An Indian peace delegation visited Pakistan from 17-26th March 2011, primarily to see the dialogue between two countries become a reality. The delegation included activists, intellectuals, writers, artists, educationists, politicians and parliamentarians. All of them have a long history of promoting people-to-people contact and peace between two countries.
The 12 member Indian delegation was led by Mr. Kuldip Nayar (veteran journalist) and included Mr. Mahesh Bhatt (Film Personality), Mr. Bhalchandra Mungekar (Member, of Parliament) Mr. Shahid Siddiqui (Editor, Nai Duniya), Mr. Jatin Desai (FOCUS), Dr. Mazher Hussain (COVA), Ms. Kamla Bhasin (SANGAT), Mr. Ramesh Yadav (FRI), Mr.Sanjay Nahar (SARHAD), Mr. Haris Kidwai (Peace Activist), Mr. Y. Laxmi Prasad (Former MP) and Mr. A. Krishna Rao (Journalist). They visited Lahore, Islamabad, Karachi and Hyderabad.
Peace movements, democratic minded citizens, political parties, progressive sections of the governments of the two countries, media and the general public are the direct target groups of this visit. The Indian delegation had a back to back programme lined up during the 9-10 day visit. They met civil society members, journalists, law makers, federal ministers and leaders of various political parties and prevailed upon them the need for an “uninterrupted dialogue”. The delegation also expressed their solidarity with the Pakistani civil society working for a just society. As a result, there has been a strengthened cooperation and coordination between civil society activists in both countries on issues of peace, India-Pakistan dialogue and South Asian unity.
In terms of reaching out to the highest leaders of Pakistan, the delegation had an audience with the Pakistani Prime Minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani and the Sindh Chief Minister. They also had the opportunity to watch the joint session of the Pakistan Parliament addressed by President Asif Ali Zardari. Before the address, Senators hosted lunch for the Indian peace delegation reflecting a strong consensus within the Pakistani legislature for peace between India and Pakistan. It is now time for the Indian side to comprehend this consensus and hence, reach out.
Most importantly, the delegation paid special emphasis on reaching out to the youth and the student community of Pakistan. In all the interactions with the youth, the delegation was greeted by the youth’s condemnation of the radicalization of their society and demands for a right to a peaceful and just future. It is this segment of the Pakistani society that has to be supported and encouraged to endeavor for a peaceful South Asia.
The delegation and their hosts agreed and reiterated that the talks between the two countries need to be “uninterrupted and uninterruptible” as only then it can lead to a peaceful resolution of disputes. A joint statement has been issued as an outcome of the visit endorsed by the delegation and the hosts.
There was wide media coverage of the delegation’s visit in almost all dailies and news channels. The non-English papers also covered the delegation’s activities minutely and this is significant given the wide readership they command.
There was also some minimum level of positive movement in Indo-Pak relations post the visit. As decided during the Thimpu meet, Pakistan Interior Secretary Kamal-uz-Zaman Chaudhary met G K Pillai, the Indian Home Secretary for a two day long Indo-Pak secretary level talks on wide ranging bilateral issues from 28-29 March 2011. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh invited the Pakistan PM, Yusuf Raza Gilani to watch the Mohali India-Pakistan semi-final cricket match with him which was readily accepted by the latter. As a goodwill gesture ahead of the cricket match, the president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, said he will free Gopal Das, an Indian national who has been locked up in a Pakistani prison for 27 years on charges of espionage. Both the PMs on 30th March 2011 called for a ‘permanent reconciliation’. Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao stated that the goal of the dialogue process has to be done in “an uninterrupted manner”. The foreign ministers of both the countries will hopefully be meeting in Delhi in July this year.
The next target for civil society action for India-Pakistan peace has to be the July meeting between the two Foreign Ministers. As jointly reiterated by the delegation and their hosts, the dialogue has to be ‘uninterrupted and uninterruptible”. And many other issues affecting people on the borders, divided families, fishing communities, and so on, have to be addressed on priority basis.
Many organizations and individuals supported the materialization of such a programme in India and Pakistan. The Heinrich Boll Foundation is privileged to be a part of such an important programme.
Download Background Note and Joint Statement
For more pictures, please click here.
Photo By: Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER)