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India and the World : India – Pakistan. The tradition is the bridge!

India and the World : India – Pakistan. The tradition is the bridge!

        Baskaran Krishnamurthy

Read Chapter 1 , Chapter 2 , Chapter 3 , Chapter 4Chapter 5Chapter 6Chapter 7, Chapter 8Chapter 9, Chapter 10Chapter 11Chapter 12, chapter 13 if you are yet read them.

“We must evolve other methods of settling our differences and disputes. Direct negotiations would be an ideal solution. As the late President Kennedy so fittingly said: While we should never negotiate out of fear, we should never fear to negotiate.”  (Lal Bahadur Shastri, at the Non –Aligned Nations’ Conference in Cairo on October 7, 1964)

India and Pakistan, naturally, have many things in common and this commonality should lead to harmony but strangely, it is not given a try; by either side.

Trade is the best bet in the modern commercial world. India has conferred on Pakistan the status of ‘MFN’ – Most Favored Nation. Pakistan has not reciprocated yet.

As the Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan said – ‘the trade between the two countries should have been $30 billion whereas it is only $5 billion now. Pakistan was the largest buyer of Indian cotton and also sugar worth $46.46 million in 2015-16. India has been traditionally supplying meat, chemicals,  medicines and agricultural products to Pakistan and India  buys nuts, fruit, cement, leather products and rare earth materials from Pakistan’. – reports Business Today (31/10/2018)

Trade restrictions can be relaxed; taxes and duties can be waived; incentives and concessions can be rolled out; grants and subsidies can be increased.  Encouraging and stimulating the business activities would strengthen the bilateral relations.

Frequent talks and interactions between the Chambers of Commerce and other trade associations of the two countries without the intervention of the Governments would open the doors for mutual business co-operation and this in turn would help improve the relations in other fields as well.

Economic agreements and commercial arrangements at individual, organization and corporate level should be allowed to have a smooth sailing; business conclaves, seminars and conferences between the traders and prospective investors of the two countries should be given impetus; products and markets with optimum returns should be identified and concerned ministries should give utmost importance to firm up any business proposals put forward by the chamber of commerce of the other country.

A special drive and special provisions by both governments to boost the business should not pose any problem. Losing a few hundred rupees of duties and taxes for bringing peace and prosperity should not be a big issue.

The sea route between Mumbai and Karachi and the road way across the Wagah border should be open to joint patrolling and movement of goods and vehicles should be hindrance free. If need be, at the initial stage for a few years, security related issues may be outsourced to a third party like Norway who would act more like a facilitator and a service provider.

Stimulated and motivated economic activities would improve the economic conditions of the people living in the border areas; this would reduce the possibility of them being lured by terrorist forces to join them. Once poverty is alleviated and general economic condition is improved, these people would no longer be vulnerable and exposed to sinister designs of the militant forces.

Extraordinary amount of forgiveness and farsightedness in the leaders and rulers of both India and Pakistan is needed to create an atmosphere of normal, cordial economic relations. It may look far fetched; yet, it is largely attainable; very much achievable.

There is yet another area that offers much more. It is much easier too to activate the players therein. Culture! India and Pakistan have cultural elements that are equally popular and attractive in both countries.

Music, Dance, Literature, food, fashion, festivals, sports, customs and traditions…  India and Pakistan have a treasure that is too pleasing and too precious. They are loved by the peoples of both the countries.

Art knows no boundaries. Imaginative skills do not have frontiers. The Soul of a song, the message of a poem, the elegance of a dance, the marvel of a structure, the grandeur of one’s attire, the taste of one’s food, the style of one’s play and the specialty of one’s tradition is bound to attract and captivate anyone’s mind and heart.

Pakistan must not suffer from crisis of identity anymore. Lahore should be its face. Art lovers from all over the world would be thrilled by the age old tradition, culture and customs of Lahore. The foods, the fashion, the festivals of the city are truly attractive and one of the best in the world.

Pakistan would be greatly benefited by the cultural values of Lahore. The government should try to protect and promote the traditional ingredients of the city. It offers everything that is just opposite of what Pakistan is widely known for today.

The Literary Festival, World Performing Art Festival, Art Gallery Exhibitions, the Festival of Lamps, the National Horse and Cattle Show, the ghazals, the qawwallis, the foods offered in ‘havelis’, apart from the traditional wares, the bangles, the jewels, the antique attires and apparels…. the most liberal, conservative-yet-cosmopolitan, art filled lifestyle of Lahore is surely the ultimate destination point of the tourists from all over.

If the rulers of Pakistan could divert to Lahore – a fraction of their funds and energy that they lavishly spend in promoting militancy in Kashmir and elsewhere – that would transform the hole country to a peace loving, soul searching Land inviting millions of tourists. That would change the entire social, political and economic scenario of Pakistan.

Every day, when we hear about Pakistan’s ‘threat calls’ to India, our hearts throb with a certain amount of anguish and agony because this is the country that has the most appealing art forms, a treasure that the humanity at large would seek and cherish.  It is most disappointing and disheartening that Pakistan does not look into the prospect of making Lahore the ‘address’ of its collective customs and colouful culture.

India has its share too. Hindi movies could really bring the peoples together and film music has a powerful unifying chord that is being politically denied by the powers that be to the common man of Pakistan. Recently, a couple of gays ago, Pakistan Court ordered ban of screening television channels from India. We could understand the objection to the contents of some of the shows. They should be banned in India as well. What is bad and detrimental to the people of a region or a country should be bad to anyone in any part of the world. But a blanket disapproval would serve nobody’s interests.

‘National flavor’ does not mean spreading hatred and venom against some other. It is our experience in India too that patriotism is being used or exploited rather to divide the peoples on political, geographical lines and has not contributed a bit to be an adhesive and a binding factor. Whose fault is this? Can a ‘creative’ art be allowed to be destructive? What do the ‘Boards’ do when incriminating stuff comes before them for clearance? ‘Pro-India’ is ok – to a certain extent. Propagation of an emotional ‘anti-Pakistan’ sentiment must be prohibited in the best interest of smooth bilateral relations.

Many have raised questions on certain points of this series as well – on the negative comments against Pakistan. Their objections are legitimate and perfect. If one finds fault with Pakistan for so many wrong doings, they could be so many such things on the other side too. This is written by an Indian, from India’s perspective. It may sound odd or even unacceptable when it squarely blames Pakistan for everything. A counter to this description is very much possible that might be factual, carrying more weight too.

As an independent, sovereign country, Pakistan has every right to defend itself and to promote its interests. We have only questioned its mal-intentions in trying to destabilize a democratic neighbor that is not going to help its cause either. A peaceful India – Pakistan – China corridor would be immensely beneficial to all the three constituents.

Political misunderstandings, inter-governmental misgivings and petty squabbles here and there do not matter much. They can be sorted out any day by anyone. But it is our duty to ensure that the rift does not widen; the scar does not deepen. What sincere efforts are being undertaken by either side to heal the wound and seal the fight?

In this regard, South India could be more actively engaged. Excepting a few quarters, there are not many in this part of the country who carry so much of a dreadful feel against Pakistan. Particularly, Tamilnadu, Kerala or Karnataka does not have anything to do with the partition of or ‘politics’ on Pakistan.

Hence, stronger cultural bonds between the southern states of India with Lahore and other cities of Pakistan are easier to establish. For example, Chennai – Lahore cultural partnership will not find any serious hurdle on its way since it would be a convergence of two totally different cultural, traditional practices and performances.

In the last 70 years or so, we have done ‘literally’ nothing to bring South India and Pakistan to interact with each other.  Have we ever thought of anything like ‘Pakistani Ghazal and a Thyagaraja Keerthana’ combine in a music festival? Pakistani art forms along with Tamil folk arts would be a deadly pair to enthrall the world art lovers.

The focus of the governments should be on the unifying factors like co-operation in the field of Higher Education, Science & Technology and Environmental Science instead of fighting over what separate us. How many institutions of higher education have come up in collaboration with these two countries?  Why do the Universities not attempt to introduce new courses that would be mutually beneficial? Scholarships, Loans and accommodation facilities should be extended to Pakistani youth who would have a first-hand experience of what it is like to live in India and the opportunity to move with the Indian youth would help carry the message of friendship and brotherhood. The authorities concerned may try and devise a plan to establish joint ventures in the field of education.

Medical care is another area that would bring the peoples closer. Chennai has been the medical hub of the country and Pakistanis would be too happy to visit, stay and have the best medical attention in Chennai at an affordable cost. The Hospitals in Chennai and the hospitality of Chennai people would be a new chapter in India – Pakistan relations.

Sports, during the past few decades, have failed miserably all over the world to be a unifying force. Football has not done a bit to bring the peoples of European countries under one umbrella. Cricket as well has not helped our cause to be united. It has in fact gone to the extent that an ‘India- Pakistan Cricket match’ is more of a law and order issue and that it would ‘vitiate’ the ‘normal’ circumstances. What does it mean? We do not people to know that it’s a game between a team of a Indian Cricket Board and a team of Pakistan Cricket Board. We are bent upon spreading the false image that it would be a fight between India and Pakistan and that the ‘pride of the nation’ is at stake. It is nothing but utter non-sense. Yet, the ‘game’ goes on!

Games are now a weapon to fight with rather than a tool to unite. It is the direct fall out of the madness called patriotism. People are being doctored to be sensitive rather than sensible. Because, it ‘pays’.  Normal relationship would be ‘unprofitable’ to some and hence it is not forthcoming. If the fringe elements could be kept at distance, nothing would be non-pragmatic or impracticable in bilateral relations. The rules are to be set and norms have to be agreed upon. That is all. Are we really ready for it?

High time India and Pakistan set aside the issues that are plaguing them for the past 7 decades and form a new, ‘model’ friendship. A clear road map must be drafted and a plan of action should be defined that would usher in a ‘people-to-people’ contact to clear the air of suspicion and distrust and to create a conducive atmosphere of mutual trust and co-operation.

A spirit of brotherhood is possible only when the brotherly care and concern for each other exist. Let us start moving towards achieving it. Our artists and artisans have it in plenty in them to do it. Let them take over. The happier days would not be far off.

From Pakistan, let us move on – to Sri Lanka!

Author – Baskaran Krishnamurthy, Writer, Columnist & Income Tax officer 

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