'Without peace with India, Pakistan can never progress'
Jang Group Managing Director Shahrukh Hasan talks to Christopher Lydon of Radio
Open Source.org about Aman ki Asha and India Pakistan relations
Shahrukh Hasan: Aman ki Asha's literal meaning is "Hope for Peace", but the two words, which are in Urdu and Hindi, also reflect the collaborative nature of the scheme. This is a collaboration between India and Pakistan in a general sense, and between the Jang Group, the largest newspaper conglomerate of Pakistan, and the Times of India, which is also by far the largest newspaper group in India, in particular.
This peace initiative Aman ki Asha was conceived in Pakistan by us. We then took it to India, where we met a lot of people and were advised that given the background of hostility between the two countries, given the political baggage that the governments carry, given the vested interests that exist between the two countries (as a result of which any attempt by governments have failed), we would have half a hope in hell of succeeding if we had a very powerful ally in India: a natural counterpart, somebody who would mirror the movement that we would initiate in Pakistan, only then would it be possible for us to take it forward. We met many different people, one of whom was Pakistan's High Commissioner in India, and he said that your first task should be to convert your most powerful enemy - which is the Times of India. The Times of India is your counterpart in India, it is a very powerful newspaper, it is very hawkish in terms of editorial policy vis-a-vis Pakistan, so let's see you convert them first. And if you can get them to participate and to partner this movement, then you would have a movement campaign - an initiative for peace - that would move from one end of Pakistan to the other end of India.
So we went and met with the Times of India and discussed problems besetting the two countries, we discussed our relationships, we discussed the plight of divided families, we spoke of lost opportunities, we spoke of the potential of the two countries. And we said if there is one thing we could do, a single item on our wish list, it would be to have peace between the two countries. What peace means to India is nothing compared to what peace means to Pakistan. For us it is an existential threat.
The road to progress for Pakistan leads through India - if we have no peace with India we can never progress. Whether it is the absence of democracy, whether it is the poor economic conditions, whether it is our international image, which has taken a battering over the last several decades and is probably at its worst ebb right now... All of this can be linked to one single aspect of our existence and that is the conflict between India and Pakistan.
And a very strange and unique aspect of this conflict - if you look at the conflict between the Palestinians and the Arabs or the Balkan conflicts or the Second World War, or any conflict in the history of the world, you will find that the conflict existed between the governments as well as the people. The French hated the Germans, the Arabs and Israelis cannot sit in a single room, but in the case of India and Pakistan only the governments are in conflict. The people are very friendly and warm towards each other and there are still divided families between India and Pakistan... The very strange part of this conflict is that if you put Indians and Pakistanis in a room, you would not be able to tell them apart. Not only because we look alike, but because we would be very friendly towards each other. This is a very strange part of this conflict between these two nuclear-armed countries.
We have very strong vested interests in both countries, which will not allow peace to prevail between the two countries. If there were peace, for instance, why would we need the huge army that we have? And why would India need the huge army that it has? We have no conflict with any country other than India. We are one of the poorest countries in the world, and yet we have the fifth or sixth largest standing army in the world. We equip it beyond our means.
If we were able to divert that money towards development expenditure or education, if we were to enjoy the dividends of peace and economic collaboration with India, if India could have access to the Central Asian markets through land routes in Pakistan, the sky would be the limit! The European Union has 71% of its entire trade within the European Union. In the case of India and Pakistan and this region, the intra-country trade is 4%. There is 96% trade dependence on countries far away from Pakistan. There is huge potential of collaboration between India and Pakistan. Together they would be a very strong vendor, they would enjoy competitive advantages that divided they don't have.
There is a perception in Pakistan, particularly amongst the establishment, that the Indians have not reconciled to the partition of India. I think they have. If you talk to people in India, they are no longer interested - if ever they were - in a united territory, which forms Pakistan and India. They are quite happy living in their own separate homeland as we are quite happy living in our own separate homeland, but we want to live as friendly neighbours: prosperous, friendly neighbours in our separate countries. It's not like East and West Germany where you break down a wall and they become the same country and the same people - these are different people. That is an historical fact that both countries have reconciled to.
Interview: Christopher Lydon; Produced by: Ben Mandelkern;
Pakistan producer: Zarminae Ansari; Transcribed by:
Hear complete interviews at:
Wednesday, April 04, 2012
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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