In the wake of the Mumbai terror attack and heightened hostility between India and Pakistan,an Aman Karwan (Peace Caravan) from Pakistan arrived in the Capital on Wednesday. Aimed at initiating civil society dialogue between the two countries,the delegation has 21 Pakistani intellectuals and activists.
Though diplomatic ties between the two countries have been anything but cordial since 26/11,some in the delegation point elsewhere. As many as 36 young Pakistanis students just came to India to participate in a science summit, Samina Bano Rahman of the Womens Action Forum says. Pakistan-based groups also staged plays at the National School of Dramas annual festival recently.
This is the first time that Samina crossed the Wagah border on foot. She says besides diplomatic co-operation,civilian sentiments also makes such initiatives possible.
Today our group of around 25 people crossed the Wagah border on foot. Then from Amritsar,we took a flight to Delhi. Everything went without a glitch and this was possible because of the co-operation from the Indian authorities, she says. And the same authorities granted Visa to the 36 students. But at the same time,its people like us who convince parents to send their children to India or to Pakistan. So civil society matters greatly, she says.
Kamala Bhasin of the South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR),one of the organisations hosting the delegation,says,In the wake of the Mumbai attack and the rise of certain jingoistic elements,we would like to stress that war is no solution. On both sides,its the civil society that suffers. I believe cancelling the Indo-Pak cricket match did not achieve anything,and I oppose that step.
Congress leader Karan Singh,who is slated to meet the delegation comprising people like Najam Sethi,Editor,Daily Times,and Asma Jahangir,Chair of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan,says dialogue is necessary. Culturally,we have to keep ties alive. In this context,any kind of dialogue is welcome. Members of the civil society help mould public opinion, he says.
The delegates will be in Delhi till January 23 and will visit the Jawaharlal Nehru University,among other places.