Published in AmanKiAsha The News on Oct 5, 2011.
Nirupama Rao, now Indian ambassador to Washington, reportedly said of the Agra Summit at which Vajpayee and Musharraf met: “Though there were midwives, a still-born child was born in Agra”. A healthy baby was born that night, but was replaced by a “still-born”, reportedly retorted a Pakistani delegate.
Whatever the rhetoric or interpretation, the fact remains that the baby could not breathe in the air it needed – of peace and confidence from the two sides. Hence it died. How many such babies have died over so many years after such meetings?
The love-hate relationship between India and Pakistan does not allow the two neighbours to be indifferent to each other. They keep the relationship going by conceiving ideas and dialogues, but the babies somehow never survive. They can’t. The trust deficit kills them.
The parents need two things to nourish the baby and ensure its survival. The first is ‘love’ and the second, ‘trust’.
I know first-hand, that there is no dearth of love amongst the masses on both sides. It is so evident from their interest towards each others arts and cultural affairs. If Pakistanis’ love for Bollywood films and Indian soaps is immense, then Indian craving for Pakistani singers and music groups is no less intense.
Then there’s the curiosity with which we follow each others sport teams. If there are girls in Pakistan swooning over Dhoni, there are lasses in India putting up posters of Afridi in their rooms.
The pairing of Aisam ul Haq and Rohan Bhopana in professional tennis, or Shoaib Malik and Sania Mirza tying the knot, are also living examples of that love. Despite the practical difficulties, non-celebrity cross-border marriages continue to take place. They don’t hit the limelight, but it is the love and bonds between us that makes them possible even after 64 years of separation.
Even when mishaps occur across the border and when some people do indulge in mudslinging, I bear witness to the fact that on both sides, there is a sizable majority who feel a heartache for the sufferings of their brothers and sisters across the border.
Just take the bonds that exist between the media personnel of both sides. If Beena Sarwar from Pakistan speaks through her soul to break the touching story of a Pakistani pilot’s letter to the daughter of an Indian pilot, Barkha Dutt on the other side follows up with a live TV programme that echoes these emotions from the bottom of her heart.
Another pair of journalist friends post the following facebook comments around August 14th and 15th, the Independence Days of the two countries: Shivam Vjj, Delhi: “All the world’s countries are mine. – borders. And Jeevay Pakistan!
Shiraz Hasan, Lahore: “There is a little bit of Indian in every Pakistani and a little bit of Pakistani in every Indian.” – Benazir Bhutto | Happy Independence Day to all Indian friends!
Many of us can cite numerous other such examples of friendship amongst the common folk. With this magnitude of love, there is no reason that the baby should not only survive, but be healthy and develop into the pride of its parents – the entire region of our Subcontinent.
But what do we do about the ‘trust deficit’ at the top, which smothers the baby? What more testimony of reconciliation do the powerful on both sides want, after the heart piercing letter of the Pakistani pilot to the daughter of the Indian pilot he shot down? What could be a greater example of forgiveness than the equally touching reply of the daughter, with the reassurance that she forgave and moved on long ago?
Together we make up 1.4 billion, about a fifth of humanity who aspire to live in peace and harmony in the region. Why does the trust deficit of just a handful keep jeopardising peace and harmony here?
The spirit at the Pakistan-India Parliamentarians Dialogue between the lawmakers of both sides in August was indeed yet another ray of hope. There was much needed discussion on political bones of contentions like Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek and the challenge of terrorism, all in a cordial environment.
It was even more encouraging that the issues which really matter to the people on both sides were given the due emphasis – economic ties (related to trade and investment), energy (via Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline), agreements to open new transit routes (across the Line of Control in Kashmir and at Khokhrapar-Monabao) or easing travel restrictions.
The idea of the “trusted visitors programme” was indeed a significant step forward for the hundreds of families divided across the border.
The categories laid down for such trusted individuals included senior citizens, businessmen, elected representatives etc. However, an important category was missing which by no means may be considered less trusted – that of couples who are married across the border.
I understand there will be more such meetings of the group. I beg the authorities on both sides to please look into these families, of cross-border couples, as also trustworthy. I belong to one such family, and I promise we will never let you down for having done so.
As for the elected representatives on either side, I beg them to please push in the high corridors of power to reduce the trust deficit, so that next time when an Indo-Pak Treaty starts to be born, it does not die a premature death.
Wednesday, October 05, 2011
Dr Ilmana Fasih is a gynaecologist and health activist of Indian origin, married to a Pakistani citizen. She blogs at https://thinkloud65.wordpress.com/