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If I can just give to the world more than I take from it, I will be a very happy man. For there is no greater joy in life than to give. Motto : Live, Laugh and Love. You can follow me on Twitter too . My handle is @Raja_Sw.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

On India-Pakistan beyond cricket

cAfter the Indian tour to Pakistan last year, I wrote an article “Thank You, Pakistan”. I thanked Pakistan from the bottom of my heart for the very warm hospitality that it had extended to the Indians and was very optimistic about the opportunities the tour had opened for better relations between the two countries.

Before the start of the recent Pakistani tour to India, I re-iterated my feelings about the two countries coming closer to each other and emphasized that the most important measure of the success of the tour would not be the cricket itself but the response that the visiting Pakistanis (both players and other visitors) would get from the Indian public.

So, was the tour successful ? Has this tour helped the two countries to come a step closer towards each other ?

I would like to think so. To be honest, I have not been following this series as closely as I followed the previous one. I have been traveling quite a bit in the last couple of months and have not been able to examine the media coverage, both Indian and Pakistani, enough to give an unchallenged (although based on media reports only) report card on the Indian treatment of its Pakistani guests.

What I do know is that there were a couple of unpleasant incidents – something to do with stone-throwing at the bus carrying the Pakistani players and possibly another such odd incident.

In between, there was also the very significant event of the bus route between Muzaffarabad and Srinagar being opened. Just before it happened, some explosives were discovered on the route – a reminder of the magnitude of the task that lies ahead for both countries as they try to work towards a relationship that many with vested interests will do their utmost to sabotage.

It is a very tenuous relationship – as I mentioned in my “Thank You, Pakistan” article, fifty-five years of mistrust cannot be undone in a couple of months. Both governments are taking baby steps towards each other, aware that in today’s realpolitik and changed global equations, there is probably no other option. Yet both sides are equally cautious to commit to anything that may be seen as ground-yielding, such are the internal compulsions of both states. There are enough rabble-rousers on either side, with considerable clout amongst the masses, to topple or at the very least make uncomfortable any government seen as compromising on its hitherto hard stand on sensitive issues.

In this situation, considering the huge impact the media could make in the bridge-building process, one would look to them to play their part in promoting the common cause. But so far, the media, although it has not been particularly irresponsible, seems to have taken no more than a “wait-and-watch” approach. Perhaps it has been bitten by bitter experiences of the past.

Like I said, a very tenuous relationship – with loads of history.

It is for the politicians of both countries to make those major moves which they hope will open doors for better relations. Moves like cricket matches between the two countries. Moves like bus routes between the two countries. Moves like more trade between the two countries. Moves, which in today’s acronym-addicted world, are now officially referred to as “CBM” or “Confidence Building Measures”.

All of this makes sense to me and I support these moves one hundred percent. But, like I have said before, relationships are not built by governments – they are built by people. And, put it down to my impatience, I do not want to wait for the governments alone to build bridges. We, the people, are quite capable of building bridges on our own – if only we open our minds and hearts to doing so.

It is easier said than done. I understand the sensitivity of the issues involved. And the issues are far more serious than just a game of cricket. The main issue – the central issue – the “K” issue cannot be brushed off the table just because of a goodwill cricket series. The President of Pakistan quite rightly made this very clear.

For my part, I will approach the matter of Indo-Pak relations in the only manner that I can and in the manner that I believe will finally lead to people of both countries coming together.

I will not take stands or argue about history – for this will lead nowhere. It is for the politicians and the historians, on both sides, to attempt to explain and to justify whatever they seek to defend.

The only way I know to bring people together is to relate to them on a human level. Not on a level of state, religion, caste or creed. These help to form aggregations in society but, at the most primal level, everybody, wherever on earth he is born or lives, has the same emotions. Which mother does not grieve on the loss of her child ? Which child’s face does not light up when he or she is showered with love by the child’s parents ?

Is it not therefore much more logical to relate on a level of humanity than any man-made level, such as state ? After all a political boundary is nothing but a man-made demarcation on land – usually with a perfectly well-meaning objective of providing administrative ease but sometimes serving to separate societies rather than bringing them together.

There was this person who once spoke of a world without borders. I consider this a fascinating thought but am not convinced about its practicality. However, when such borders create societal splits, I cannot help wondering about what a world with borders is actually achieving.

These are random thoughts and must not be contextualized to the specifics of the India – Pakistan imbroglio. Border conflicts exist in many parts of the world and, next to religion, are the biggest reason for wars. Ironically, the ones who fight the wars and who have the most to lose are usually the ones on whose land the political lines have been drawn by governments sitting many miles away.

To many who read this, I may be coming across as na├»ve, wishful and theoretical. Somebody with nothing better to do than to blabber on meaningless matters. After all I have said nothing new here. But if all that I have said is so obvious, why is it so difficult to relate to people on a human level ? Why is it so difficult to accept people for what they are – as human beings first, and not as Indians or Pakistanis first ?

I am not suggesting that Indians or Pakistanis should not retain their national identity. If it gives them a sense of belonging, by all means they should. They should be proud of their country’s achievements and should not feel any embarrassment in wearing their country’s badge on their sleeve if they so wish.

However it would be immensely more valuable for humanity if we just took a step back and understood our core values and responsibilities as humans - and not as Indians or Pakistanis or whatever. We are privileged to be (or so I believe) among the more intelligent of species on this planet – and we would serve our cause better by forging relationships on a humanitarian level first. All forms of dichotomy, usually created and imposed by society (which by the way is also man-made), only come later.

For those, albeit a minority amongst the readers of this piece, to whom this article makes some sort of sense, I extend my friendship – to those who dismiss it as nonsense, I bear no malice. After all, it is just a dump of my thoughts and, as long as it harms nobody, I have no shame whatsoever in expressing my thoughts.

For these are values that I have carried all my life and have never had reason to doubt. I have often been accused of being a dreamer but when a dream is so close to your heart and you so badly want it to happen, I suppose you can be excused a degree of madness in its pursuit.

To me that dream has been one of India – Pakistan friendship. Today, thanks to technology, there is much more opportunity for Indians and Pakistanis to interact with each other. If that interaction helps a better understanding of each other and brings people together, that is a much stronger bond than the governments of both countries will ever be able to create.

That is all I hope from this article.

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