Posts Tagged ‘ Peace ’

Coca-Cola Tries to Bring India, Pakistan Together via its New Vending Machines

As Reported by The Economic Times
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An upscale mall in South Delhi has a Coca-Cola vending machine that not only dispenses Coke, Thums Up and other beverages of the firm but will very soon connect India and Pakistan.Once a similar machine is installed in Karachi or another Pakistan city, users of the two vending machines can see and virtually touch each other, a person in the know said.

The beverages major has quietly launched an online campaign that seeks to connect people in not-so-friendly countries through vending machines, starting with India and Pakistan this year.

“This year, two countries will show that what unites us is stronger than what sets us apart and come together to share a Coca-Cola,” says the commercial launched on YouTube.

A company spokesperson said it was too early to comment on specific plans, on how the beverage maker plans to scale up the concept.

This world peace initiative is part of the firm’s happiness project. “A moment of happiness has the power to bring the world together,” it says.

In another initiative, Coca-Cola recently set up a ‘hug machine’ in Singapore-a vending machine with red and white message announcing the consumer to ‘hug’ it, after which the consumer would be given a free Coke. The ‘hug machine’ generated 112 million impressions within one day. In Istanbul, it had installed a vending machine that gave away free Coke if people could prove they were indeed a couple.

Coca-Cola is spending heavily on social media globally, though the spends are still small compared to what it spends on traditional mass media.

“Brands can’t work remotely anymore so it is important to listen and engage to consumers,” Wendy Clark, senior VP, integrated marketing communications and capabilities, at Coca-Cola had told ET last month.

“We make consumers part of our marketing channel, sharing content and engaging with them all the time,” Clark had said, adding that the company was looking at investing in innovative ways to connect on social media.

Ready to probe ‘gruesome’ beheading, Pakistan high commissioner Salman Bashir says

As Reported by Sachin Parashar for The Times of India 

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On a day when Pakistan foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar’s offer for talks received lukewarm response here, Pakistan high commissioner Salman Bashir turned out be the real game-changer as he said that Islamabadwas willing to address all Indian concerns over LoC, including its demand for a probe into the mutilation of the bodies of Indian soldiers.

In an exclusive interview to TOI, Bashir said: “Essentially, what the Pakistan foreign minister has said is that Pakistan is willing to discuss all Indian concerns, especially those related torecent LoC developments with a clear objective to ensure respect for ceasefire along LoC.” It was Pakistan’s refusal to give any such assurance that had forced India to harden its stand and provoked PM Manmohan Singh to say that it can’t be business as usual with Pakistan.

Asked if his assurance included India’s demand for investigations into the beheading of soldier Hem Raj, Bashir said, “When we say all concerns, we are not excluding anything…I believe all civilized people, no matter where they are, would be appalled by the gruesome incident”. However, Bashir added that for India to accuse Pakistan of the act without any probe was still not “understandable” for Pakistan.

Bashir reached out to the Indian people saying that they should not look upon the Pakistanis as “insensitive” or “inhuman”. In what is likely to soothe frayed nerves here further, Bashir did not mention any international role, including the UN, while talking about investigations into the incident.

“We want that both sides at the military level undertake their own investigations and use bilateral channels to get to the bottom of the incident. We are also concerned about ceasefire violations that have resulted in several casualties on our side but for peace to prevail we believe that the way forward is to talk to each other instead of getting into mutual recrimination,” he told TOI.

He added: “Pakistan foreign minister’s offer for talks with her counterpart is of considerable significance as it shows Pakistan’s desire to steer the process of reengagement in the right direction and at the same time address the issues of concern through the dialogue process. We hope that this sincere gesture will be reciprocated.”

While doubts have been raised about Pakistan’s commitment to MFN status for India, Bashir also brushed that aside saying that the “in principle” decision still stands and Islamabad will continue to seek better trade ties with India. He, however, added that for this it was important the positive atmosphere prior to the LoC flare-up was not vitiated.

Bashir said that he found developments like the return of Pakistan hockey players and move by India to stall visa-on-arrival for senior citizens “troubling”. “I think when there are multiple issues, both sides need to communicate more and not allow iron curtains to descend”.

As he pointed that there have been no “impulsive” reactions from Pakistan authorities to the statements made by Indian leaders, including Manmohan Singh. He said Pakistan still looked upon Singh as a man of peace who is very well respected in his country for his initiative for dialogue between the two countries.

Bashir said Pakistan was not proposing any time frame for Khar-Khurshid dialogue. “We have made an offer and the two most important words are ‘dialogue’ and ‘de-escalation’ – the rest is a question of form and modality,” he said.

Talking about the deep sense of hurt in India over the LoC incident, Bashir called upon people in position of responsibility and opinion makers to act responsibly and “not play with raw emotions”. “People of Pakistan are not insensitive to the sentiments of the people of India. Whenever there is a tragic incident – be it an earthquake or a terror attack or some heinous crime – ordinary people suffer from the same sentiment. But what I object to is the instinctive reflexes for Pakistan bashing and whipping up of emotions which has almost turned into a stereotype. It is important for saner voices to realize that neither Pakistan can wish India away nor India can do the same to Pakistan,” he said.

Bashir ended by recalling what Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar had said on his visit to Pakistan recently: “Our people have shared geography and history and there is no reason why they can’t share their future too.”

India and Pakistan: The Truth of the One Nation Theory

By Aakar Patel for FirstPost

The first time I came to Pakistan, I was taken aback at how good some of the infrastructure was. The airports at Karachi and Lahore were small, but they were efficient and well designed. I think my host told me the Japanese had built one or both of them, and those airports were a very different thing from the ones I had just taken off from in India.

This was when the government made the airports and as with all things the Indian government takes up, our airports were clumsy and barely functional. But a few years later this changed. Today the airports at Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore are pretty good. They’re not world class (nothing in India can ever be), but they are not embarrassing as the earlier ones were.

The differences that I had thought were significant turned out not to be so.

This led me to think of how similar we were as nations. Not in the sense that Mohd Ali Jinnah meant. I think it is fairly obvious that the character of India and of Pakistan is different when we observe their constitutions. India’s secularism is fundamentally Hindu in its nature. Pakistans constitution is Islamic by design and in appearance.

Though this is an important aspect of nationhood, however, it is only one aspect.

What I mean is how we are one nation in all the negative aspects. Our neighbourhoods and streets are among the most shameful in the world, because we are selfish and blind to the concern of others. Delhi’s drivers are as terrible as those in Lahore (and the women of Delhi and Lahore would concur on the behaviour of the loutish men of those cities). Half of us are illiterate and the half who are literate don’t really read much. The comments sections of Indian and Pakistani websites are the most dreadful in the world, without qualification. Hateful and pedantic, the product of minds who are only functionally literate. We think time will bring some big change in our society but it isn’t easy to see where this change is going to come from.

I know of few other nations where people would not be embarrassed at the thought of keeping servants. Few cultures would be so unaffected, so uncaring of privacy to not mind the constant presence of the servant in the house. I am not even talking about the bestial manner in which we treat them, because every reader of this piece, whether Indian or Pakistani already knows what I mean.

We divide ourselves into nations based on things like which animal the other eats or does not eat. The outsider probably sees no difference between us, and rightly.

We produce very little of meaning to the outside world, and it is tough to think of what our contribution is to the nations from whom we take so much. In science and technology we have nothing to offer the West, despite the boasts of Indians that we gave the world Arabic numerals and zero (I agree with that; we have given the world zero).

Pakistanis stake claim to Islams golden age. Daily Jang columnist Hassan Nisar often takes up this point. He says that the Arabs laugh when Pakistanis owns Islams achievements. What aspect of the conquest of Spain or the scientific revolution in Baghdad did Punjabis and Sindhis participate in?
To the world we are one people in that sense.

My friend Col Iftikhar, from Musharrafs batch in the Pakistan Military Academy, said he discovered this horrifying fact when he went to Mecca a few decades ago for Haj. He met some Saudis, one of whom asked him where he was from. Lahore, said Ifti. Where’s that, the Saudi asked (this was in the 70s). Pakistan, said Ifti proudly. Where’s that, the puzzled Saudi asked. Ifti took out a map and pointed. Ah, said the Saudi to his friends, he’s Hindi.

Our problems are so primitive that they should make us stop and repair ourselves immediately. But they don’t seem to affect us at all. Our media carry on like we are normal people. Reading the militant bombast of the strategic affairs experts in the newspapers of these two nations, the outsider would never suspect that these were two nations unable to even keep their public toilets clean.

iPakistan- Rebranding Pakistan

About

iPakistan is simply an intitative to bring Pakistan to the world and the world to Pakistan.

WHO ARE THEY?

iPakistan ia a group of university students and young professionals who are done whining about Pakistan’s image and want to do something about it. Most of them are studying in foreign universities and so have first hand experience of various kinds of stereotypes that Pakistanis overseas face as well as the tarnished image of the nation is portrayed in other countries.

Sadly, terrorism has become synonymous with Pakistan. There was this one time when a team member of this group was asked as a serious question by a Chinese students : “Does your family have any Taliban?” IMAGINE!

So iPakistan and iLahore are collaborative efforts about changing this wrongly propagated image, and even if we the group members are only able to neutralize one person’s opinion, they will feel happy that they made a small difference.

THE TEAM

Founder – Rehman Ilyas

He is the guy most pissed about Pakistan’s image and hence the one who came up with iPakistan and iLahore. He studies Economics and Finance at the University of Hong Kong and is particularly interested in Development Economics. Reads up on Chinese economy a lot and plans to heavily promote Chinese recipe of economics success, and apply it to Pakistan with a few unique ingredients of his own, through the Business section of ilahore.

Mentor – Khalid Malik

Mr. Khalid Malik is a famous Business Studies A-Levels teacher in Lahore. He is a visiting lecturer at various top schools including LGS Defence, LGS Paragon, SICAS etc. Recently he has been gaining further acclaim for his efforts to get the beloved festival of Basant, back to the people of Lahore.

Mentor – Ali Murtaza

Mr. Murtaza is a visiting professor at Beacon House National University (BNU) where he teaches design and illustration. In addition he works for a social marketing company and does commercial web site designing. His awesome illustrations, animations & creations have earned him the prestigious

Fulbright scholarship recently.

Editor Health – Burhan Ahmad
MBBS
Founder & CEO Medicalopedia, LLC

Editor Tourism – Muhammad Zargam Arshad

“BBA Accounting and Finance student at University of Hong Kong. Zargam is fondly known as “Ziggy”. He has extensive travel experience: Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Austria, England and of course Pakistan! Fond of reading two diverse types of poetry: Modernist and Sufi poetry. Currently working with
“YES Network” on breaking down discrimination barriers in Hong Kong society. “

Editor Fashion – Khizra Wynne

Although i have crippled my four senses while Majoring in Economics and Finance but, the sense of sight still stands to fight because it’s all about living to look ravishing.

Editor Wisdom – Hassan Riaz

Hassan is an engineering student at the University of Hong Kong and claims to be very ‘Wisdomistic’.

Editor Religion – Syed Abrar Ahamd

Abar is an active member of the Muslim Scoiety at the University of Hong Kong and wants to share his passion for Islam and peace through ‘religion’ ilahore.

Editor HumourAli – Mohiudin Ahmad

There is no single description which fits Ali, and you will get to more about him andh is personality based on his upcoming awesome humour at iPakitsan.

Editor ‘Read’ – Hinna Malik

Hinna did her Masters in Mass Communication from the University of Surrey and has worked in RBS for several years.

Editor Music – Muhammad Hamza Bukhari

Hamza is a Biotechnology major in the University of Hong Kong and claims that there isn’t a single article/ blog on metal music that hasn’t passed through his eyes.

Editor Food – Mahnum and Mahnoor

The awesome duo loves dining out and usually are present at every restaurant opening.

Editors, Romancing the Border – Pulkit Saneja, Shirin Soni, Sonica Dunichand, Rehman Ilyas

Sonica and Rehman are from Pakistan, Shirin and pulpit from India and they are typicals, fighting and arguing over Kashmir, Sania Mirza and other crucial issues on a day to day basis.

Editor The world and Us – Mark Gray

“Mark is interested in issues of law and international relations. An American and a graduate from Princeton, he is currently living in Asia doing legal research, and plans to go to law school. He enjoys travel, photography, and music.”

Editor Business – Minahil Haroon

Completing her BBA in Wealth management at the University of Hong Kong. Loves Pakistan and is hoping to represent the real Pakistan through iLahore.
But they are different too, in the sense that they love each other and want to extend their love to the entire region!

Ambassadors

UK ambassador: Bilal Mustafa(Kings College)
India Ambassador: Shirin Soni ( HKU)
Karachi Ambassador: Minahil Haroon (HKU)
Multan Ambassador : Iqra Amjad (Punjab College)
Lahore School of Economics Ambassador: Mehreen Saba
LGS (JT) Ambassador: Ahmed Awais
Salamat School group Ambassador : Rahema Hassan
And counting…

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note-  Groups like iPakistan and Friends Across LOC are attempting to do the same things that we here at Pakistanis for Peace are doing as well and that is to bring the people of India and Pakistan closer together. We feel that the only solution to Pakistan and India’s problems and indeed over a billion people of the sub-continent is through a dialogue and peace. The neighborhood can not suffer another war between the two, which surely would be nuclear. Let’s hope that the our vision of peace between India and Pakistan succeeds and Pakistan is able to rid itself of a terrible image globally that its wonderful people do not deserve.

Pakistan Leader’s India Visit Hailed For Its Symbolism

By Mark Magnier for The Los Angeles Times

Pakistan’s president arrived in India on Sunday, the first official visit one leader of the wary neighbors has paid to the other nation in seven years. No breakthroughs were announced, but both sides hailed the meeting as a sign of easing tensions along one of the world’s most dangerous borders.

Spinmeisters on both sides worked overtime to lower public expectations of the “private” trip that saw Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh discuss the 2008 terrorist attack on the Indian city of Mumbai, modest if expanding trade links, the disputed territory of Kashmir and efforts to bring various militants to justice.

The Pakistani president then visited a famous Muslim shrine for Sufi saint Moinuddin Chishti, offering a $1-million contribution.

“I am very satisfied with the outcome of this visit,” Singh said. “The relations between India and Pakistan should become normal — that is our common desire.”

The rapid-fire luncheon and shrine visit weren’t enough to overturn long-standing distrust between the nuclear neighbors, however, as summed up in a headline in India’s Mail Today tabloid newspaper: “Eat, Pray, No Love.”

The meeting is part of an apparent effort to follow the diplomatic model in place between India and China, which fought a war in 1962 over their disputed border: Put aside the most nettlesome issues for the time being and focus on building investment and trade links that benefit both sides.

This year, India and Pakistan approved a most-favored-nation agreement, lowering taxes that impede trade. Although India had offered this benefit to Pakistan in 1996, it wasn’t reciprocated until recently. Official two-way trade of about $2.6 billion is heavily weighted in India’s favor.

Sunday’s one-day visit was heavy on symbolism if not on substance. Zardari invited Singh for a reciprocal visit to Pakistan, which the Indian leader accepted, although no date was set. Zardari’s 23-year-old son, Bilawal, invited ruling Congress Party General Secretary Rahul Gandhi to Pakistan, which was also accepted, again with no date set.

On other fronts, both sides agreed in principle to ease visa restrictions. India offered its assistance in the wake of this weekend’s massive avalanche in the Siachen Glacier area, which buried about 130 people on the Pakistani-controlled side of the border in disputed Kashmir. And both sides did lots of glad-handing for the cameras.

“We had fruitful bilateral talks,” Zardari said. We “hope to meet on Pakistani soil very soon.”

But any bid to bring to justice those who planned the 2008 Mumbai attack that killed at least 166 people was sidestepped. India has long blamed Pakistani-based groups for plotting the attack.

Last week, Washington offered a $10-million reward for information leading to the capture of one Pakistani militant leader, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, who enjoys widespread support in Pakistan.

Analysts on both sides of the divide welcomed the gradual thaw even as they acknowledged its slow pace. That no date was set for a return visit, and that Congress Party head Sonia Gandhi — characterized by some as India’s real leader behind the scenes — didn’t meet Zardari or attend the lunch, suggests the Indian government is wary of getting too far ahead of public opinion, some observers said.

“There have been some useful steps forward,” said B. Raman, director of Chennai’s Institute for Topical Studies and a former Indian intelligence officer on the Pakistan desk. “But the government has taken a cautious line.”

The fact that Zardari, 56, made the trip at all suggests that Pakistan’s military realizes improved relations are in its interest, added Talat Masood, an analyst and retired Pakistani general.

“They’re overstretched, realize the economy’s in a shambles and that you can’t have a genuine defense without a good economy,” Masood said. “It’s very sad in a way, that the process has been held hostage to jihadi groups and hard-rightists on both sides.”

Singh, 79, heading a weak government beset by corruption scandals, has pushed for improved ties with Pakistan in a bid to secure a legacy, analysts on both sides said. “Prime Minister Singh realizes he’s only going to be there a few more months,” said Masood. “He wants to do something positive so he’s remembered.”

A Nobel Prize for Edhi

Pakistanis for Peace and Manzer Munir cordially and humbly request you to please sign this petition to nominate Abdul Sattar Edhi for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Nobel Peace prize is an annual prize awarded to individuals who have made formidable contributions to the pursuit of peace and have, through their work, changed the world for the better.

As the founder of Pakistan’s largest welfare organization, the Edhi Foundation and trust, Mr Abdul Sattar Edhi embodies the spirit of this prize, and is a deserving candidate for this honour. He has single-handedly served countless Pakistani’s and has left a lasting impact on his fellow countrymen and the world.

Quite simply, there has never been anyone more deserving of the Nobel Peace prize in its entire history than Mr Abdul Sattar Edhi. Please help us get him his dues by having him finally nominated this year.

Please sign this petition to show your support for the nomination of Mr.Edhi for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize.

 

India and Pakistan, Talking

As reported by The New York Times

With a relationship as combustible as that between India and Pakistan, it’s progress just to get the two sides in a room. Last week’s meeting was better. Their foreign ministers announced modest, but very welcome, agreements concerning the bitterly disputed region of Kashmir.

They promised to double the number of days when cross-border trade between the two parts of Kashmir — one controlled by India, the other by Pakistan — is allowed and to expand and expedite travel permits for Kashmiris who want to cross the border for family visits, tourism and religious purposes. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since 1947, two over Kashmir. Even these small steps could help chip away at their visceral mistrust.

Three weeks ago, some doubted the meeting would even happen after three explosions ripped through Mumbai, killing 24 people. The Mumbai attacks in 2008 that killed 160 people were blamed on Pakistani terrorists and sent relations with India into the deep freeze. So far, suspicion for the recent attacks has fallen on Indian terrorists.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India deserves huge credit for staying engaged despite Pakistan’s failure to prosecute those responsible for the 2008 horrors. And he deserves credit for not shooting first and asking questions later after the recent attacks.

We wish we could say the same of Pakistan’s leaders. Before there can be a true reconciliation, and stability in the region, Pakistan’s Army must realize that using militants to try to counter Indian influence in Kashmir and Afghanistan is self-destructive — and that homegrown extremism, not India, is the real threat to Pakistan’s survival.

India and Pakistan have more to talk about, including cooperation on water, expanded trade and their joint stake in a stable Afghanistan. President Obama’s drawdown of American troops will go easier if India and Pakistan are part of the solution, not fighting over the spoils. New Delhi insists that it will accept no outside mediation. Washington needs to keep pressing the two to work together.

The United States and its allies are planning a conference in Bonn in December and hope to rally international support for a broad regional strategy that includes a peace deal for Afghanistan, trade agreements and ambitious energy projects. India and Pakistan need to be full participants. The payoff could be huge if their leaders muster the courage to resolve their differences.

John Lennon- Imagine

India Continues to Dominate Pakistan’s Strategic Thinking: US

As Reoported By The Times of India

Pakistan’s efforts to launch a comprehensive fight against terrorism are greatly hampered by its perceived threat perception against India, US President Barack Obama has said in a new report to Congress.

“As India continues to dominate their strategic threat perception, large elements of Pakistan’s military remain committed to maintaining a ratio of Pakistani to Indian forces along the eastern border,” Obama said in the third-quarterly report to the Congress on Afghanistan and Pakistan sent yesterday.

“This deprives the Pakistani COIN (counter-insurgency) fight of sufficient forces to achieve its ‘clear’ objectives and support the ‘hold’ efforts and causing available Army forces to be bogged down with ‘hold’ activities because there are insufficient trained civilian law enforcement personnel to assume that responsibility,” Obama said in his 38-page unclassified (rpt) unclassified version of the report.

Due to flood in Pakistan last year the offensive military operations Pakistan had envisioned for KP (Khaibar Pakhtoonwah) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in the second half of 2010 were overtaken by events, he said.

“Militants were impacted by the floods as well, so we did not observe significant offensive actions on their side, but as Pakistani forces ceased offensive operations, extremists extended their control to areas without sufficient Pakistani central government-provided security and governance,” he wrote.

Between October 1 and December 31, 2010, Obama said Pakistani security forces remained largely static, generally focusing on maintaining the security of previously cleared areas in the FATA and KP and continuing to support flood relief operations.

There were small but notable security operations in November and December in Orakzai Agency and Dir District, but no major operations.

National attention during the reporting period focused on the need for continued flood relief and the start of early recovery efforts, he said.

“The military served as a force of stability during the monsoons, ensuring that Pakistani and international emergency resources were available for rescue and relief operations. The Pakistan Army, Air Force, and Navy committed large numbers of personnel and resources to the flood relief operations throughout October and November,” he said.

The civilian government’s response suffered from a lack of coordination and reflected broader shortcomings in the government’s ability to execute the civilian “hold” and “build” phases of COIN.

The last quarter of 2010 saw no progress on effectively executing the COIN cycle in KP and the FATA.

India, Pakistan back to bickering after Mohali bonhomie

As Reported by IBN Live

India and Pakistan had a brief bout of acrimony with both complaining that a staffer each posted at their diplomatic missions in Islamabad and New Delhi respectively were detained by the host country and later let off.

While Pakistan today claimed that a driver of its mission in New Delhi was “arrested” for unspecified reasons on Wednesday, the Ministry of External Affairs took up the matter of a ‘missing’ Indian High Commission official in Islamabad. “A driver from the High Commission was arrested. (He) has been released. We have protested,” Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Tehmina Janjua told PTI in Islamabad, without giving details.

However, sources in New Delhi said that on Wednesday evening a Pakistani High Commission driver was seen near the Chandigarh cantonment area and when confronted, he tried to escape. “In the process, he sustained some bruises/injury on his knee and back. He was questioned and thereafter released.Before being released, a medical check-up was conducted which showed him in good health,” sources told PTI.

Just hours after the incident, an official in Indian High Commission went ‘missing’ in Islamabad, sources said, adding there was no immediate official confirmation on his whereabouts from the Pakistan side. However, the media reported detention of the Indian official, prompting Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao to take up the matter with her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir. “Apart from Indian High Commission raising the issue with Pakistan Foreign Ministry in Islamabad, the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi took up the issue with Pakistan High Commission seeking the safety, security and well-being of the Indian official,” sources said.

The official was later handed over to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, sources said. Though the sources did not divulge the name of the Indian official, some reports identified him as Anand Sharma, working in the consular section of the High Commission.

The incident involving the Pakistani driver occurred at a time when the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan were in Mohali, holding “extremely positive” conversation on the sidelines of the pulsating cricket World Cup semi-final between the two countries. The incident of the Indian official was being seen as a tit-for-tat to the Chandigarh incident.

Dialogue Key to Peace with Pakistan, Says India

By Anjana Pasricha for The Voice of America

As India and Pakistan get ready to restart peace talks after more than two years, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says dialogue is the only way to resolve their differences.  The embattled Indian leader is also vowing to tackle inflation and punish those guilty of corruption — two issues which have put his government on the ropes at home.

Speaking to parliament Thursday, Prime Minister Singh said South Asia will not realize its potential unless India-Pakistan relations are normalized. India is willing to discuss all outstanding issues with Pakistan, he said.

But, striking a cautious note, he expressed hope that Islamabad will give up allowing its territory to be used for terrorist activity directed at India.

“I sincerely hope and believe that the new ruling classes of Pakistan would grasp the hands of our friendship and recognize that whatever our differences, terror as an instrument of state policy, is something no civilized society ought to be using,” he said. “I am not saying that we have today an atmosphere in which negotiations can go forward, but there are hopeful signs.”

Earlier this month, both countries decided to restart a peace process, which New Delhi had put on hold after blaming Pakistan-based Islamic militants for mounting the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai. The foreign secretaries of the two countries will meet in the Indian capital in March. Their foreign ministers are to meet by July.

Singh’s comments on the peace talks with Pakistan came during an address to parliament, in which he outlined the priorities facing his government.

He pledged to lower inflation from 10 percent to seven percent by the end of the year. Food inflation is even higher and has emerged as a major worry in a country with millions of poor people.

Singh has promised to bring a new food security bill in parliament to ensure that poor people are protected from rising food prices.

Inflation has to be tackled in a manner that it does not hurt the economy, which the prime minister says is growing well.

“If we had a ham-handed [heavy] approach, we could have killed the growth process which is the only source of providing jobs for our youth. So, this delicate balance has to be preserved between control of inflation and protection of employment,” he said.

The Indian leader also vowed to crack down on those guilty of corruption in connection with sale of telecom spectrum, in 2008, and the organization of the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, last year. Allegations that officials siphoned off billions of dollars have put the spotlight on corrupt practices in government contracts.

With the two corruption scandals dominating headlines in recent months, Singh expressed fears that the wrong impression may be going out.

“The message should not go out that India is adrift, that India has lost its way, that the enthusiasm for getting this country moving forward is something that is no longer in evidence,” he said.

The Congress-led government was voted back to power in 2009, but is facing a rising wave of discontent both becauseof high food prices and the high-profile graft scandals.

India to Invite Pakistan Home Secretary for March Talks, 26/11 on Agenda

As Reported by The Times of India

With India and Pakistan deciding to resume comprehensive dialogue over various issues, New Delhi will soon extend an invitation to Islamabad for home secretary-level talks on counterterrorism, including progress in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack trial, here in March.

Home secretary Gopal K Pillai said, “I will call my Pakistani counterpart this week inviting him to New Delhi for talks. I will propose two sets of dates to him for a meeting in the second-half of next month.”

This will be the first structured home secretary-level meeting between India and Pakistan on counterterrorism after November 2008. The last such meeting between home secretaries had, incidentally, concluded in Islamabad on November 26, 2008 — the day Lashkar gunmen attacked Mumbai. India had suspended composite dialogue with Pakistan in the wake of the 26/11 attacks.

Home secretaries of both countries had also met on the sidelines of Saarc interior ministers’ conference in Islamabad in June last year.

On the issues to be taken up during the meeting with Pakistani interior secretary Chaudhry Qamar Zaman, Pillai told a news agency, “We will ask for voice transcripts (of perpetrators of 26/11) even though the trial court has said no. We will ask them why they have not gone and appealed. I am sure the high court or the Supreme Court may have said that the voice transcripts can be given.”

Referring to lack of action on the part of Pakistan, the home secretary said, “So far most of the people they have caught are all chaps who have sold outboard engines or… driven a taxi and not any of the main people whose voice has been identified by Pakistani-American terrorist David Headley.”

He added, “I think by now, if they wanted, they could have arrested the main persons behind it (26/11 attacks). No use catching people on the streets… and not the real controllers and those who are behind it (attacks).”

Asked what prevented Pakistan from taking strong action against those responsible for the attack, Pillai said Headley’s own evidence clearly showed that there was support of certain elements in the Pakistan state. So, to that extent, anything which leads back to them, there is “total deniability”, Pillai said.

He rejected the view that investigations into the Samjhauta Express blast, indicating involvement of right-wing extremism, will put pressure on India while talking to Pakistan on terrorism. “It will not put pressure on us. We are open about it. The investigations are open. Our courts are free. We are investigating the same. We had told them in June that the investigations are on and as something crystalizes, we shall share it with them. And now, we have said that as soon as the chargesheet is filed, we will share full details with them because a very large number of Pakistani citizens were killed,” he said.

Pakistan Observes Kashmir Solidarity Day Today

As Reported on Sify News, India

Pakistan is observing the Kashmir Solidarity Day on Saturday (today) to renew its pledge to provide full moral, political and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people.

“We would not rest unless the people of Kashmir get their right to self-determination and win freedom from the Indian domination. We regard the Quaid-i-Azam’s dictum as our ideal wherein he said, “Kashmir is our jugular vein”. The day is not far when the Kashmiris would determine their own future,” The Nation quoted Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, as saying in his message on the occasion.

The government and the people of Pakistan join their Kashmiri brothers and sisters in observing the Kashmir Solidarity Day, said Gilani, adding that the whole nation stands united in seeking a just and peaceful solution to the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the legitimate aspirations of the Kashmiris as enshrined in relevant UN resolutions.

It will be a public holiday throughout Pakistan today, and special programmes will be broadcasted on television in this regard.

Apart from mass rallies, symposia, conventions meetings and speech declamations, a unique ceremony will be held at all six bridges linking Pakistan and PoK, where Pakistani and Kashmiri people will form a human chain.

It may be mentioned here that the day is observed every year in Pakistan, in continuation of the first call given by the then Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1975.

A Prayer for Peace

Reported by Ghazi Salahuddin for The News International

We, in Pakistan, have rang out 2010 with a general strike and noisy rallies by religious elements in defence of the blasphemy law. We also rang out the year with a massive increase in petroleum products. And these spiritually and economically debilitating influences were certainly a distraction in our celebration of the biggest night of the year.

Today, on Sunday, the New Year is more than a day old. After spending the last few days of the departed year in taking stock of 2010, we are more inclined to look ahead and wonder what the coming year is going to be like. The general mood, certainly, is depressing. The past year was the year of floods, and Wikileaks, and drone attacks and social as well as political disarray. At the same time, it was also a year of hope – of Aman ki Asha – and of some intimations of how we, as a nation, still possess a conspicuous potential for survival.

In a sense, the attempt that so many ordinary citizens desperately made to celebrate the New Year in a communal spirit of joy was a genuine reflection of the life-force of a society that yearns for peace and happiness. In Karachi, the authorities made a concerted effort to subvert the inherent desire of the people to have a good time, as they always do. Roads leading to the Sea View promenade were blocked and eating places in the area were not allowed to do business.

It is besides the point that the young were still able to put up their show and the New Year was greeted with song and dance. Yes, the more privileged were able to celebrate the occasion in their private premises. But the point here is that public expression of any social or cultural vitality is increasingly being suppressed at the same time that the obscurantist elements are openly able to project their narrow outlook. What makes this dereliction more ominous is the government’s policy of appeasement and, even, surrender when it comes to dealing with the rise of intolerance and prejudice in our society.

It would be instructive to compare the rallies that were taken out in the late afternoon on Friday and the celebrations that were held a few hours later. I had an occasion to see the main procession that was taken out in Karachi and let me confess that it left me in a depressed state of mind. I simply could not identify with that crowd and the slogans it was raising. When I returned home at six, Sydney was greeting the New Year with its spectacular fireworks.

So, where do we, as a nation, belong in this world that is forever changing and embracing new technologies and new ideas? And it is in this context that I would like to return to the inspiration that we may draw from Aman ki Asha, the campaign launched by The Times of India Group and the Jang Group one year ago to promote peace between India and Pakistan.

Since yesterday was the first anniversary of this remarkable initiative, this newspaper has already underlined its main features and the success that it has achieved in the face of the raw winds of suspicion and animosity that have for long been blowing across this region. There was an editorial on this subject and a special edition. It was very encouraging to see the piece especially written for Aman ki Asha by Karen Armstrong, the celebrated religious historian.

Hence, I would not want to replicate the points that have been made. Still, I think that the public opinion poll conducted on the first anniversary of the project deserves to be carefully analysed. Here is a message that should not be overlooked when we interpret the social and political character of our society. It is true that the results of the survey are not at all surprising for those of us who have always believed in the overwhelming imperative of peace in not just our relations with India but also in a domestic context.

Now, the survey that was independently conducted by credible professionals, has certified that 70 per cent of Pakistanis and 74 per cent of Indians want peaceful relations between the two countries. What is crucial and meaningful here is that there has been a marked increase in the popular support for peace during the year that the largest media groups in India and Pakistan had conducted their varied and well-designed programmes under the umbrella of Aman ki Asha.

At a time when there is so much confusion about the role and the impact of the media, particularly the broadcast media, here is evidence that it can make a positive difference in shaping popular opinion when its message is in harmony with the natural aspirations of the people. This should make us realise that the media also has the power to sabotage the interests of the people when it is allowed to be manipulated by vested interests and when its expression is suppressed through intolerance and mindless chauvinism.

In many ways, the rise of extremism and militancy can be attributed to conflicts that are allowed to fester, distracting the attention and the resources of the nation from attending to the economic, social, and cultural needs of the people. Nothing undermines our national security more than rampant poverty and injustice and other deprivations of our people.

Indeed, the logic for normalisation of relations between India and Pakistan is rooted in the immortal desire of the people of both countries for social justice and for progress. In fact, Aman ki Asha should be seen in a larger context. Our need for peace transcends the otherwise fundamental issue of how our national security policies have remained India-centric.

Take, for instance, the official response to the rise of religious extremism in the country. Even when there is growing awareness that the threats we confront internally are very severe and could even jeopardise the very survival of the nation, the rulers do not seem to have the time or the intellectual ability to rethink and revise their national security formulations.

Meanwhile, of course, the people are ready and eager for what may be described as a paradigm shift. Initiatives like Aman ki Asha are necessary to set the stage for change and promote an environment in which an honorable and durable peace is possible.

When Aman ki Asha was launched one year ago, it affirmed that “peace between Pakistan and India is an idea whose time has come”. It also said that “it is daybreak for the people of the two countries who have languished in the twilight of mutual animosity and distrust for over six decades”. How long would it take for the rulers in the two countries to accept this self-evident truth?

The writer is a staff member. Email: ghazi_salahuddin@hotmail .com

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