Sunday, August 23, 2015

Civilians of India and Pakistan want to Unite for Peace

Youth calls for dialogue, seeks unity and People-to-People contact for Peace

Image from here
New Delhi / Islamabad, August 22, 2015: A week after both India and Pakistan celebrate their 69th Year of Independence, the civilians of India and Pakistan seek to resume dialogue closely on the heels of an impasse between the Governments of India and Pakistan in the NSA Talks. The collective conglomerate of Indian and Pakistani youth call for dialogue and recommend that individual civilians should take forward the task of uniting both nations.

Kirthi Jayakumar, the founder of the Red Elephant Foundation explained the idea behind the move in a nutshell. “Civilian peacebuilding is a route to sustainable peace. Our elected governments represent us. When they can’t or don’t – whatever be the case – do what it takes, we owe it to ourselves to find peace. Let’s light the candle. We can pass on the light to them when the time comes.” Chintan Girish Modi, the founder of Friendships across Borders: Aao Dosti Karein, weighed in on the collaborative effort saying, “Sometimes, we feel only governments can make peace. Let’s drop the idea. Let’s step in, take charge. May our act of resistance against war-mongering governments be a warm offer of friendship.” 

In the words of Diamond and McDonald (1991)[1], Track II diplomacy refers to “non-governmental, informal and unofficial contacts and activities between private citizens or groups of individuals, sometimes called 'non-state actors’”. Having achieved considerable success in building a state of peace and creating a culture of rapport, empathy and unity, the youth have come together through a private peace initiative called the Building Peace Project, run by The Red Elephant Foundation in 2014-2015. The program brought 9 pairs of youth, with each pair comprising one from India and one from Pakistan, in a dialogue based on a loose curriculum that touched upon issues centric to both nations. In a bid to take this further, and to create sustainable change in favour of building a climate of durable peace, the group of 18 participants and the team at The Red Elephant Foundation, in collaboration with Friendships Across Borders, has called for a civilian peace-building process in the region.

Speaking about the call, Aakash Chandran, a participant in the Building Peace Project from Delhi, India said, “The deadlock was over at Ufa and a sense of optimism prevailed. But it is disappointing that the government fails to realise that it is not just yet another talk, but hopes of thousands on both sides of the border that have been put to an end.” Adding to Aakash's words, Sheharyar Rizwan, a participant in the program from Lahore, Pakistan said, “The talks have yet again fallen victim to petty politics and blame game from both sides. Fact remains that a lot of people want peace even if the governments and armies don’t act on it.”

India and Pakistan share a history that bifurcated upon the partition of the Indian subcontinent into India and Pakistan, respectively, in 1947. Since the partition, the two nations have followed different trajectories with respect to their national policies and developmental pursuits, while certain differences with respect to territory, militancy and ancillary issues kept both nations in a deadlock for 69 years. The political and diplomatic impasse between both nations has left many issues unresolved, making the state of regional peace fragile. In the interest of the future of the subcontinent, particularly with political stability being the need of the hour, the youth of both nations come together to seek routes to unity using the tools of Track II diplomacy.

The participating youth issuing the call hope for a route that would establish the foundation for peace between India and Pakistan. Salma Noureen, from Peshawar, Pakistan, also a participant in the Building Peace Project explained, “It always brings hope on both sides when we see our leaders meet on foreign lands, sharing smiles, shaking hands and making statements. But it never progresses beyond that. People on both sides working for peace and motivation need more than smiles and handshakes.” Adding to this, Nidhi Shendurnikar, from Vadodra, India, explains, “From my experiences of friendship with people in Pakistan, I can vouch for the fact that people do want to talk, meet and know each other. The governments cannot seal the fate of the people of this region. The call for peace this time, is by the people, for the people and of the people.”

To find out more about the Red Elephant Foundation:  
To find out more about the Building Peace Project:

To find out more about Friendships Across Borders:       

For more information and quotes:          

[1] Diamond and McDonald, Multi-track Diplomacy: A Systems Guide and Analysis, Iowa Institute