Amidst border tensions between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan, there was a ray of light in the 11th Global Youth Peace Festival, Chandigarh, participated in by a 20-member student delegation from Pakistan.
The Pakistanis were among the over 250 participants from 33 countries, arriving with a clear message of peace to the media and the governments.
The Pakistani delegates exchanged special greeting cards with Indian students, aiming to counter the hatred being spread by the media. Many of them talked about the similarities between Pakistanis and Indians and their misrepresentation by the media.
Most of them had never been to India before. They displayed considerable courage in making the trip given the tensions, despite their friends’ and families’ warnings to not go.
Arriving in Chandigarh on September 27 as tensions worsened, India provided extra security to the Pakistani students. Many were worried about whether they would be able to return home safely.
However, they returned home on Monday after their week-long stay feeling “overwhelmed” by Indian hospitality.
Delegation leader Aliya Harir of the cross-border youth peace initiative Aaghaz-e-Dosti reached out to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and asked for help to ensure their safe return to Pakistan. There followed a heart-warming series of tweets between the Pakistani youth leader and the Indian minister.
On October 2, Aliya Harir tweeted saying that she was “overwhelmed” by Sushma Swaraj’s response, and assurance that the Pakistani delegation would return safely to Pakistan.
The Indian foreign minister replied on twitter saying that she was concerned about the delegation’s well being as daughters are a matter for honour for everyone.
Aliya – I was concerned about your well being kyonki betiyan to sabki sanjhi hoti hain. https://t.co/9QyeMQfRwy
— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) October 3, 2016
Festival organisers had expressed fears that they may have to send the Pakistani visitors home earlier than scheduled due to fears about their safety. But after assurances from the Indian authorities, including the Ministry of External Affairs, the trip continued as scheduled.
After their return, Aliya Harir tweeted to the minister saying that she was honoured to be called a daughter by Swaraj. “The delegation has reached back home safe and immensely happy. Thanks a million”.
Aap ki beti kehlane ka sharf hasil hai, aur kya chaheyay. The delegation has reached back home safe&immensely happy. Thanks a million times. https://t.co/JHH8VUj91Q
— Aliya Harir (@AliyaHarir) October 4, 2016
India and Pakistani A visit that should not have required any extra attention from higher authorities, was thus in the limelight because