"They're just saying we'll keep talking but we'll also keep biting," commented a disgruntled senior colleague at the post-press conference reception in Islamabad.
However, in the context of India-Pakistan relations -- more they talk, the less they'll bite. And the more they talk, the closer they can get to understanding each other's perceptions and moving closer to taking steps that the other side would welcome. This is not to endorse 'talking just for the sake of talking' but to underline the point that, given the lengthy periods in which there has been no dialogue, any contact is better than none. As senior Indian journalist Prem Shankar Jha notes in his analysis published on this page, during the recent meeting, neither side fully understood the constraints of the other - including domestic compulsions.
Then there was the media hype. Their biggest mistake was the much delayed press conference. Journalists, waiting for over six hours for something meaty to file or broadcast, were just raring to go. Those who were called upon - including in the question session extending beyond the original format of two questions from each side - let rip with provocative questions. That is after all what journalists do. Not to mention that some of those who asked provocative questions are known to have links with the conservative 'establishment'. Why must they be called upon every time? Perhaps because there are powerful interests in the establishments on both sides who don't want peace - or who, at the very least, want to push their own agendas that have no space for the political constraints of the other side.
What this press conference - as well as during previous occasions -- made abundantly clear was that talks between Pakistan and India should be held away from the media glare. "Peace is not an event but a process," as a Naga woman said, addressing a gathering of South Asian women some time ago. This is something that the governments on both sides need to understand.
Time to stop playing to the media gallery and the public, and move towards a sustained, consistent and open-minded communication. The bottom line is that there is no alternative to dialogue. And that while the governments sort out their political differences, they should at least not let the people suffer - ease visa restrictions, let people meet, allow trade (yes, even transit trade), remove non-tariff barriers. In short, behave like civilised neighbours in the 21st century.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
An online video about Sikhs looking after a mosque built by his ancestors inspires
the writer to re-connect with his past across the border
By Syed Saadat Hu
I had the opportunity to lead an 80-member high-level business delegation of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) to Pakistan in May 2012 f .....more
RIP Asghar Ali Engineer
A legacy of peace, rational thinking,
Asoft spoken, gentle and unassuming person, always clad in a .....more
Time to douse the fire
"Pakistan-India relations have been strained for decades due to a number of well known issues - Kashmir, water, sporadic skirmis .....more
An innovative idea connects Indians and Pakistanis with 'the other side'
"It saddens me that we have neighbours that we can't even go visit." "The .....more
Congratulating Nawaz Sharif on the electoral win of his political party, Aman ki Asha's plea to both governments continues to be: "Stay the course". Let the people re .....more
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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