By Laleh Habib
'Our's is a unique region in the world, where despite three wars between our two countries, the vibrant people to people chemistry is unprecedented,' mused industrialist Amin Hashwani, speaking in the context of Indo-Pak relations at a meeting of the Aman ki Asha IT Committee recently held in Karachi, that he moderated.
His observation about the vibrant people to people chemistry was borne out amply over the four days that the delegates of the Aman ki Asha IT Conference spent together, organised by the Jang Group of Pakistan and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). During these deliberations, heads of Pakistani and Indian IT companies, entrepreneurs and leaders of thought focused on exploring opportunities for cross-border projects and trade between the two countries. They also formed lasting friendships.
The IT Committee is one of six committees formed at the end of a major economic meet in New Delhi in May this year organised by Aman ki Asha. The committees, drawn from sectors identified as having the greatest potential for collaboration, have chapters in India and in Pakistan and work towards bilateral trade and investment. This was the first joint meeting of an Aman ki Asha Committee.
Most of the Indian delegates had never visited Pakistan before. Some spoke of apprehensions and misgivings that they had had, others said that visiting this country had been a lifelong dream. 'It was a trip I that I was looking forward too but did not know what to expect,' confessed Rahul Mohod, CEO of iResolvIT. But despite mixed expectations, there was absolute consensus about the end result - beyond expectations, in the best way possible.
Even the bureaucratic hurdles of visas (typically last minute) and police reporting couldn't dampen spirits. And once they were together, the close and familial ties of the delegates from the two countries trumped everything else. Reflecting upon the journey, Mohod said, ' From the moment I landed at Karachi, through to Lahore and then Moen-jo-Daro, it felt like home. '
Four days flew by in a whirlwind of economics, IT talk, food, art, culture, history and music. These are the ties that bind us, ties that cross the Radcliffe line and have proved so far to be more resilient than any visa restrictions.
The potential for synergy between the IT industries of both countries became obvious during the very first day of conferences and brainstorming. Delegates explored the many benefits of cooperation and the potential for numerous cross-border initiatives. Several initiatives were immediately identified, with Pakistani and Indian champions. An action plan was drawn up, and is already well underway.
Observing the delegates interact, it was obvious that the ties that link them go far beyond business. They stretch back into the songs they grew up listening to, the kind of architecture they see in our hometowns and the tastes their palates crave.
After productive meetings in Karachi, I flew with IT Committee to Lahore to enjoy the famous foods and architecture of this historic city. Dining at Andaaz in the Old City overlooking the Badshahi Mosque - the most surreal backdrop to a perfect evening - we reveled in how the magnificent mosque was built with indigenous clay from what is now Pakistan, then clad with red sandstone tiles from Rajasthan. These bricks and walls are indelible signs of our shared culture and history. The conversation that flowed was a mark of the spontaneous camaraderie and fraternity between people, despite hostilities at the government level.
After our wonderful meal, we toured Yusuf Salahuddin's beautiful haveli. Sitting around a fire in the courtyard, singing old Bollywood songs and tunes immortalised by Mehdi Hasan and Farida Khanum that many remembered from childhood, it was hard to tell who was Pakistani and who Indian.
The songs and friendship carried through the rest of the trip, through sightseeing in Lahore and a tour of Mohenjodaro. Delegates had come to the meeting believing that business and economic ties will bring our countries closer together, pushing the governments to develop more amicable relations. But what was really clear by the end of the four days together was that as far as the people are concerned, there is already a tremendous groundswell of fraternity, shared interests and culture and much goodwill.
We simply need opportunities to bring us together to experience it.
Laleh Habib is Coordinator,
Aman ki Asha, Pakistan.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
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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.
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