By Anil Datta
Karachi: Presenting a model to India and Pakistan for conflict resolution, the French and German envoys on Tuesday recounted how the two countries, once arch rivals, managed to overcome their centuries-old enmity.
It was perhaps one of the most informative and intellectually invigorating sessions of a strategic seminar organised as part of the Aman Ki Asha initiative jointly undertaken by the Times of India and the Jang Group to help create an environment conducive to holding a dialogue for peace between the two South Asian neighbours. A number of notables from India and Pakistan are attending the event which began at the Avari Towers here on Tuesday.
Sharing their own experiences, the French and German ambassadors were of the opinion that peace was possible between India and Pakistan.
French Ambassador Daniel Jouanneau said the European Union (EU) had seen the longest period of peace since the end of the Roman Empire.
"We feel it is better to share our sovereignty for the better future of our citizens," he said, adding that most of the member countries were now sharing their monetary sovereignty and 16 countries had the euro as their currency.
He said that the two World Wars - World War I claimed 40 million lives and World War II left 67 million dead - brought about a stark, sombre realisation that wars were no solution to problems and brought nothing but destruction and misery to the masses who had no role in causing them.
Today, he said, a war between two European countries was unthinkable. He said there had been real enmity between France and Germany for hundreds of years but then both countries realised that enmity got them nowhere and brought nothing but tragedy in its wake.
The political union, he said, was built on the values of democracy, justice, human rights, and a balanced mixture of free market and welfare state economy. Today, he said, the EU was the world's largest aid donor ($12 billion) and the largest market.
Michael Koch, the German ambassador, thought that differences between India and Pakistan had been overestimated.
The Franco-German situation, he said, precipitated after two devastating wars, which in turn had emerged from the concept of hereditary enmity. He said there was no such thing as hereditary enmity and there was nothing positive about the concept. "We should promote the culture of compromise."
In this context, he cited the example of the province of Alsace , a territory that was captured by Germany but after the Second World War was returned to France through a negotiated settlement. He said it was this culture of compromise "whereby the views and interests of your opponents have to be accommodated," which brought about a situation whereby no devastation was caused and the territorial question was solved peacefully in the interests of the people of both countries.
Koch said the EU experience showed that competition was productive if it took place in a framework defined by law, adding that competition was nothing to fear. He credited German chancellor Konrad Adeneur and French president Charles De Gaulle with this permanent end to Franco-German acrimony and lauded their political sagacity.
Other speakers urged Pakistan and India to put the past behind, get rid of prejudices and look to the future dispassionately to bring about lasting peace and stability in South Asia.
The event began on a congenial and friendly note, totally free of the trappings of the traditional Indo-Pak acrimony. Maj-Gen (retd) Mahmud Durrani, former National Security adviser and former envoy to the US, said that on account of the under-informed young generations on both sides of the divide, the two nations should rev up contacts to remove misconceptions about each other and try to overcome prejudices that had thus far soured ties between the neighbours.
Among other things, General Durrani, who was also a moderator of a session of the seminar, said that the field of commerce, textiles and energy could be two spheres in which both countries could have a very fruitful mutual relationship.
Citing the findings of a survey conducted to determine whether people felt that India and Pakistan had a common destiny, he said a large percentage replied in the affirmative.
The participants of the seminar, he said, would have to devise a mechanism to counter inbuilt prejudices and deal with unfortunate phenomena like terrorism.
Ravi Dhariwal, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of The Times of India, said that the two countries could traverse a long way on the road to reconciliation "if we could overcome prejudices and adopt a pragmatic approach, whereby we could have features like Indian and Pakistani industrialists and businessmen investing in each other's countries".
This, he said, could be augmented by frequent exchange of writers, journalists, and others so that an intellectual groundwork could be laid for the people of the two countries to be accepting of each other. "In this way, we could achieve a lot in eradicating the distrust between the two countries that currently seems to just cling on.
"We, The Times of India and the Jang Group, have emboldened the two countries to put aside prejudices and embark on the road to harmony."
The first speaker of the session, Shahrukh Hasan , Group Managing Director Jang Group, tracing the inception of the Aman Ki Asha concept, said, "We realised that development at the desired pace could never take place without peace between India and Pakistan. So we decided that civil society should highlight our cultural affinities." Aman Ki Asha, he said, had led other fora to believe that peace between the two neighbours was absolutely possible.
He cited textiles, energy, information technology (IT) and health sectors which held a lot of promise for viable cooperation between the two countries, adding that India could outsource IT business to Pakistan to the tune of a large amount. He said there was hope that these moves would bear fruit. Quoting the findings of a survey, he said that in 2009 the terror threat perception in India vis-a-vis Pakistan had dropped from 75 percent to 54 percent.
Forty-three percent of people in Pakistan, he said, were in favour of frequent people-to-people contacts between the two countries. Sixty-five percent of Indians and 71 percent of Pakistanis believed that Aman Ki Asha had brought about a healthy change with an increase in positive perceptions and a decrease in the negative ones, he said.
Later, speakers elaborated on the possibility of Indo-Pak peace in two closed-door sessions. The speakers of the second session 'Resolving Issues' were former Indian foreign secretary Salman Haider, Pakistan's former high commissioner's to India Aziz Ahmed Khan, Indian parliamentarian Rajeev Shukla and senior analyst Shafqat Mehmood. The third session 'Commerce and Trade' was addressed by former governor SBP Dr Ishrat Hussain, Indian parliamentarian Manvendra Singh, CEO Times of India Ravi Dhariwal and President Pakistan's Business Council Asad Umar.
Wednesday, March 09, 2011
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The News on Sunday Special Report: India Pakistan prisoners more editions
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