the conference

The writer presenting his paper in the conference

scholarships for higher education, enabling students of
SAARC countries to study at
the University of Pondicherry
as well. They include Pakistani
student Ali Hasan Raza from
Pattoki, in district Kasur,
whom I met during the conference. He was very happy there
and hoped that other Pakistani
students would also be able to
benefit from this opportunity
to study in such fully sponsored programmes.
One night at the conference, students from many
countries highlighted their

own cultures. I was happy to

see Hasan Raza holding the
flag of Pakistan. He told me
later that Vice Chancellor of
the Pondicherry, Prof. Chandra
Krishnamurthy had noticed his
dress shoes. She suggested
that he wear Peshawari chappals, which would be more
Pakistani than closed shoes.
As discussed at the conference, the Twelfth SAARC summit held in Islamabad in 2004
had emphasised the need to
improve regional road networks. However, the goal remains elusive, largely due to

Diversity at Pondicherry University: students from different countries,

including Pakistani student Hassan Ali Raza
constant stand-offs between and Pakistan to end their anitwo major states of the region, mosity and focus on regional
India and Pakistan. It is bilat- trade and commerce. The
eral tensions between these greater connectivity will bentwo countries that are the efit Pakistan more, given that
major impediment to progress it is a natural trade corridor
in the region, agreed confer- between South Asia and Cenence participants.
tral and Western Asia. If such
As participants discussed, routes are restored, Pakistan
conflicts exist in other parts may earn billions of dollars in
of the world too. However, royalty and taxes, easing fiprogress can be made in nancial constrains and reductrade, commerce and free ing poverty.
Allowing trade routes
movement of people if political conflicts are set aside. would save precious reSouth Asia has great potential sources and divert funds for
for progress and prosperity,
given its natural connections,
The writer heads the Social Sciences Department at
ranging from shared rivers to
Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and
heritage and culture.
Technology, Karachi; he presented a research paper at the
Conference discussions
conference in Pondicherry.
highlighted the need for India

I have always wanted

to visit India
er smile speaks a thousand words and her eyes
tells the story of grit, determination and steely resolve as she only has the finishing line in her
sight. So what if she can only communicate
through her mother via sign language, 17-yearold Pakistan girl Anam Mahmood's story will be
an inspiration for millions about what exactly willpower means.
Anam, the lone woman cyclist of the Pakistan contingent in
the Asian Cycling Championship, will participate in the Road
Race event on March 13.
"I was very happy when I was selected in the team. I have always wanted to visit India. Thankfully, God has granted me my
wish," you could see the child-like joy as her mother Ruksana
Mahmood acted as an interpreter.
After suffering from high fever when she was only nine
months old, little Anam lost her hearing and speech abilities but
luckily she had parents who were determined to ensure a better
life for their bundle of joy.
Having started cycling at the age of 12, to make it to the national team in just five years is a brilliant achievement for the
Lahore girl.
"She has been cycling since the age of 12. She was scouted

Pakistan National Cycling Team: Anam Mahmood on right. PTI photo

by the coaches after she won an inter-school cycling competition," mother Ruksana said.
"It's always tough for a woman to make a name for herself.
And if you have a disorder, it's nearly impossible. It's sheer hard
work from her coaches that she has been able to come this far,"
Ruksana said in voice filled with gratitude.
The teenager is however disappointed that she won't be able
to participate in her favourite track event (500m time trial) in
which she is a national champion. The Pakistani cyclists got
their visas late due to which she couldn't participate in the event
held on Day I.
"I wish I had come early, I think I could have bettered my
500m time trial timings on this track. Unfortunately, that event
was on Day 1," it was the only time that Anam looked dejected as
she explained her feelings.
She was in awe of the IG stadium's cycling velodrome. "I have
never seen a wooden cycling track before. We have cement
tracks back in Lahore. This looks amazing," she said. One felt
like applauding the girl for her spirit.

Cyclists at the 9th National Womens Cycling Championship,

Lahore, 2011 (file photo)

socio-economic development,
agreed participants. For example, currently a container
takes 35 days to reach from
Delhi to Dhaka via a third
country (usually in the Middle East) whereas direct connection can reduce this time
to just five days. Similarly the
distance by sea between Islamabad and Dhaka is 7,612
km, which can be reduced to
just 2,300 km over land
across India. There are many
other options to explore further.
Tourism, especially related to religious places, between India and Pakistan also
has great potential to bring
people of both countries
closer. Allowing medical
tourism and cultural exchanges would also enable
greater connections between
people of the region.
Divided families of Pakistan and India are the worst
affected by the constant
stand off. Generations have
died without seeing their
loved ones for decades.
It is time to move forward
and seriously work towards
the prosperity of the region.
This will also reduce financial
dependence on Western
countries and lending institutions. This century is the century of Asia. Pakistan must
get its due share by reducing
barriers and bringing maximum benefits to its citizens.
On a personal note, as on
my previous visits, I found
common Indians very caring
towards Pakistanis, yearning
for India-Pakistan relations to
be normalised, enabling people to visit each others countries and exchange goodwill.
Our host, Prof. Mohnan
Pillai, Director of UMISARC
left no stoned unturned to facilitate the delegates, especially me, a Pakistani. In fact,
People extended so much affection, love and care that
during my weeks stay in
India I never felt as if I was
away from home.

PTI report

Having lived in India all my life, I had

never met Pakistanis before coming to
Hong Kong University. The idea of
meeting people from across the border, af fected by stereotypical assumptions, seemed a bit surreal.
My experience here completely
changed my perspective on Pakistan

and its people.

Even though I live in a city that was formerly ruled by
Nizams and thus has a rich Muslim culture, and one of my
closest friends is a Muslim from Lucknow, I sometimes
found myself making subliminal distinctions between Muslims and Pakistanis with the latter all being an extremist
version of the former.
Making Pakistani friends has helped me grow immensely
as a person. Ive gone from being oblivious about the similarity between Pakistan and Indias culture to being sure
of the fact that we are one, just separated by borders. I can
now be proud of the fact that Ive not
only discarded all the stereotypes,
but also been a part of the Aman ki
Asha and Romancing the Border initiative.
Kaanhari Singh,
New Delhi, India

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Another update is that the

Indian CID has taken a
liking to me. I have been
travelling to India for the
past twelve years on
business but it is only in
the last two years that the
CID has been visiting me

that was where she would be spending

the larger portion of her stay.
Big mistake! When she reached
Hotel A, she was told that they could
not put her up for the one night because the Residence Permit listed Hotel
B. They would be breaking the law if
they allowed her to stay. The hotel
management was very nice; they called
Hotel B and arranged for her to move
there the same night but it was a hassle, plus tiring, stressful, and time-consuming for her. She looked absolutely
harassed by the time she checked into
Hotel B where we ran into her and she
related this entire story.
My question to both governments:
Do we really have to do this to each
other? Who designs these forms? Dont
they think the whole thing through?
Cant they make things easier? Even
the USA that is so security conscious
gives country (as opposed to city)
visas. Why should India and Pakistan
not do the same for each other? Let us
do away with city-specific visas and
the defining of ports of entry
and hotel stays. Harassing
business people and family
visitors doesnt keep out terrorists.
Another update is that the
Indian CID has taken a liking
to me. I have been travelling to
India for the past twelve years
on business but it is only in the
last two years that the CID has
been visiting me. They are polite
enough and I guess they are just
doing their job but surely their time
would be better utilised elsewhere than
checking up on me and asking me why
I am there, how long am I staying, the
exact details of my flight back, what I
plan to do while in India etc.? Come on
guys have I suddenly started to look
more suspicious than I did before?
Surely not! I also object to the fact
that although I told you that eight more
colleagues of mine were arriving the
next day, you didnt come to check up
on them. Why do I get all the love?

stay there for a night and then move to

Hotel B for the remaining days. At the
airport, in the form Residence Permit
where she was asked to fill in the name
and address of the hotel she would be
staying at, she put Hotel B because

The writer is President,

Pakistan Software Houses
Association (P@SHA). This piece is
adapted from her blog,
In The Line of Wire


By Jehan Ara
hether you are a Pakistani applying for an
Indian visa or an Indian applying for a
Pakistani visa, the
road ahead is challenging. I have been
fortunate to have a strong sponsor,
Nasscom who are my organisation
P@SHAs counterparts in India. However, even then there are stumbling
blocks especially if you are applying
for a triple or multiple entry visa.
If you are applying for a triple entry
visa, you are asked what your port of
entry will be Delhi, Mumbai, or
Wagah. How is one supposed
to know if during a 12
month period one will have
to attend a meeting in Mumbai, Bangalore or Pune,
which would mean entering
via Mumbai OR whether there
will be a meeting in Delhi, Gurgaon, or Chennai which would
entail going through Delhi?
You are also expected to
know which hotel you will be
staying at. Ridiculous. So what
does one do? Either get a crystal
ball or guess and keep your fingers
crossed that those will be the cities you
will be going to and that the relevant
hotels that you have mentioned will
have rooms available.
And before there is a barrage of
anti-India statements, the Pakistan government does the same. It is called reciprocity.
Stranger still is what happened this
year to one of our delegates who had
booked Hotel A in Mumbai to stay at,
only to discover that it was miles away
from the conference venue, and that
everyone else was staying at Hotel B.
She tried to cancel the room in Hotel A
and book a room in Hotel B. Hotel A
told her that she would be charged for
one night (normal) so she decided to

We are one, just

separated by borders




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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.