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Will India Accept Zardari’s Olive Branch?

President Zardari’s Peace formula for india and Pakistan

The PAKISTANI GOVERNMENT under President Zardari started peace initiatives with India taking tentative steps to liberalise Trade and tourism with India. Zardari send delegations comprising of Civil society SAFMA,PIPFPD and HRCP members for back-channel diplomacy with India after 26/11 terrorist attacks.  Zardari’s live webcast (his firstever) with english speaking Internet users in India and coining terms like “we are all half Indian/half Pakistani” was very optimistic.

In the period between 6 September presidential inauguration and 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks, Zardari administration  was still struggling in its initial days inside Pakistan with terrorist attacks on Marriot Hotel and the worsening law-and-order situation in the tribal belt and north west frontier province.There is a “made-in-Taliban” tag in the world media and it had already scared off most of the western tourists.

The only Fool-hardy  mountain climbers  are still going to Ismaili majority Northern Areas where extremist suicide bombers cannot have any Mass Appeal due to religious difference with Ismaili Shias. 



 However, the  peace initiative between India and Pakistan is a rare opportunity to rekindle thetorch of peace between India and Pakistan. the Indian leadership (barring Sonia and her son Rahul Gandhi) is in their old age of retirement  , hardly a material for pragmatic and dynamic leadership. The anti Pakistan lobby headed by fire breathing Parnab Mukherjee who the people of his own Bengal have rejected a number of times, fails to take the hint and quit gracefully and is joining hands with delusional Ms. Mamata Banerjee to win eleections. The Cambridge educated bureaucrate ManMohan singh sounds like a Punjabi supervisor from a Russian Tractor factory rather than an accomplished economist that he is acclaimed to be.

 The right-wing leadership in BJP Vajpai and Advani have become incontinent and cannot function properly. The young gun Varun Gandhi is the proverbial “Bull in a China Shop”.The younger Gandhi has a inferiority complex viz-a-vi Chrismatic and highly Popluar cousin Rahul Gandhi.Varun’s xenophobic and racist statements against muslims expose him as an attention-seeking spoiled brat of the dysfunctional branch of Nehru-Gandhi dynasty,as they “like father,like son”.

It is the young leadership of india (Sonia and Rahul) who can effectively  talk with youth Pakistani government( Zardari,Gillani,Taseer and Qureshi). The vigorous TV campaign for a Visit India on the European channels was highly successful in “incredible India” promoting Indian tourism and culture till 26/11 attacks when suddenly British and American got scared about indian tourism.

The Pakistan government initiatives — we have learned through previous experiences of Visit Pakistan Year 2007  which went up in smoke of chief justice movement and terrorist attacks after of red mosque siege — are most of the time riddled with bureaucratic red tape, half-hearted, half-baked and ill-conceived  tourism departments.

Nevertheless, Zardari made a start, which every one thought might bring better results this time around, but  It wasn’t to be.the Hawks in Indian and Pakistani establishment and media started talking of Terrorism rather than Tourism and dark clouds of war started gathering over the whole subcontinent ,thankfully the sane leadership of India(Sonia & Manmohan) and Pakistan(Zardari,Gillani,Taseer and Qureshi) saved the countries from the brink of war.



There are a few silver linings appearing on even the darkest of clouds.Tourism today is one of the biggest industries in the world; it brings employment, opportunities and equality to otherwise less-developed areas in India such as Rajasthan. The Terrorist attacks came at a worst time for tourist industry in India when the tourist season was just starting after hot monsoon season.

 Pakistan is the best-kept secret of tourism industry.after the 9/11 and afghan war Pakistan became a dangerous destination for western tourists. The Himalayan valleys in northern areas, The Kite runner Festivals of “Basant” in the ancient walled inner city of Lahore(capital of north indian culture), Pakistan cultural and religious tourism for sikh religion and sufi shrines and  K-2 mountain climbers disappeared from the tourism industry radar , thease are still as good as any in the world. Pakistan has to showcase the Indus Valley and Ghandhara Buddhist civilizations, Basant festival, performing arts festival, truck art, chicken-tikka masaala cuisine, Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh pilgrimage places to new markets.

The Peace tourism discussion is about how ordinary Pakistanis and Indians can play a part in defining what is meant by  new friendship initiative. The Pakistani government focused on cultural exchanges, peace cricket tours with India (which was cancelled by Indian  hawks in their war  posturing), festivals at Shiv Mandir in Katas Raj and Kali Mandir in Hinglaj Balouchistan. Also, religious tourism, if opened, can bring Non-resident Indians(sikhs especially) NRIs from Europe and America. Its high time Indians are allowed free access to Pakistani destinations.

 Most of the Indian Citizens are not scared of terrorism threats that world media projects about Pakistan. They know that most of Pakistan (and india as well )is a peaceful destination and the people are friendly and are nostalgic about the communal harmony in pre-partition days from British india.

 Entry visas at arrival for business, family and package tourists will be the first right step in normalising the peace process and increasing people-to-people contacts between the two countries.

Millions of Indians will be eager to cross the Wagha border for a day trips to savour the culinary delights of Lahore food street and Basant and other Punjabi festivals. This nostalgia and the bond of friendship was shown in Indian cricket tour of Pakistan 2004 when thousands of passionate Indian cricket fans turned Pakistan tour into a festive occasion and places like Peshawar (northern NWFP capital), the birth place of Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor and the family home of Shah Rukh Khan, welcomed Indians with open hearts.

 Everyone have their own ideas on South Asian future and identity, there are right and left wing views on secular, religious, urban and rural commoners and elites population diversities. Pakistan is a multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-religious society, which can fosters the concept of “unity in diversity” and “peace for friendship”, and this must be the key to “tourism for peace”. Pakistani tourism must focus on commonalities between the two countries so that Pakistani destinations become a permanent spot on the Indian tourism map.

Most Indians still have historical links with families, festivals, cities, food, culture, music and art of Pakistan. Pakistan can make it a year-long campaign. Institutions like PIA, already flying to Delhi and Mumbai, can become a calling card for Pakistani tourism and hospitality by increasing the number of flights to Indian cities. Private airlines from India and Pakistan can also share the frequencies in domestic network.

 The shipping industry in both countries has already joined hands to promote trade and tourism. The  indian government terrorism assessment  after 26/11can damage sea links between Mumbai-karachi.

State-run Pakistan TV and Dordarshan India should be allowed mutual reach in Pakistan ,India and Middle East,  Organisations like south asian free media association (SAFMA)and Pakistan India Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD)can spearhead the peace campaign. Major Pakistani satellite channels like Dawn TV, Indus Group, ARY, Geo and Jang. AAJ TV are already collaborating with Indian film and media industry to bridge the gaps between two Countries.Will india receiprocate the Zardari peace intiatives remains to be seen.
If Indians and Pakistanis decide to take ‘peace intiative” Western will surely follow indian and pakistan tourism

Bradistan Calling is a Pakistani Website  in Bradford,UK (Little Pakistan).This Article appears courtesy of Pakistan Spectator Magazine.

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