“Let us get rid of the historical baggage that separates the people of our two countries so we can bridge the communication gap and get over the trust deficit between India and Pakistan,” said Lt Gen (retired) Moti Dar, former vice chief of the Indian army and the president of the Indian chapter of the India-Pakistan Soldiers’ Initiative (IPSI).
He was addressing students at the city campus of Beaconhouse National University on Monday at a seminar, India-Pakistan Relations: Prospects and Challenges.
The seminar, organised by BNU and the IPSI, included members of both the Pakistan and Indian chapters of the IPSI. Dar said that with the growing trend of globalisation, regionalisation had also evolved and was much more acceptable. He said while there was a regional body in the form of SAARC, it was largely ineffective. He called the 21st century as the Asian century, adding that it would see the continuing growth of two larthege economies of China and India.
Dar led a delegation of eight retired Indian soldiers at the seminar. He paid rich tributes to Malala Yousufzai. “We salute the courage this young girl has shown in order to fight for her rights,” he said. He said disputes over Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek, water resources and nuclear disarmament plagued the relations between the two countries. “The good thing is that both our governments have at least decided to resolve these issues through a composite dialogue instead of war,” he said.
Almost 12 years since its inception, Lt Gen Dar said that the IPSI had still not managed to make as big a difference as they had imagined, but he had high hopes for the youth of both nations.
“Wars never help instead they ensure greater deterioration of a situation,” said the head of the Pakistan chapter of the IPSI, Lt Gen (retired) Nasir Akhtar. He said he had faced a lot of criticism when he joined the initiative. “But later people realised it was for a noble cause.”
He said both countries faced severe poverty. “We are still very primitive people and now its time that both countries move forward,” he said. Lt Gen Akhtar said having visited India several times, he had been impressed by their education system. “Our hopes lie with the younger generation. Now they have to pacify and cement relations,” he said. Akhtar said Pakistan was on the right path. “It is important that we align ourselves in a manner which promotes peace between India and Pakistan,” he added.
“We need to confront the ideology of Bal Thackeray. We have our own versions of Bal Thackeray in Pakistan and we cannot progress unless we confront them,” said journalist and BNU School of Media and Mass Communication Dean Dr Mehdi Hasan. He said the curriculum in both countries promoted hatred and discrimination which needed to be removed in order to promote a peaceful co-existence.
Dr Hasan said India and Pakistan invested more in arms and ammunition than on education. He said Indian newspapers and television news channels were banned in Pakistan and vice versa. “Unless we realise the importance of peace, we cannot progress,” he said.
Major Gen (retired) Humayun Bangash said there was a need to immediately address the basic issues affecting the lives of common people. “We have to work towards easy visas,” he said. When people interact with one another, he said, there would be a greater chance of solving issues.
“It is incredible to see people who fought wars and preached nationalism to sit here and work towards peace,” said Dr Tariq Rahman, the dean of BNU’s School of Education. He added that the initiative was a step in the right direction. He urged IPSI members to use their access in military circles to promote a message of peace and sensibility.
Major Gen (retired) Harish Sharma said there was a need to ponder what Indians and Pakistanis had in common. “We need to sit together and solve the problems that we face.”
The water conflict took up most of the question and answer session. Lt Gen Dar said the issue could only be resolved by better water management, especially amidst the growing population on both sides of the border. The availability of water per person has fallen from 5,000 cubic metres of water at the time of independence to almost 1,800 cubic metres in India and 1,200 cubic metres in Pakistan, he said. Dar said that both countries needed to form a joint team to study the issue of water availability.
Brig (retired) J.L. Kaul said there was a need to revisit the Indus Water Treaty itself since it was not drawn up in a conducive environment in 1960. “It is a sensitive issue and can create rifts,” he said.
BNU Vice Chancellor and former foreign and finance minister Sartaj Aziz said there was a need to implement the current treaty because it was unlikely that the two countries would agree to a new one. “India hasn’t violated the treaty yet but the fear is that since it has the potential to store and stop the flow of water to Pakistan, it just might do so,” he said.
Aziz said the overall shortage of water had caused concerns at the Pakistani end for which he recommended a joint strategy for water management in the region.
“India must to ensure the conservation and at the same time provision of water to Pakistan,” he added.
Col (retired) Gautam Das agreed with Aziz. He said for Pakistan, the availability of enough water at the appropriate time was essential, as the sowing of crops depended on it.
The delegation arrived in Lahore on Sunday through the Wagha border crossing and will remain in the country for a total of seven days during which they are expected to visit Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
Article Source: The Express Tribune
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