The Times of India
By Yudhvir Rana, TNN
ATTARI: No rhetoric or bluster. In a first-of-its-kind moment at the India-Pakistan border here, a high-profile Indian business delegation walked across to Pakistan in a simple no-frills event, an enthusiastic group of local farmers giving them a warm send-off.
The industry captains formed part of the 45-member Indian team to participate in the second Aman ki Asha Indo-Pak Economic Conference in Lahore on May 7 and 8.
The desire for better relationship between India and Pakistan was evident in the spontaneous gathering of the farmers from nearby villages.
Armed with marigold garlands, they made it to the border post on Sunday on hearing the business heads were headed for the Lahore conference via Attari. It wasn’t an opportunity the farmers would have missed.
They talked about the potential of exporting their farm produce and industrial products to Pakistan and holding sports meets between the border villages with top businessmen, including former MD, Maruti Udyog and founder chairman of Carnation Auto Jagdish Khattar, Liberty Shoes CEO Adesh Gupta and Country Strategy Business Consultants CMD Sudhir Kapur.
“We don’t get to meet top industrialists but the Aman ki Asha platform has given us a chance to personally meet and discuss issues with people who matter,” said Makhan Singh of village Rajatal.
It’s time, they said, for businesspersons to push for better ties. “Both countries face problems of poverty and unemployment that governments alone have failed to tackle. Businesspeople should be now given a chance to take the reins of peace in their hands. I am hopeful they will be successful,” said Baba Arjun Singh of village Hoshiarpur. Rice farmer Rattan Singh Randhawa said, “In a village only those neighbours, who exchange household goods or farm equipment with each other, have good relations. It is the same with nations.”
CII president and Godrej chairman Adi Godrej is leading the Indian delegation at the Lahore conference, organized under the aegis of Aman ki Asha, a joint peace initiative by the Times of India and Pakistan’s Jang Group. The meet is sponsored by the CII and the Pakistan Business Council.
Randhawa alerted the business heads to an opportunity that could help local farmers yield better dividends. He said that export of the ‘1121’ variety of Basmati to Pakistan would benefit local farmers very much as this variety was way more popular across the border than in the home market.
Reiterating Aman ki Asha’s mission of peace, the farmers said opening up trade would eventually lead to better ties as well. “If people of both countries use the other’s products, they would talk about each other more often and positively and that will help strike emotional and social bonds,” said Randhawa.
Another border resident Raj Balbir mooted the idea of regular sports events between villages of India and Pakistan. “Why should we talk of animosity or war or terrorism only? We should instead focus on sports and games like kite-flying competitions,” he said.
The farmers appealed to the Indian delegates to take up their issues with Pakistani counterparts. “New business opportunities would be created and there would be jobs for thousands of skilled and unskilled persons,” said Randhawa.