India and Pakistan Will Have Open Borders In Five Years…Who Says?
This is not a Nostradamus prophecy, but my intuitive belief…and the happenings on the ground in India and Pakistan have confirmed my hunch further during the past two/three years. Whatever the sceptics, or think-tanks, have to say is being challenged practically every day by the realities on the ground.
Not many people listen to the good old Voice of America anymore, but Tuesday’s news in VOA reflects one of the several historic steps that are being (or have been) taken that are labelled as confidence building measures between the two nuclear-armed countries. Not surprisingly, these find little mention in the sceptic Indian and Pakistani media.
(Media, by and large, looks for more sensational news—if normalcy does return between India and Pakistan, who’s interested? Except, of course, millions of ordinary folks on both sides of the border.)
However, let’s check VOA’s recent report: “India and Pakistan have launched a second bus service to link the two sides of the divided Himalayan region of Kashmir. The new transport links between the South Asian rivals are the most visible symbol of a two-year-old peace process.
“Scores of people in Indian Kashmir cheered and waved flags as the new bus service that will link Poonch in Indian Kashmir to Rawalkot in Pakistan rolled out Tuesday amid heavy security.
“In Pakistan, another bus headed toward Indian Kashmir. The buses will stop at the militarized line of control that divides the region. There, passengers will cross the border on foot before being taken in other buses to their destinations.
“The 55-kilometer bus route between Poonch and Rawalkot was reopened after a half century of political conflict shut down all links between the Indian and Pakistani sides of Kashmir. The region was divided between the neighbors after they fought a war in 1947.
“In Indian Kashmir, the ruling Congress Party leader, Sonia Gandhi, called the bus an opportunity for the families in the region to reunite. Gandhi hopes that the new transport links will ultimately result in more trade between the two countries.
(In another news report the ruling UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi said at a public rally in Kashmir, “The Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service helped us break the first wall between India and Pakistan. Poonch-Rawalakot helped break the second one. The objective is to have better relations with Pakistan so that difficulties of the people in Jammu & Kashmir are alleviated.”)
“Sardar Sikandar Hayat, prime minister of Pakistani Kashmir, called the new service a good omen for the divided families of Kashmir.
“The bus services in Kashmir have been called the most significant step taken to restore normalcy to the troubled region since India and Pakistan began peace negotiations two years ago. The slow-moving peace process has seen the rivals bury their open hostility, but has failed to produce a political solution to their conflicting claims to Kashmir.
(Which, in other words, means that the people want to live in peace but the leaders, for whatever reasons, would create hurdles in finding a solution to the problem…)
“Abdul Ghani Bhat, a senior leader of the All Parties Huriyat Conference, a grouping of separatist organizations in Indian Kashmir, calls the new transport services a ‘confidence-building measure’ that will help the two countries come closer to a permanent settlement on Kashmir.”
And the media reports only when the terrorist killings take place in Kashmir!!! Funny, nobody sees this historic event in a proper perspective. On the one hand we have terrorists sneaking into Kashmir. And here the two countries allow their citizens to travel openly across the border. Once you have confident populace, terrorism cannot survive.
If you are still not satisfied that India and Pakistan are moving towards an open border within five years, here is a story from the India Abroad News Service from Chamlayal(on Indo-Pak border): “Thousands of devotees from India and Pakistan Thursday gathered for a festival in the memory of Baba Chamlayal, a revered figure on both sides of the border near Jammu and Kashmir’s winter capital Jammu.
“The Pakistanis gathered on their side as part of the annual celebrations, though a ‘bund’ (raised barrier of earth and stones) kept the shrine and the celebrations hidden from their view.
“The only lucky ones were the Pakistan Rangers who came in a column led by Sialkote Sector Commander Col. Najib.
“Several hundred came from the border villages in Jammu and neighbouring states of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh (India) to take part in the fair, which is held on fourth Thursday of June every year to commemorate the sacrifice of Baba Chamlayal, whose real name was Dileep Singh Manhas.
“He was murdered by his envious adversaries for they could not withstand his sway over people of all faiths because of his magical powers, the local legend says.
“A mausoleum has been erected at the place where his body was found. Indians and Pakistanis have kept alive the tradition of organising the fair even after the partition (of the two countries in 1947).
“The Pakistan Rangers handed over a ‘chadar’ (shawl), which (India’s) Border Security Force (BSF) officers accepted and later offered at the shrine on behalf of their counterparts.
” ‘It is a pleasure to be here, standing and handing over the chadar to BSF, but one day we do hope to cross over and offer prayers on our own,’ Col. Najib said. He said as the conditions were improving along the border, ‘this should become a reality sooner than later’.
Want more proof of normal ties between India and Pakistan…”Improving relations between India and Pakistan are clearly visible through the trade volume statistics that grew from US $476 million in 2003-2004 to $835 million in 2004-2005 period.” More and more business ties between the two countries would ensure better understanding between the citizens of the two countries.
And the list goes on and on. And I give a final example because films are the greatest bonding factor between the two countries. A historic
decision was taken recently to allow Indian film actors/actresses to act in Pakistani films!!!
For outsiders it is difficult to understand the shared heritage and culture of India and Pakistan, who until 1947 were one country. An average Pakistani loves good life, including his/her tipple, despite the repressive religious climate created artificially by the rulers.
However,the best indicator of the similarity between the two peoples is that they have same swear words!!!