Whenever the word barrier is mentioned in our region, there is no prize for guessing what it is referring to. Barriers between the Pakistan & India have proven to be a “everyone loses” situation, however nobody seems to be making some sort of practical progress in this regard. What’s the cause? Well that is in itself a separate debate. However, the encouraging fact is that independent organizations have started pushing for efforts to normalize relations between the two countries in their own humble capacity.
A similar peace festival has been organized since past four years in Chandigarh know as the International Youth Peace Festival where students & young professionals from all over & especially our region gather in an effort to lower the barriers between their countries & to initiate a bond of peace & friendship at an individual level at least.
This year around at the 5th International Youth Peace Festival, unfortunately the Pakistani delegation was not granted the visa to attend which was quite disappointing to say the least for not just the participants but for the organizers as well who had put in loads of efforts & their time for making the arrangements & preparations at our end. As every one of us was still down with this news a video conference was arranged with the delegates in Chandigarh on the topic “Barriers free India & Pakistan”. Though the idea in itself seems ironic, that we were talking about being barrier free while we were participating over a barrier itself, but still this conference left us with signs of hope, something that is essential for us to keep trying & not giving up when everything seems to be going against the plans.
As we started off by expressing our disappointment for not being able to attend, the same emotions were reciprocated at the other end with equal force. There on we moved on to answering some questions rather I would say misconceptions about Pakistan & its people. Major one being our stance on terrorism. Our team I hope was able to convey this quite clearly that we too have only condemnation for terrorism as we are the ones who have suffered the most at all fronts.
When we identified the barriers that exist between us which include political, logistical & physiological, I felt that the physiological barrier was the strongest. As the age old perceptions we have about each other, we are still prisoners to them & breaking away from them seems impossible to us.
The main solution we could think of & which seemed quite practical to us is “People to People’ contact, because without that the physiological barriers can’t be eliminated. The idea that we need to make friends from across the border as an initial step to the way forward. One of the delegates from India (sorry I don’t remember her name) put it quite appropriately, that we need to make friends to see & experience that all this talk of friendship & peace is worth it or not. And few of us who have some sort of experience on both sides know that answer would in most cases be that it sure is worth it.
The Indian delegation had prepared a slogan “Five days & Five years”, implying that we trying designing a plan for the next five days & then a proposal for the next five years as to what should be done in these two time frames which will help improve relations.
We made some recommendations which included exchange of email ids between the delegations to initiate a process of friendship, then an online petition in support of the easing of the visa process. Then exchange of educationist, intellectuals, & sportsmen as a gesture of goodwill. Exchange of regional cultures as both sides have extremely rich cultures & currently the exchange is limited to the music industry. We also recommended the exchange of the civil society. Friends in Chandigarh came up with a draft of the petition which was spot on & expressed our sentiments about the current situation. They too were in agreement with our suggestions & added their ideas which would help lower the barriers.