When you talk about peace, you talk about borders and right now this is a hot topic between Pakistan and India, said Indian writer and activist Noor Zaheer while talking about ‘Is peace possible’ at Szabist on Monday.
The event was organised by the Progressive Writers Association and Szabist’s department of social sciences.
“Everyone is hopeful that with the opening of the Kartarpur border there will be more people to people engagement and it opens up another door between the two countries. One is very happy about it but it is important to remember that there is a lot that goes into peace that has to be worked upon as peace is a continuous process,” she added.
Speaking to a room full of students, Ms Zaheer said: “We always tend to think that if we did not come up with any solution, there was no need to have the talks. That is a completely wrong attitude about going into a debate and discussion. The fact that we are sitting across a table and not scratching each others’ eyes out is a sign of success.
“The process of peace is dialogue, dialogue and more dialogue,” she added.
According to the author many times we are satisfied with the fact that finally one door has opened and think that nothing more needs to be done but this is where we are wrong.
“There are some things that we need to look at when we are talking about peace on both sides of the border … how much are India and Pakistan investing in each other in terms of economy, job opportunities and trading with another countries. When I look at it, I don’t see any of this … there was hope of this once when Saarc had been set up but that fizzled out as well,” she explained.
Talking about student exchange as an important part of the peace process, Ms Zaheer, who is also a member of the Congress Party, said that the current government had made student exchange between the two countries difficult in the last four years.
“When you go to a new country you learn something good, something about their culture … something that improves your view of that country … in the peace process you essentially play the part of a messenger,” she said, adding that it was imperative to increase and improve this exchange between both countries.
“The peace process is not the final goal, there is no end to it and one has to always keep working for peace to improve but the initiation has to be made,” she said.
“As far as India and Pakistan are concerned we haven’t yet seen the peace process in full force … at least I haven’t … I have only seen how doors are being shut and things are being stopped,” she added.
According to Ms Zaheer, with Saarc, India adopted a big brother approach which did not go well with other countries and led to a lot of resentment and anger. “That anger is never going to give way to a peace process or a healthy dialogue.”
She also extensively discussed the situation at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, student unions and politics in India.
Originally published in Dawn, November 28th, 2018