A MARCH FOR PEACE AND FRIENDSHIP

From India this week of March 15,2018.

A MARCH FOR PEACE AND FRIENDSHIP

Anadi Naik

In order to create good will between the peoples of India and Pakistan a group of concerned citizens is starting a Peace and Friendship March from the Sabarmati Ashram to Naderwali-Ilya Bet, the India Pakistan border in the state of Gujarat. Fishermen from both countries while fishing in the open water involuntarily cross into the neighboring territory. That puts them in each other's jail. The hostility between India and Pakistan has been going on for too long. Sooner or later it has to stop. For the good of the people from both sides cessation of hostility is not enough. A genuine friendship between the two is a demand of the highest order. That is why different organizations from both sides have joined hands. They are: Pakistan -India People's Forum for Peace and Democracy; Aaghaz-e-Dosti; Minority Coordination Committee, Gujara; Gujarat Lok Samiti; Bandhkam Mazdoor Sangatha; Pakistan Institute for Labour Education and Research, Karachi; National Alliance of People's Movements; Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal; All India Secular Forum; Manthan Samayiki, Kolkata; Jharkhand Nagrik Prayas, sacw.net, Confederation of Voluntary Agencies, Hyderabad; Hamari Awaz; Insaf Foundation; Gujarat Mazdoor Panchayat; Khudai Khidmatgar; Socialist Party (India).

There is a longing among many Pakistanis to improve the relationship with India. In the fields of sports, music and movies plenty of give and take has taken place. These areas are difficult to be controlled by Government rules. One side keeps in touch with the other through the Internet. But the economic and political affairs are directly controlled by the government and there lies the dilemma. Efforts for building a genuine friendship between the two countries has been going on for a long time. Even in the height of the enmity old friends fighting on opposite sides have managed to say "hello" to each other. Who can forget Prime Minister Vajpayee's bus-travel to Pakistan? Or President Musharraf's visit to his old neighborhood in Delhi? The former President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari came as a private citizen to visit a Sufi shrine in India. As a good will gesture Nawaz Sharif was invited by the incoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi in whose swearing in ceremony he participated. Later, Modi on his way from Afghanistan visited Sharif on his birthday at his home. Lahore was not Islamabad. The atmosphere was conducive for the two prime ministers to talk freely.

No matter what, the elephant in the room in Pakistan is its military establishment. Keeping the country in a permanent state of preparedness for war is in its best interest. Therefore, peaceful engagement away from some sort of military confrontation becomes anathema to its way of thinking. Such thinking may be counterproductive. The military establishment of Pakistan is stunting both economic and political progresses. Pakistan is financially teetering on bankruptcy. Economic indicators such as employment, industrial output, foreign exchange reserve, gross national production and rate of growth are much lower compared to many countries of the same size. However, its population is growing. Instead of providing them education and making them ready for productive engagement the prevailing system feeds them heavy doses of religious fundamentalism. As a result many of the Pakistani youth fall victim to wrong ideas. They go outside the country to destroy rather than build a new world. Represented by these misguided fundamentalists Pakistan continues to export Jihad around the world. Its immediate neighbors India and Afghanistan have paid heavy prices for this. Most of the terrorists have always come from the Pakistan side. In the Mumbai massacre, the Pakistani military had a direct hand in it. Therefore, at a particular level it is impossible to trust Pakistan's military. It is strong and powerful within the country. Nothing can move without its consent.

History tells us that no matter how strong and entrenched a system may be, collective anger of the masses can tear it into pieces. That is why Pakistan needs people's uprising to challenge its military. It has to come from within Pakistan. No one can predict when or how it would come. A small, insignificant incident could trigger a sea of change like it did for the Arab Spring. A fruit vendor was beaten up by the police and the event catapulted the entire Arab World to overthrow regimes one after the other.

In the past the likes of Mridula Sarabhai, Jayaprakash Narayn, Narayan Desai and Nirmala Despande have tried from this side to build people to people relationships among Indians and Pakistanis. .Hopefully, those who are conducting the march now would get a visa to enter Pakistan. This sort of goodwill march goes a long way in building confidence and friendship between India and Pakistan and their people. We wish the marchers every success.


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