Posts Tagged ‘ Peace ’

Dr. Mahbub ul-Haq Reflects on Working Toward Peace

By Dr. Mahbub ul-Haq for Architects of Peace

Simply put, our challenge is this-can we make the twenty-first century a century of human development, when all people enjoy access to education and health, when each individual is enabled to utilize her or his full human potential, when all people have developed their basic capabilities and enjoy equal access to the opportunities of life? Now let us be clear. This is a vision of human competition, not state welfare. It is a vision of access to opportunities, not access to charity. It is a vision of the enrichment of human lives, not just the enrichment of national income or wealth, and the investment required to realize this vision is fairly modest.

We wish to move over the next fifteen years toward a society where there is universal basic education, primary health care for all, safe drinking water for all, adequate nutrition for all malnourished children, and family planning services for all willing couples. In other words, we wish to move toward a world society where basic social services are available to everyone, both men and women, and women before men; where the worst human deprivations curbing the potential of more than 1.3 billion people today have been finally overcome; where all essential ingredients for the full flowering of human potential are available in the form of adequate education, health, and nutrition. We wish to achieve all this.

What is the financial cost of achieving such a society? According to the best available estimates, the cost will be around an additional $34 billion a year-34 billion dollars. This cost is less than 1 percent of the total income if the poor nations bear all the burden themselves and this cost will be reduced to less than one-seventh of 1 percent of global income if the international community decides to share the cost along with the poor nations. That is the cost.

The question we face today is this: Can we persuade the leaders of the world to accept such a global compact for human development for the twenty-first century?

Let us again be very clear. Such a global compact is not yet another treaty requiring the formal approval of the governments of the world. It is, in fact, a shared vision of what the world can and must achieve. It requires global understanding, not a global treaty, because in the last analysis most action must begin at the national level, and often at the grassroots level, and such action must begin in the developing world itself.

These countries do not lack financial resources. What they lack is political courage. We need to ask the leaders of the Third World, and ask them bluntly, why they insist on spending $130 billion each year on the military when even a quarter of this expenditure can finance their entire essential social agenda. And we must ask them why they insist on having six soldiers for every one doctor when their people are dying of ordinary diseases, from internal disintegration, not from external aggression, from many threats to human security, not any threats to territorial security.

And we must also ask them why they are not convinced that everything they buy costs the immunization of four million children and every jet fighter they purchase costs the schooling of three million children and every submarine they store away in the waters denies safe drinking water to sixty million people. Why do we let them argue poverty of resources for human development when they have well-fed armies but unfed people and when many of these nations spend more on their armies every year than their total education and health budgets?

And at the same time, we must ask the leaders of the rich nations, why do you keep subsidizing your arms exports to poor lands when you argue against even food subsidies in these poor nations? Why is it that you refuse to close down your military bases, phase out your military assistance, and restrict the export of the sophisticated military weapons even now when the Cold War is over? What is your excuse? And why do you make such handsome profits on your exports of arms to poor, starved, disintegrating countries while giving them lectures all the time on respect for basic human rights? And we need to ask these leaders, why do they not invest in human development and instead make profits out of the future prosperity of poor lands and not out of the current state of human deprivation?

I believe, my friends, what we need to change is the mindset of our leaders in developing countries as well as in rich nations, because changes in policies will then follow and adequate resources for priority human development agendas will then be mobilized.

Let us spread the message to all world leaders that such a compact is not only desirable-it is eminently doable, it is feasible. And many years from now, we can look our grandchildren right in the eye and tell them quite proudly: “Yes, we tried.”

 

-Described as “the most articulate and persuasive spokesman” for the developing world, and as one of the most brilliant economists the world has ever known, Pakistan born Dr. Mahbub ul-Haq pioneered many economic policies to help the poor. He served as chief economist of Pakistan’s National Planning Commission during the 1960s, director of the World Bank’s Policy Planning Department in the 1970s, and in various Pakistani cabinet posts during the 1980s. As special advisor to the United Nations Development Program, he created the Human Development Index, which measures development by people’s well-being, rather than by their income alone. Haq was the author of six books on poverty and development. He died in 1998 in New York.

India, Pak Almost Agreed on K-deal: Musharraf

 As Reported by The Press Trust of India

Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf on Friday said India and Pakistan were “moving forward towards drafting an agreement” on Kashmir during his tenure and that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was genuinely committed to peace in the region. “I was certainly trying for it (peace).

And we were reaching success. I have always praised Prime Minister (of India) for his sincerity to reach peace,” said Musharraf, in an interview with NPR. Manmohan Singh and we almost reached peace on all the three issues…the third one, Kashmir, we had made some certain parameters and we were moving forward towards drafting an agreement,” he added. “Unfortunately, that was not to be, but I tried my best.”

Noting that peace is the only way forward, Musharraf noted that the deadlock on Kashmir was rendering the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) useless.

“And I think the way forward is peace for the sake of world, which thinks that this is a nuclear flash point; for the sake of SAARC, which is impotent because of the conflict because of India and Pakistan,” said the former president.

“And for the sake of bilateral Pakistan-India advantages socio-economic advantages which will flow from peace between the two countries,” he noted.

Musharraf is in the US to drum up support for his comeback, which he announced earlier this year by launching a new political party — the All Pakistan Muslim League that would contest elections in 2013. Earlier this week, he accused India of trying to create an “anti-Pakistan Afghanistan.” “If I’m allowed to be very, very frank, India’s role in Afghanistan is to create an anti-Pakistan Afghanistan, said Musharraf, speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations on Tuesday.

Today, he characterised the narrative of the Indo-Pak dispute as “impartial”. “So, unfortunate reality, why I have to be so emotional about it, is every time it is Pakistan who is a rogue,” he said.

“Indian bomb is not a Hindu bomb. Pakistan bomb is a Islamic bomb. I think we are being very impartial, we are being very unfair to Pakistan…”

The Nexus of US-India-Pakistan Relations

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

As President Obama wraps up his visit to India in the next day, a couple of things are important to point out about relations between the United States and India as well as how Pakistan fits into the equation.

The balance of power between India and the US still lies with the United States, however, India is set to make more and more gains in becoming more influential as its economy grows and as the United States looks to it to counter China in Asia.

The strategic partnership between the two countries and the importance of India for the United States is going to become vital as America uses India to contain China’s influence in the region and around the world.

We do believe that President Obama is correct in stating that relations between the two countries warrant being called the defining relationship of the century as there is no other country that compliments the United States presently in the world as does India. Not only do both countries share democratic ideals and a multiethnic population, but both countries are also increasingly dependent on each other’s economies. Add to this the nuclear cooperation as well as America’s support for India to get a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, and it becomes evident that this relationship will continue to grow over time.

President Obama has offered criticism on Pakistan already but is careful in trying to walk the tight rope act that is India-Pakistan relations. There are certainly more behind the scene steps taking place that will chide Pakistan into doing more. But in our view, the single most important thing that the US and the Obama administration can do is to help India and Pakistan come back to the table to get the peace process moving along. There is widespread agreement with the President’s assessment that a prosperous and stable Pakistan is in the best interests of India, Afghanistan and the region. In this effort, we believe there needs to be done more by all parties involved.

India’s argument has always been that the terrorist infrastructure and support for some anti-India militant groups needs to end before New Delhi will resume the peace process with Pakistan.

India should not refuse extensive trade relationships with the US due to American support of Pakistan as it does not do anything to help India. India realizes the situation both inside Pakistan and America’s dependency of the Pakistan Army’s support in flushing out the Taliban. It would go against India’s interests if it put its relationship and advancement with the United States as being dependent on American support for Pakistan and its vital assistance in the war in Afghanistan and on terror.

Peace between India and Pakistan and in the Kashmir valley is the only solution to both the conflict between the two nations as well as it is in America’s interests for both countries and the region. Furthermore, peace between the two countries will allow both Pakistan’s full focus on the Afghan border in helping American troops against the Taliban as well as the elimination of anti-India militant groups within Pakistan, many of whom are alleged to still be receiving support from elements within Pakistan’s ISI spy agency, much to India’s chagrin.

Obama Will Try to Avoid the K Word

By Paul Beckett for The Wall Street Journal

To some U.S. officials, it is known simply as the “K-word.” Kashmir. It’s a topic we expect U.S. President Barack Obama to try his level best to avoid during his three-day trip to India that starts next week.

The issue got the former British foreign secretary in hot water when he was here last year. And when Richard Holbrooke, Mr. Obama’s special representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan at one point suggested he tackle Kashmir too, the idea received a furious rebuff from the Indians.

If the topic does come up, Mr. Obama will likely follow the same tack taken by his advisers earlier this week in a briefing with reporters. When asked, “Will the President talk publicly or privately about Kashmir and the tensions between India and Pakistan?” this was the response from Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor for strategic communication.

“The President believes that the U.S. relationship with India and the U.S. relationship with Pakistan does not take place within any kind of zero-sum dynamic.  It’s often been viewed that way in the past, that if we become closer to one it’s at the expense of the other. And we’ve tried to send the signal that it’s the opposite with this administration; that, in fact, actually you see that borne out in the fact that we had a very successful strategic dialogue here, with the Pakistanis in town last week, discussing greater security cooperation in governance and economic issues.

And as a part of that, the President met with the Pakistani delegation and ended up speaking to President Zardari yesterday to discuss that strategic dialogue and said that he’d very much like to visit Pakistan next year and is planning to visit Pakistan next year.”

If you’re counting, that almost 150 words – and not one of them is “Kashmir.”

William Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, added his own non-Kashmir Kashmir response. “We have always welcomed dialogue between India and Pakistan and certainly encouraged efforts to improve relations between those two very important countries.  Obviously, the pace, scope and character of that dialogue is something that Indians and Pakistanis have to shape.  But we’ll continue to both welcome and encourage it.”

White House reporters being an intrepid bunch, another questioner brought up the topic again, using the K-word specifically.

“Just to follow Steven’s question on Kashmir. Will the President be making some public remarks explaining the U.S. position on Kashmir?  And will he also be addressing — explaining the U.S. relationship with Pakistan publicly?”

This time Mr. Rhodes was even more eloquent, going for a full 286 words, not a single one of them Kashmir.

Arundhati’s Statement From Srinagar: Full Text

By Arundhati Roy
October 26, 2010
Noted Indian Hindu writer Arundhati Roy Tuesday said her speeches supporting the call for azadi were what “millions” in Kashmir say every day and were “fundamentally a call for justice”. Following is the full text of the statement that she has issued.
 
“I write this from Srinagar, Kashmir. This morning’s papers say that I may be arrested on charges of sedition for what I have said at recent public meetings on Kashmir. I said what millions of people here say every day. I said what I, as well as other commentators have written and said for years. Anybody who cares to read the transcripts of my speeches will see that they were fundamentally a call for justice. I spoke about justice for the people of Kashmir who live under one of the most brutal military occupations in the world; for Kashmiri Pandits who live out the tragedy of having been driven out of their homeland; for Dalit soldiers killed in Kashmir whose graves I visited on garbage heaps in their villags in Cuddalore; for the Indian poor who pay the price of this occupation in material ways and who are now learning to live in the terror of what is becoming a police state.  

“Yesterday I traveled to Shopian, the apple-town in South Kashmir which had remained closed for 47 days last year in protest against the brutal rape and murder of Asiya and Nilofer, the young women whose bodies were found in a shallow stream near their homes and whose murderers have still not been brought to justice. I met Shakeel, who is Nilofer’s husband and Asiya’s brother. We sat in a circle of people crazed with grief and anger who had lost hope that they would ever get ‘insaf’—justice—from India, and now believed that Azadi—freedom— was their only hope. I met young stone pelters who had been shot through their eyes. I traveled with a young man who told me how three of his friends, teenagers in Anantnag district, had been taken into custody and had their finger-nails pulled out as punishment for throwing stones.

“In the papers some have accused me of giving ‘hate-speeches’, of wanting India to break up. On the contrary, what I say comes from love and pride. It comes from not wanting people to be killed, raped, imprisoned or have their finger-nails pulled out in order to force them to say they are Indians. It comes from wanting to live in a society that is striving to be a just one. Pity the nation that has to silence its writers for speaking their minds. Pity the nation that needs to jail those who ask for justice, while communal killers, mass murderers, corporate scamsters, looters, rapists, and those who prey on the poorest of the poor, roam free.”

Arundhati Roy is a novelist, essayist and human rights activist. She won a Booker Prize in 1997 for her novel, The God of Small Things. For more on her read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arundhati_Roy

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note- Arundhati Roy’s courageous plea to her country is to be lauded. Although branded a traitor by many in India and within the government, she knows that she stands for peace, justice and fairness for all humanity. She wants self determination for all Kashmiris, be they Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or Christian.

We at Pakistanis for Peace want nothing more than peace between India and Pakistan and therefore understand that Kashmir is the one and single most important issue between the two countries. Solve it and you do not have the threat of cross border attacks, friction, animosity, perpetual war and a tense border between two neighbors of nearly 2,000 miles. If we continue to ignore it then it will eventually be the crisis that starts a 4th and possibly nuclear war between the two neighbors. A war that neither the neighborhood nor the world can afford.

Happy 70th Birthday to you John Lennon. RIP.

“Imagine no possessions I wonder if you can No need for greed or hunger A brotherhood of man Imagine all the people Sharing all the world… You may say I’m a dreamer But I’m not the only one I hope someday you’ll join us And the world will live as one!”

You were an incredible musician, a compassionate pacifist, and a great human being and Pakistanis for Peace salutes you.

A Muslim’s Prayer for Peace and Religious Tolerance

Merciful God, You made all of the people of the world in Your own image and placed before us the pathway of salvation through different Preachers who claimed to have been Your Saints and Prophets. But, the contradictions in their teachings and interpretations of them have resulted in creating divisions, hatreds and bloodshed in the world community. Millions of innocent men, women and children have so far been brutally killed by the militants of several religions who have been committing horrifying crimes against humanity, and millions more would be butchered by them in the future, if You do not help us find ways to reunite peacefully.

In the name of God, The Compassionate, The Merciful, look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the controversial teachings of arrogance, divisions and hatreds which have badly infected our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; reunite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish Your purposes on earth; that, in Your good time, all nations and races may jointly serve You in justice, peace and harmony. (Amen)

-Pakistanis for Peace, September 11, 2010

Muslims for Peace- A Public Service Announcement

This is an amazing Public Service Announcement by my friend Ani Zonneveld, founder of Muslims for Progressive Values, a peace activist and an award winning singer/songwriter as well as a great ambassador for moderate Muslims everywhere and a voice of reason within Islam during these difficult times. This video is a must watch for Muslims and non-Muslims alike for helping build bridges and understanding between moderate voices of Islam within and outside the Muslim world.

For more information, please visit http://www.mpvusa.org

No Change Seen in Pakistan’s View of India Threat

By Myra MacDonald for Reuters

The Pakistan army is unlikely to change its assessment of the threat from India despite heavy demands on its troops to provide flood relief while also fighting Islamist militants, a senior security official said.

The Wall Street Journal said this month Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency had decided — for the first time in the country’s history — that Islamist militants had overtaken India as the greatest threat to national security.

But the security official suggested this was a misinterpretation of the stance of the Pakistan army, which views the threat from militants and India in very different ways, rather than comparing them against each other.

“These are two mutually exclusive threats. The magnitude, the type, is quite different. One is an internal threat which is insidious, difficult to quantify. It is a clear and present danger. This is a very serious threat,” he said. “The other is a conventional threat. What has India done, politically and militarily, for this threat to have been reduced?”

Another official said the threat from India had if anything increased into both a conventional and unconventional threat, as it used its presence in Afghanistan to support those fighting against the Pakistani state in its western border regions.

India denies accusations by Islamabad that it backs separatists in Baluchistan province, which borders Afghanistan, saying it is interested only in promoting Afghan development.

With flooding which has uprooted some 6 million people further destabilizing a country already battling militants, the WSJ report raised the possibility the Pakistan army might revise its assessment of the threat from its much bigger neighbor.

It keeps the bulk of its troops on the Indian border.

INDIAN FLOOD RELIEF

India has promised Pakistan $5 million in flood relief and analysts there see no chance of it exploiting its nuclear rival’s current vulnerability by raising tensions on the border.

“At this time no one is thinking of anything other than how to help them get over the suffering and the damage,” said retired Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal at the Center for Land Warfare Studies.

“The Pakistanis should feel free to pull out their troops for flood relief as and when they want. The Indian Army obviously cannot give any written guarantees but our DGMO (Director General of Military Operations) could reassure his counterpart that we have no intention of attacking them at such a time.”

The DGMO’s of the two countries talk by phone once a week, mainly to clear up misunderstandings over any ceasefire violations on the Line of Control dividing disputed Kashmir.

But the security official said that Pakistan’s military deployment was based on its assessment of India’s potential offensive strength. “The configuration of any defense force is based on enemy’s capabilities and not intentions,” he said.

Pakistan has taken more casualties in its battle with Islamist militants than in all its wars against India combined — the two countries have fought three full-scale wars since independence in 1947 along with other smaller conflicts.

Yet for Pakistan to drop its guard against India would require progress on political disputes, including over Kashmir, officials say.

India broke off a peace process with Pakistan after the 2008 attack on Mumbai by Pakistan-based militants and despite several attempts the two countries have been unable to get their talks back on track again.

And even while Pakistan fights militants on its western border with Afghanistan, it remains wary of sudden Indian retaliation should there be another Mumbai-style attack on India.

“This enforced attention to the western border has made the Pakistan army reassess its priorities,” said western military analyst Brian Cloughley, an expert on the Pakistan army.

“But it still does not wish to drop its guard to the east, especially as the there is still the threat of a swift and dramatic attack if a terrorist outrage in India is determined by India to have been planned in Pakistan.”

Pakistan has said it cannot guarantee there will be no more attacks on India, arguing that it too is a victim of bombings.

Crisis in Kashmir

By Ashok K Metha for The Wall Street Journal

A few months ago, Pakistan was virtually begging India to restart the dialogue process between the two governments, suspended after the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack. Now Pakistani spokesman Abdul Basit asserts that Pakistan will not agree to “any preconditions for resuming the dialogue process.” Why did Islamabad’s attitude change?

The answer lies in two cities: Srinagar and Kabul.

With 62 civilian deaths in the ongoing rioting in the capital city Srinagar and two districts, over the past couple months Kashmir has witnessed a fresh uprising against the symbols of the state. Kashmiris are using every avenue they have—from stones to the Internet—to demand azaadi, or freedom. The mostly spontaneous upheaval involves young men, women and even children. Kashmiris want freedom from corruption, bad governance and the overbearing presence of soldiers.

For decades Pakistan has been trying to wrest Kashmir away from India by sponsoring insurgency. But today, thanks to the ineffective administration in Srinagar, Pakistan doesn’t have to try very hard. After the security forces managed to restore law and order three years ago, India failed to take the political initiative, and frittered away its gains. The result is widespread disillusionment. At a ceremony commemorating India’s Independence Day this month, a local policeman threw a shoe at Omar Abdullah, chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, whose grandfather Sheikh Abdullah ratified the state’s accession to India.

Up until 2008, the state had a lot going for it: several round-table meetings for self rule and confidence-building measures, periodic release of economic packages, annual visits by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, conferences connecting the people and quiet dialogue with moderate and hardline separatist leaders. The ceasefire on the Line of Control was holding, and a four-point formula for resolving the Kashmir dispute hammered out with Pakistan through back channels seemed as good as done.

Indian security personnel beat detained Kashmiri Muslim protesters in Srinagar, India.
Mysteriously, the peace process then ground to a halt. The India-Pakistan dialogue began unraveling soon after Gen. Pervez Musharraf left the scene. The new Pakistani Army Chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, a Fort Leavenworth graduate and favorite of the U.S. establishment, reversed the process of reconciliation. The ceasefire has become shaky, and the Pakistani government’s rhetoric on Kashmir has returned to the rights of the people to self determination and “diplomatic and moral support to Kashmir in their legitimate struggle no matter how brutally Indian forces try to suppress it.”

The reason Gen. Kayani feels emboldened to take a harder line is easy to discern. Tensions deepened after the U.S. elevated Pakistan from “major non-NATO ally” to the linchpin of its Afghan exit strategy, and excluded India from a political solution in Afghanistan. Despite the denials of U.S. Af-Pak point man Richard Holbrooke, the Afghanistan-Pakistan free trade agreement has only underscored India’s irrelevance to Kabul.

Civilian strife in the Kashmir Valley will only strengthen Pakistan’s case that resumption of a dialogue on Kashmir alone will enable a more focused fight against the Taliban on the Western frontier. This is not entirely true, as the Pakistan Army has already redeployed to the west 52% of its offensive and 45% of its defensive forces previously devoted to facing down India.

The priority for Delhi is to stop the stone-throwing in Kashmir. Every death—one recent fatality was a child of eight years old—is fresh cause for protests. On an hour’s notice, 10,000 people will come out on the streets to join the funeral procession of someone they don’t know. Further, Kashmir’s moderate Islam is being radicalized by the hardline Jamaat-e-Islami, which has made even separatist leaders irrelevant. No one is willing to talk unconditionally anymore.

Delhi will have to start from scratch in rolling back alienation by reaching out to youth. Yet Rahul Gandhi, India’s prime-minister-in-waiting and supposedly its youth leader, has not reached out to his favorite constituency in Kashmir. Neither has Congress President Sonia Gandhi or Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Srinagar since the troubles began in June. Until a few months back, Kashmir was the most violence-free state in India, as security forces had significantly marginalized insurgent and terrorist groups over the last three years.

Islamabad is not about to take over Kashmir—according to a survey by London-based think tank Chatham House last month, just 2% of the population favors joining Pakistan. But as the cry for azaadi grows louder, no one has a clue when this uprising is going to stop. Even as the faithful observe Ramadan, Delhi needs to do something before U.S. President Barack Obama’s scheduled visit in November.

India, Pakistan Peaceniks Hold Candlelight Vigil on Wagah Border

By Sawinder Singh for ANI

Several intellectuals and peace activists from India and Pakistan held a candlelight vigil at Wagah border crossing in on the eve of Independence Day.

The objective of this annual event is to spread the message of peace and brotherhood on the occasion of the Independence Day celebrations of the two neighbouring countries-India and Pakistan.

The midnight vigil on August 14-15 was held on the 63rd Independence Day celebrations of both the countries.

Bollywood Film Producer-Director Mahesh Bhatt, veteran Indian journalist-writer Kuldeep Nayar, Aitzaz Ahsan, former Pakistan Supreme Court Bar Association President and many social activists participated in the midnight vigil.

The participants carrying candlelights and torches marched to the Wagah Border raising slogans of Long Live India-Pakistan Friendship.

“Borders should be open and it should be soft and let people meet from both the countries. Because when people of both the countries will meet then governments will come under pressure and the situation will improve,” said Kuldeep Nayyar.

“Both countries can prosper only if there is a good relationship between them, we have to remove the poverty. Both countries are stricken with acute poverty, unemployment and hunger. Both the countries need to reduce their expenditure on weapons and then only we can reduce poverty and for that it is necessary to have peace, friendship and brotherhood,” added Aitzaz Ahsan, former Pakistan Supreme Court Bar Association President.

On this occasion, a music concert was also held.

India and Pakistan achieved independence from Britain on the midnight of August 14, 1947. While Pakistan celebrates its Independence Day on August 14, India marks its Independence Day on August 15.

This year Pakistan did not celebrate its independence day as a tribut to victims of recent floods in the country.

India, Pakistan and the Musical Gurus of Peace

By Varun Soni for The Huffington Post

In July, India and Pakistan will begin a new round of talks in hopes of reviving their diplomatic efforts and renewing their peace process. While there are many pressing political issues to discuss, these talks could also be a remarkable opportunity for an innovative public diplomacy initiative between the nuclear neighbors. Although public diplomacy is often thought of as a form of state-to-state engagement, it also has the power to engage populations on a person-to-person level as well, especially in the age of social media and networking. Given the fact that many Indians and Pakistanis sing the same songs and listen to the same music, there is a unique opportunity now to promote popular music as a form of public diplomacy.

Although India and Pakistan are politically divided, their cultural roots still bind them together. Nowhere is this more apparent than Punjab — a region that was partitioned to create the modern nation-states of India and Pakistan in 1947, and further divided into the Indian states of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh in the 1960s. Despite these geopolitical divisions, Punjabis in both India and Pakistan remain united by “Punjabiyat,” a shared cultural heritage that has developed over millennia.

The historical Punjab is the only region in South Asia where Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs are all represented in large numbers. Even as Punjab’s history is one of conflict and communalism, it is also one of overlapping musical and religious traditions. For example, the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh canonical text, contains within it not only the devotional compositions of Guru Nanak and his Sikh successors, but also verses from poets now considered Hindu and Muslim, such as Namdev and Baba Farid. Likewise, the Sikh devotional music of kirtan draws from similar lyrical sources and employs a similar instrumentation as Hindu bhajan music and Sufi qawwali music. For contemporary musicians, the devotional syncretism of Punjab remains a powerful model for how music can provide an encompassing framework for both unity and diversity.

Earlier this year, I interviewed the Sufi rock star Salman Ahmad as part of a USC book launch series focused on religion, popular culture, and diplomacy. As the founder of Junoon, Pakistan’s most popular rock band, Ahmad discussed his experiences performing in both India and Pakistan and explained how rock and roll empowers and connects the youth in both countries. In the name of rock-and-roll diplomacy, Ahmad organized last year’s Concert for Pakistan at the UN General Assembly Hall as a way of raising money and awareness for the three million internally displaced people of the Swat Valley in Pakistan. Inspired by George Harrison and Ravi Shankar’s famous Concert for Bangladesh, the Concert for Pakistan brought together prominent Indian and Pakistani musicians, diplomats, and entrepreneurs in solidarity and support for Swat.

Another powerful moment in India-Pakistan musical diplomacy occurred in August of 1997, when India and Pakistan celebrated their fiftieth anniversaries of independence as nation-states. In order to commemorate this occasion, the virtuoso Indian music composer A.R. Rahman recorded with the late great Pakistani qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Together, the most famous musician from India and the most famous musician from Pakistan composed “Gurus of Peace,” an impassioned plea for peace between India and Pakistan. “Gurus of Peace” proved prescient, as the following year both India and Pakistan tested nuclear weapons, prompting President Clinton to call the India-Pakistan border the world’s most dangerous region. But A.R. Rahman and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan had reminded the region the year earlier that India and Pakistan could unite through musical fusion instead of divide over nuclear fusion.

In the 1950s, the US State Department began sponsoring jazz luminaries, such as Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie, to perform concerts overseas and serve as American cultural ambassadors. This public diplomacy initiative was aimed at winning the hearts and minds of potential allies in the Cold War, but the concerts also connected communities and ideas at a person-to-person level, and inspired artistic movements throughout the world. Likewise, India and Pakistan should sponsor and promote a series of musical concerts, workshops, and exchanges as a way of creating connections and engaging communities on a non-state level. Musical diplomacy certainly has its limits and should only be one part of a broader public diplomacy strategy, but after more than 60 years of missed public diplomacy opportunities, it’s time for India and Pakistan to follow the lead of A.R. Rahman and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and give music a chance.

Indian PM Manmohan Singh Renews Kashmir Talks Offer

As reported by BBC

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has renewed an offer of talks with Kashmiri separatists who shun violence. He made the comments during a visit to a university in Indian-administered Kashmir. He is on a two-day trip to the state to review development schemes. Separatists have called a shutdown. The PM has disappointed those who expected him to announce a political package, the BBC’s Altaf Hussain in Srinagar says.

“We felt that the people of the state are not only interested in financial assistance and development projects, but also desire a political process that meets their aspirations,” Mr Singh told gathering at the agricultural university in Srinagar.

“We want to take the dialogue process forward. We are ready to talk to representatives of all sections who are opposed to terrorism and violence,” he said. ‘Strict instruction’  The prime minister repeated his government’s policy of “zero tolerance” for human rights violations.

“The security forces in Jammu and Kashmir have been strictly instructed to respect the rights of the civilians. We’ll act to remove any deficiency in the implementation of these instructions,” he said. The PM’s visit was greeted by protests against human rights violations  The prime minister’s visit came a day after the Indian army suspended a senior officer accused of killing three civilians in a staged gun battle.

The incident happened at Machhil near the Line of Control, the de facto border which separates Indian-administered Kashmir from Pakistani-administered Kashmir, in April. The Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley staged a total shutdown to protest against the prime minister’s visit. The strike was called by a hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

Mr Singh’s visit has also disappointed the moderate faction of the separatist Hurriyat Conference, headed by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, our correspondent says. Mr Farooq had urged the prime minister to announce a political package during his visit.

He had demanded withdrawal of troops from cities and towns and release of political prisoners to facilitate talks between the separatist leadership and the government, our correspondent adds. Violence has declined in Kashmir in recent years, but analysts say militants opposed to Indian rule are now trying to regroup. There has been a spate of clashes in recent months along the LoC. Hundreds of thousands of Indian troops are based in Kashmir, where there has been a two decade-old insurgey against Indian rule.

Time to end the impasse with Pakistan

By Siggharth Varadarajan for The Hindu.com

Forget Kashmir and terrorism or even Afghanistan and water, the current stalemate between India and Pakistan is all down to one word. Both countries publicly say that Dialogue is the only way forward. Yet each is paralysed by the name Composite’. New Delhi is so allergic to it that it will not accept its use, while Islamabad has become so attached to the C word that it insists there can be nothing else.

This Indian allergy and Pakistani attachment is paradoxical, since the composite dialogue approach has suited India more than it has Pakistan. Under the guise of moving ahead simultaneously on all issues, the framework has allowed progress on trade and other subjects considered important by New Delhi, even as the status quo on major disputes like Kashmir and Siachen key concerns for Islamabad has held. Of course, the dialogue did not end cross-border terrorism or extinguish the links between the Pakistani security agencies and violent extremism as some on the Indian side might have hoped. But that was always an improbable shot given the DNA of the Pakistani establishment. Over time, India has realised the best way to deal with the threat of terror is by strengthening its internal capabilities while utilising engagement as a lever for influencing Pakistan’s behaviour over the long run.

The two most important issues for the Pakistani side today going by its public statements are Kashmir and water. But here’s the paradox: the composite dialogue, from its point of view, has produced no forward movement whatsoever on these two fronts. In four and a half rounds of talks within that framework, the total amount of time spent by the two foreign secretaries in discussing the Kashmir dispute has perhaps been 10 hours. During which neither side did anything beyond restating its national positions. As for water, it does not even figure as a separate head under this format. The only water-related dispute covered by the composite dialogue is the Tulbul navigation project, also known as the Wullar barrage. There, too, progress has been insignificant.

In contrast to the composite dialogue framework, the back channel between Satinder Lambah and Tariq Aziz was far more effective and productive. Between 2004 and 2007, the two special envoys, who reported directly to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and General Pervez Musharraf respectively, discussed Kashmir for hundreds of hours. More significantly, their exertions produced a framework solution that was cleared on the Indian side by the Cabinet Committee on Security and on the Pakistani side by the Corps Commanders conference, before domestic political difficulties triggered by his dismissal of the chief justice forced Musharraf to back off. As for water, the Indus Water Commissioners have been meeting continuously for more than 40 years and their forum represents the best platform for Pakistan because all the Indian projects it opposes on the Indus, Chenab and Jhelum rivers can be referred to an outside arbitrator whose decisions are final and binding. Compared to such a powerful dispute resolution mechanism, the existing dialogue framework is surely inferior. And yet, even though Islamabad’s best shot at making progress on water and Kashmir lies outside the composite dialogue, it has got locked into a situation where it is refusing any form of engagement or talks other than that.

Now let’s consider India. The Indian position has been in a state of flux since it suspended the composite dialogue following the terrorist attacks on Mumbai in November 2008. Broadly speaking, however, India has maintained that there can be no resumption of the composite dialogue till Pakistan moves to punish the Mumbai conspirators and dismantles the infrastructure of terror on its soil. In September last year, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a distinction between meaningful dialogue on disputes, which would have to await Pakistani action on terrorism, and talks on humanitarian and other issues. Since then, the Indian position has evolved further. When Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary, Salman Bashir, was invited to Delhi in February 2010, India clarified that while its own priority was terrorism, it was ready to discuss all issues with Pakistan. That is still the official Indian position. At a press conference on April 22, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said dialogue represents a concrete method to move forward in our relationship It is always useful. It helps clear the atmosphere and especially between neighbors, such as India and Pakistan. Dialogue is really the only way forward.

But if India believes dialogue is really the way forward, why is it unable to accept Pakistan’s call for the composite dialogue to be resumed? The paradox here is that from the traditional Indian perspective, the composite dialogue has worked pretty well. Discussions on Kashmir have not led to any change in the territorial status quo but have provided a cover for India to move ahead with other parts of the bilateral agenda that suit it more, like trade and cross-border confidence-building measures. And if the Indian side is opposed to talks on the water issue’, the composite framework of dialogue is ideal because water does not figure as a standalone topic under any of the subject heads. Despite this, India is the one saying no to composite’ dialogue.

India suspended the composite dialogue in order to get Pakistan to take action against terrorism. Some action has been taken but the Manmohan Singh government rightly believes that Pakistan can and must do more. It also knows the continued absence of dialogue is unlikely to produce greater action on the terrorism front and might even be counter-productive. Yet it fears the resumption of the suspended dialogue will be seen as a sign of weakness by the Opposition.

India’s options have been further complicated by the hardening of the Pakistani position on cooperation and dialogue since November 2009, when Barack Obama’s new AfPak policy dealt the military establishment in Rawalpindi a stronger hand in the Afghan endgame. Even as the Pakistan army has stepped up its offensive against the Tehreek-e-Taliban and, to a lesser extent, anti-American extremists on its border with Afghanistan, it has played up the India threat’ card to balance the perception that it is too subservient to the U.S. The rhetoric on water, the Azm-e-Nau III exercises, the loosening of the leash on Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed and the increase in infiltration across the Line of Control are all evidence of the hardening of the Pakistani military’s attitude. At the same time, the domestic political situation in Pakistan is fluid. The 18th amendment to the constitution has opened up the possibility of the civilian government and the provinces strengthening themselves vis-a-vis the military. The revival of the Benazir Bhutto assassination case in the wake of the recent U.N. report could also provide political ammunition against the establishment.

In the run up to this week’s Saarc summit in Bhutan, where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will meet Yusuf Raza Gilani on the sidelines, Indian officials are resigned to keeping the bilateral relationship in a holding pattern.’ Their logic is that if relations cannot improve, then they should not be allowed to deteriorate either. As a short-term strategy, the holding pattern strategy works fine. There are always small things that can be done at that level too. But an aeroplane cannot circle the runway endlessly. The longer it is up in the air, the greater is the likelihood of a disastrous descent. That is why planning for an orderly landing is a much better strategy.

In Thimphu, Dr. Singh must try and find a way of doing that. One possibility is for the two prime ministers to task their foreign secretaries with reviewing what has been accomplished on the terrorism front as well as in the last few rounds of the composite dialogue, with a view to expediting the resolution of existing problems and disputes. Such a mandate would foreground the necessity of a dialogue addressing all outstanding issues while sidestepping, for the moment, any nomenclatural disagreement. It would accomplish the stated Indian objective while allowing Mr. Gilani to return without having surrendered Islamabad’s stand on the resumption of the composite dialogue.

Parallel to this process, the Prime Minister should meet with the leaders of all major political parties in order to explain the reasons why India and Pakistan need to end the current stalemate. Finally, a strict moratorium on grandstanding and posturing, finger-pointing and name-calling is necessary. When the Prime Minister is directly crafting India’s approach to Pakistan, ministers, officials and anonymous sources’ must not confuse the public with contradictory messages and statements.

Behind the Scenes of a Pakistani Suicide Bombing

By Chris Brummit and Asif Shahzad for The Associated Press

Abdul Baseer sent the grenades and explosive vest ahead, then boarded a bus that would take him to his target, accompanied by the 14-year-old boy he had groomed as his suicide bomber.

But before they could blow up their target, a luxury hotel in Lahore where they believed Americans would be staying, the two were arrested and are now in jail — Baseer unrepentant about having plotted to send a boy to his death, and the boy saying he never knew what was in store for him.

The story that unfolded in an interview with The Associated Press offers a rare insight into the world of a Pakistani militant, from his education at hard-line Islamic schools, through his professed participation in an attack on a U.S. patrol in Afghanistan, up to his arrest by Pakistani police along with the the boy, Mohi-ud-Din. His tale shares much with that of the thousands of other foot soldiers who make up the Taliban-led insurgency that is ravaging Pakistan, experts say. It also shows how the wars here and in neighboring Afghanistan bleed into each other.

The Associated Press, after several requests, was allowed to interview the two detainees, with police present for most of the meeting at a police interrogation center in Lahore, a political and military power center in eastern Pakistan. Baseer was born in 1985 close to the Swat Valley, which last year was overrun by Taliban and recaptured by the Pakistanis. The eldest of seven children, his father was a wheat farmer and earned barely enough to feed the family. Meat was reserved for guests, he recalled.

Like many who cannot afford a regular education, Baseer attended three Islamic boarding schools where children learn the Quran by heart and spend little time on secular subjects. The religious schools provide free board and lodging, but are widely criticized for indoctrinating students with an extreme version of Islam. At least one of the schools Baseer attended, Jamia Faridia in the capital, Islamabad, has been linked to terror.

“Through my studies, I became aware that this is the time for jihad and fighting the infidels, and I saw that a jihad was going on in Afghanistan,” said Basser, a rail-thin man speaking just louder than whisper. “I looked for a way to get there.” “A trip to Afghanistan is considered part of the profession for a militant,” said Imtiaz Gul, director of the Center for Research and Security Studies in Islamabad. “It is almost like you need to do it for graduation. “The American troops are there, and it’s a cause of resentment.”

Baseer said he spent three summer vacation periods in Kunar, an Afghan province just across the border from northwest Pakistan, which he reached through a network of sympathetic clerics. On his first trip, in his mid-teens, he cooked for around 30 or 40 other militants, most of them Afghans, who were living in a large cave complex. On his second stay he had military training and learned to make suicide jackets. On the final trip he took part in the ambush of a U.S. patrol after he and other fighters had lain in wait in the snow for two days.”I was happy to be in place where I could kill unbelievers,” he said. “I thank God that we all returned safely and had a successful mission.”

He said he was in the rear of the attack, in which automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades were fired. He said the vehicles were left smoldering and that later the assailants were told two U.S. soldiers were killed, but there was no way of confirming that.

Back in Pakistan, Baseer worked as a mosque preacher in the Khyber region, not far from the northwestern capital, Peshawar. He said it was there that he hooked up with a man named Nazir, a commander in the Pakistani Taliban, who was plotting the attack in Lahore. Baseer said he made 10 suicide vests for Nazir.

Lahore, a city of around 9 million, has suffered scores of attacks by gunmen and suicide bombers over the last 1 1/2 years. Last month, two suicide bombers killed 43 people in near-simultaneous blasts. Baseer boarded a passenger bus along with the boy, Mohi-ud-Din, heading down the smooth highway to Lahore, where they were supposed to pick up the bomb and grenades.

Police officer Waris Bharawan, as well as Baseer, said the plan was to hook up with other militants and storm the PC International, one of Lahore’s grandest hotels. They said the suicide vest for the attack was sent to the city before the strike. Baseeer gave only a rough outline of the plan: He and others were to hurl the grenades around the lobby or entrance gate of the hotel, and then Mohid-ud-Din was to run in and detonate his explosive belt. Did he feel any guilt about what lay in store for his traveling companion? No, he said. “I was feeling good because he was going to be used against Americans.”

As he sat in Bharawan’s office, handcuffed and dressed in robe and baggy pants, an officer brought in the vest, dropping it on the floor with a thud. The explosive pads studded with ballbearings looked like slices of honeycomb. Also in the evidence bag were 26 grenades. Baseer obliged with a demonstration, miming the yanking of a white cable that would detonate the vest. “My instructors used to say this was the most important weapon in the fight against the enemy,” he said. In the same lockup, a crumbling building built when Britain ruled the Indian subcontinent, police also briefly presented Mohi-ud-Din to the AP. He seemed nervous and tongue-tied, claiming only that he knew nothing about the alleged attack.

The pair were arrested as they arrived at the house of another suspect, just days before the attack was due to have taken place, said Bharawan, who led the arresting officers. He said they acted on surveillance work in Lahore, but declined to give details. Torture and beatings are common inside Pakistani jails, according to rights groups. During a short time when no police were present, Baseer was asked how he was treated. He said he was beaten, but by members of Pakistan’s shadowy and powerful intelligence agencies soon after his arrest, not by the police. Police said Baseer and the boy would be tried for terrorist offenses behind closed doors and without a jury, as is customary in Pakistan

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