People-to-people ties will bring Indo-Pak peace: Gujral

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New Delhi, Sept 27 (UNI) Former Prime Minister I K Gujral has expressed the hope that India and Pakistan are on the way to establish lasting, warm and peaceful ties as there is growing people-to-people contact.

Inaugurating a Symposium on Indo-Pak Peace Initiatives jointly organised by Bhai Vir Singh Sahitya Sadan and Delhi Peace Summit here last evening, he said he saw a ray of hope that younger generation had transcended the past prejudices and was promoting a common cultural heritage. ''India and Pakistan can remain the two countries but they cannot afford to be two people since there is a lot of common and unifying practice,'' he added.

As many as 36 scholars, writers and poets, diplomats and statesmen from Pakistan, headed by Fakhar Zaman had arrived to participate in the symposium, which was also attended by noted Indian scholars including former UGC chairman Dr Amrik Singh, Dr J S Neki, Dr S S Noor and others.

Mr Zaman, a former minister in the Benazir Bhutto government and the President of World Punjabi Conference, called on intellectuals of both countries to work for promoting people-to-people relations and also encourage trade and business between the two countries.

''We should not be swayed away by jingoism, hegemonistic slogans often indulged in by politicians of each countries for their vested interests'', he said, adding that the intellectuals should help shaping the curriculum of educational institutions of each country in such a way as to promote better understanding of history and culture of people of the South Asia.

Later, speaking at Guru Gobind Singh College of Commerce here, he said as per UNESCO, Punjabi was 10th largest spoken language of the world and it should be propagated for establishing warm relations between India and Pakistan. ''Mysticism and Sufiism which had proliferated in joint Punjab five centuries ago and spread to other parts of world later, should be revived and propogated among the people to counter the inspired theories like ''Clash of civilisations'' and terrorism'', he added.

Noting that it was not possible to totally forget 1947, Dr Amrik Singh stressed that there was need to forget some painful memories.

Dr Neki suggested that as a psychiatrist he felt one way of forgetting painful memories was to remember good things that happened during the tragic period.

Dr Noor mentioned that this was the 15th World Punjabi Conference and hoped that only conferences like this will bring about a positive change on both sides of the border.

Dr Mohinder Singh mentioned that the bodies like Association of People of Asia and Indo-Pak Forum of Parliamentarians, headed by Dr Nirmala Deshpande, and the lighting of candles on the Wagah border on Independence Day by Mr Kuldip Nayar and others were playing a major role in bringing the people of two countries closer to each other.

While speaking on the occasion, Choudhary Mohd Ashraf and Choudhary Saidulla, both former bureaucrats, recalled their earlier meetings with Mr Gujral. Dr Fatima of Jawaharlal Nehru University emphasised the need to correct the stereotypes of the past and follow the message of the Sufi Saints.

A documentary on Partition -- Rabba Hun Ki Kariye -- produced by Ajay Bhardwaj was also screened. Mr Bal Anand, former Indian Ambassador, highlighted the positive role that was played by some individuals during the horrible days of partition with a special mention to the legend of Malerkotla.

Mr Zaman stressed the need to facilitate cultural exchange between the two countries by introducing entry permits to replace the present visa regime. Other scholars also suggested common currency and free trade between the two countries.

While speaking at another seminar on 'Punjabiat', organised by Punjabi Sahit Sabha in Guru Gobind Singh College of Commerce here, Dr Jaspal Singh, a former Indian Ambassador, said pluralism of South Asia and Sufism of saints and religious lore of Sikhism would not allow any restriction on people to people ties between India and Pakistan. ''The emotional unity of people will invariably transcend the political considerations and demarcations on the ground,'' he said.

Several members from Pakistan delegation pleaded for encouraging trade and business between the two countries which has risen from one billion dollars a decade ago to 10 billion dollars now. They also spoke for opening up of old trade routes between the two countries in Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and Rajasthan to help the economies of both countries to grow. Also, they sought that ban on beaming of Pakistan TV programmes in India be lifted.


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