Youth call for dialogue, unity and people-to-people contact for peace

Youth call for dialogue, unity and people-to-people contact for peace
Call for peace from Building Peace participants in India and Pakistan. Photo collage: Red Elephant

Indian and Pakistani youth join hands to call for peace – “by the people, for the people and of the people”

Youth from India and Pakistan have issued a joint call to resume dialogue on the heels of an impasse between the governments holding up the first National Security Advisor talks.

Their press statement datelined New Delhi / Islamabad, August 22, 2015, calls for dialogue and for individuals to take forward the task of uniting both nations.

“Civilian peace-building is a route to sustainable peace,” said Kirthi Jayakumar, the founder of the Red Elephant Foundation. “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, founder of the Friendships across Borders: Aao Dosti Karein initiative, 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.”

Track II diplomacy, notes the statement, refers to “non-governmental, informal and unofficial contacts and activities between private citizens or groups of individuals, sometimes called ‘non-state actors’”.

The statement says that the youth of both countries have “achieved considerable success in building a state of peace and creating a culture of rapport, empathy and unity”. Many have come together through the Building Peace Project, run by The Red Elephant Foundation in 2014-2015. The program brought nine pairs of youth each comprising one individual from India and one from Pakistan to discuss issues central 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 cross-border youth groups, The Red Elephant Foundation and Friendships Across Borders, have called for a civilian peace-building process in the region.

“The deadlock was over at Ufa and a sense of optimism prevailed,” said Aakash Chandran, a participant in the Building Peace Project from Delhi, India. “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.”

Sheharyar Rizwan, a Building Peace participant 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 in 1947. Since the partition, the two nations have followed different trajectories with respect to their national policies and developmental pursuits. Various issues have kept both nations in a deadlock for 69 years, says the statement. “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, the youth of both nations want to seek routes to unity using the tools of Track II diplomacy.

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.”

“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,” adds Nidhi Shendurnikar, from Vadodra, India. “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.”

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