IMO News Service
New Delhi: Aaghaz-e-Dosti recently organised a discussion on ‘Revitalising Indo-Pak Peacebuilding Efforts’, where Ambassador TCA Raghavan, Major Gen (Retd) Ashok Mehta, Media expert Rahul Jalali and Air Vice Marshal (retd) Kapil Kak participated as panel members. The session was moderated by Dr Medha Bisht of South Asian University.
Aaghaz-e-Dosti, an Indo-Pak Friendship Initiative, is a voluntary, non political and peoples’ initiative for peacebuilding that aims towards citizen diplomacy through providing peace education in schools and advocating for peacebuilding. In this discussion, Aaghaz-e-Dosti will be initiating a dialogue about the ways through which these efforts can be made more effective and how role of people can be enhanced in achieving the goal of peace.
Prior to the start of discussion, a Peace exhibition was inaugurated by Director of India International Centre, Air Vice Marshal (Retd) Naresh Verma. This peace exhibition displayed letters, greeting cards and paintings of school students of India and Pakistan collected during various activities of Aaghaz-e-Dosti.
Former Air Marshal Naresh Verma during the inaugural session said that peacebuilding efforts led by people plays an important role. He also narrated about how peacebuilding were essential part since always and how despite all odds, it still continued as ray of hope. He narrated about when France and Germany who were once traditional rivals for many years and even fought so many wars, can come on peace, why can’t India and Pakistan?
Dr TCA Raghavan, former High Commissioner of India in Pakistan, spoke about how principle political leaders have been engaged in the Indo Pak issue discussion since 1947. He cited example of Dr Lohia with his socialist engagement. He told that still, discussions are continued even today. He told that travel due to marriages, multilateral engagements such as cricket has increased to an extent and such kind of engagements work slowly but have a cumulative impact. He also told that there shouldn’t be barriers on culture and literature. He described about how virtual space has made things easy, for people to connect.
Former Major General Ashok K Mehta told that when Track 1 fails, Track 2 diplomacy must continue. He also told about his personal efforts in bringing relations on track and various efforts in those directions. He told that everything with respect to Indo-Pak talk resumption boils down to either Terrorism or Kashmir. Ideas are there, problem is with implementation. How do we break the ice is the ultimate question. He advocated the dialogue process and told ‘Bada lamba safar hai, par chalte rehna hai’.
Defence analyst and former Air Vice Marshal Kapil Kak told that peace process must continue. He talked at length about golden period of 2003-07, wherein aspirations of Kashmiris were also accommodated at some sort. He advocated dialogue process further and said that how long can India or Pakistan continue without dialogues? He also warned that we need to be conscious of the fact that even if there are peace processes, such initiatives are active there , who are going to be spoilers but political leadership will have to be deeply committed to move forward.
Senior journalist and media expert Rahul Jalali talked about people to people movement of earlier times. He told that Aaghaz-e-Dosti role is very important in terms of bringing people on a stage to talk about such important issue. He also talked about Aaghaz-e-Dosti role with school, colleges and among youths and told that our generation greatly gets affected by it, so it’s our responsibility to engage. He advocated to provide space for alternative thinking to take place. He advocated that such initiatives must reach to millions of people who really want to have peace on both sides.
Dr Medha Bisht summarised the session with pointing facts and information. The audience was very curious and excited to talk, to ask questions and to talk about their own experiences.
Aaghaz-e-Dosti, an Indo-Pak Friendship Initiative, is a volunteer group of students and young professionals working for Indo-Pak issues through citizen diplomacy. Aaghaz-e-Dosti has been working to facilitate people-to-people contact, challenge mutual hatred and suspicion, create a culture of peace and understanding among people of both countries and to highlight issues of victims of conflicts.
For five years now, Aaghaz-e-Dost has been consistently working through peace education activities that include interactive sessions called ‘Aman Chaupals’, connecting Indian and Pakistani classrooms, peace workshops, discussions, letter and greeting card exchange programmes, an Indo-Pak Peace calendar, a virtual eight-week peace-building course called ‘Friends Beyond Borders’ and various other virtual campaigns, through working as advocacy group to improve relations between India and Pakistan and as a resource portal. Aaghaz-e-Dosti has released list of prisoners and fishermen who are lodged in jails in India and Pakistan and made it in public portal.
Convener of Aaghaz-e-Dosti, Devika Mittal conveyed vote of thanks. Ravi Nitesh, Founder of Aaghaz-e-Dosti, was present along with members Sarral Sharma, Madhulika Narsimhan, Sanjana, Radhika, Manish Bhadauria and others.