A year of awareness raisingWhat the governments of India and Pakistan have been unable to achieve despite many well intentioned and well considered peace offensives over sixty years, the Aman ki Asha peace campaign appears to have achieved in just 12 months. One year after the Jang Group and the Times of India launched Aman ki Asha, an Indo-Pak peace initiative, perceptions about the two countries are significantly less hostile, as a poll conducted jointly in India and Pakistan shows.
People in both countries are more desirous and more hopeful of sustained peace between the two neighbours. Poll results clearly show that the Aman ki Asha campaign has brought about a sea change in perceptions and the people of both countries show greater awareness, and greater appreciation, of each other's concerns.
Aman ki Asha polled people in nine major cities and forty-two villages in Pakistan and six major cities in India. The poll found that terror has receded greatly in the minds of Indians as the first thing they associate Pakistan with, dropping from top-of-mind for 75% of those polled in December 2009, to 42% in December 2010. Last year, 82% in Mumbai and 74% in Delhi associated Pakistan with terrorism, but those figures are down to 49 and 46% respectively.
The association of India with Kashmir has reduced in Pakistan, but it is still top of mind at 53%. 14% instantly associate "India" with a hope for better relations while another 14% fear attack from India. Awareness of the Kashmir issue has quadrupled to 425% in India, with 17% showing awareness one after launch of Aman ki Asha as against an awareness of only 4% before it was launched.
It's been a bumpy year for diplomacy between the two countries with successes, like the two Prime Ministers meeting for the first time after 26/11, and hiccups like foreign minister S.M. Krishna's trip to Pakistan. In spite of that, public perception of Indo-Pak relations at the government-to-government level as well as the people-to-people level have improved in both countries, though it is still much lower in India than in Pakistan.
Where governments may have faltered, people in the two countries followed their hearts to forge ties that inspired the world. India's tennis star Sania Mirza married Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik and the wedding was a great source of interest in both countries. Meanwhile, the "Indo-Pak Express", the tennis doubles duo of Indian Rohan Bopanna and Pakistan's Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi won the respect of their sporting rivals and fans alike, reaching the finals of the US Open and making a moving appeal for peace.
Public perception of people-to-people relations between both countries reflected these changes, more so in Pakistan. People also put their support behind the effectiveness of the people-to-people mechanism in improving relations between the countries.
The desire for peace is stronger than before, as is the hope for a more peaceful future between the two countries. Close to three-fourths of those polled in both countries are strongly desirous of peace while the percentage who do not want friendly relations to prevail has decreased.
The two countries also appear even more hopeful than before that they will see sustainable peaceful and friendly relations between the two countries in their lifetimes.
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