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Largest Media Groups in India, Pakistan Launch Private Peace Initiative


Largest Media Groups in India, Pakistan Launch Private Peace Initiative

Largest Media Groups in India, Pakistan Launch Private Peace Initiative

As the governments in India and Pakistan try to resume their peace dialogue derailed more than 15 months ago by the Mumbai terror attacks, a private peace initiative is underway in both countries.

"Desire for Peace" or "Aman Ki Asha" in Urdu and Hindi. This is a new Web site meant to bring India and Pakistan closer together.

The largest media groups in each country - the Times in India and Jang in Pakistan - launched the effort.

Their joint Web site says South Asia is on the brink of an economic transformation that if allowed to develop peacefully could dramatically improve the lives of people in both countries.

Except the ongoing conflict between India and Pakistan stands in the way. The media groups' TV commercials remind Indians and Pakistanis that they belonged to the same country before the 1947 Partition and can live in peace as neighbors.

"You live within sight, but remain unseen The tunes bring us together, even when we are apart. We can still see the shadows far away. Calling does not bring back time, or bring you back," the commercial's announcer says.

Aman Ki Asha advocates the benefits of peace. But both media groups also have agreed to articulate issues such as Kashmir and (NATSOUND) terrorism that have been hurdles to peace for more than 60 years.

Before launching the site, the media groups conducted the first ever survey of people in both countries and found an overwhelming majority wanted peace.

Shahrukh Hasan belongs to the Jang media group in Pakistan. "If the governments that exist as a result of the votes of the people feel sure that they have the confidence of the people, then they can sit across negotiating tables with an open-minded willingness to solve these issues," he says.

Chidanand Rajghatta is the foreign editor at the Times of India media group. "People in Pakistan who yearn for peace and who want the Pakistani government to tread not an extremist path, not a militaristic path, have to be given some voice, some channel," he says.

Rajghatta emphasizes that it is an ongoing process. "There have been concerts, there will be an exchange of people, personnel, perhaps even among newspapers, exchange of columns,
columnists, and so on," he says.

Hasan of the Janbg group says, "We would like to bring the opinion of the people of the two countries to the respective governments and this opinion is overwhelmingly in favor of peace, so when the two countries and the two governments sit together and negotiate, they will sit across with this confidence that people want peace."

But Hasan says bonding India and Pakistan economically will be the most crucial. "A very important vehicle of this movement will be the mutuality of economic interests. We feel that if there is a lot of mutual economic interest, then hostilities will become difficult to foster, and they will result in ultimate peace between the two countries," says Hasan.

So the "Aman ki Asha" intitiative is planning annual conferences on trade and investment - a meeting ground for the biggest investors of the two countries. The aim is to create such an economic bond between the two rivals that would relegate other issues to the background.

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