NEW DELHI: Some of the stalwarts of Pakistani and Indian media took the centre-stage on Wednesday to articulate the desire for peace and cooperation between the peoples of these two South Asian nations, underlining the need that they could move forward together despite a history of tumultuous relations.
The second and the concluding day of the Indo-Pak Business meet - organised under the auspices of Aman ki Asha, a peace initiative launched jointly by Pakistan's Jang Group and The Times of India Group - saw the focus of discussions shifting plane from the hard, factual tangibles of trade, commerce and business to the world of media - where intangibles often remain the most solid commodity.
Pakistan's Geo Television's Imran Aslam, Editor-in-Chief of the Outlook Group, India Vinod Mehta, President of Indian Council for Cultural Relations Karan Singh and Indian filmmaker Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra kept the audience spell-bound as they discussed the complexities of challenges and prospects of partnership between the two countries.
"It is a relationship drenched in nostalgia and patched with pain - all very romantic, all very poetic and all very tragic," said Imran Aslam. "Whenever Indians and Pakistanis of our generation visit each other, they go in search of their fractured past. Looking for some fragment of memory, an abandoned house, a lane that once was, an ink-stained mutilated desk carved with the initials of a face once loved now forgotten, some half-remembered fragrance ... a chalk marked blackboard now wiped clean by a new class monitor, or a letter that was written, was folded, was inserted in an envelope, was addressed but never posted."
However, Aslam said that it was a time when Indians and Pakistan visit each other - they search not for the fleeting past, but for the future. "This is easier said than done. We have not yet unpacked the excess baggage we cart around at the tremendous cost to our people. And we keep filling our baggage with trinkets and souvenirs of prejudices, stereotypes, induced hatreds... It is a toxic relationship where love and hate alternate with alarming regularity."
Aslam said that there was a need for dialogue rather than monologue, joint programs, opening up of air waves and cross border information. "It is time that some corrective measures are taken. We have to connect. We have to create more empathy for each other's problems ... We need to celebrate our successes rather than gloat at each other's defeats."
"I believe that the presence of Pakistani media in India and Indian media in Pakistan can help moderate some of the intolerance that passes as opinion in both countries," Aslam added. Replying to a point raised by one Indian speaker Dr Karan Singh, Aslam said that it was a wrong impression that there was a one-way traffic of artists from Pakistan to India. Several leading Indian artists and performers have performed in Pakistan as well as for Pakistan's premier private television channel Geo.
Vinod Mehta, Editor-in-chief, Outlook Group, in his address said that there was nothing more important than people-to-people contact and it should go beyond the elite of the two countries and include common people. "The way to move forward is to put as much pressure on the governments."
He said that media can play a major role in improving relations, but it has limitations. "People-to-people contacts cannot exist in vacuum. If the two governments have estranged relations, if the mood is hysterical in the two countries then it is unrealistic to ask media to cool it down. It also takes cue from the public mood." He said lack of free-flow of information remains a main problem. "Journalists of the two countries shouted themselves hoarse to allow each other's publications ... it never happened. I can go to any stall in Delhi and buy a British tabloid, but not any Pakistani publication. Same is true for Pakistan."
Dr Karan Singh, president of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, asked Pakistan to allow his council to open Indian cultural centre in Islamabad and reciprocate it by opening a Pakistani cultural centre in New Delhi.
He said that from classical political and economic diplomacy, the two countries should focus more on people-to-people diplomacy, which is done by building cultural ties. "Despite our turbulent relations, we have strong personal ties - based on common heritage and culture," he said.
From the common languages of Punjabi and Urdu to the shrines of sufi saints, food, literature and poetry remain some of the key binding factors, he said. Soft interface of Hinduism and Islam have both made their mark on Indian and Pakistani cultures," he said.
Dr Singh said that South Asia should follow European Union model of cooperation in which the centrepiece would be Dante between Pakistan and India.Indian filmmaker Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra said that entertainment was connecting people, which in the globalised world had no boundaries.
"We need to rethink, relook and adapt into global citizens," he said. He proposed that Indians and Pakistanis should own studios in one another's countries and create Indo-Pak entertainment content in English for the global market. "Indo-Pakization of the world of entertainment ... it is a possibility," he said.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
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The News on Sunday Special Report: India Pakistan prisoners more editions
We probably didn't need to do this Special Report. Newspaper stories don't matter when it comes to Indians in Pakistani jails and vice versa. In fact, 'vice versa' sums it up. We do to them what they do to us.
Except when the two countries decide to begin talking, yet again! This time a little before the foreign secretary level talks, some Pakistani prisoners were released by India (and vice versa must have happened) and some more were release....read more
For the past 2 years the Jang Group and Geo have been working on a project of great national interest; one that we hope will help usher in an era of peace and prosperity in the country and indeed, in the region. And one that hopefully all Pakistanis can be proud of. more
The Jang Group has entered into an agreement with the Times of India Group, the largest media group of India, to campaign for peace betw