Nothing real can come out of the Indo-Pak visa regime

Published: November 10, 2012
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Following the partition, certain events and circumstances led to perpetuation of enmity. The sentiments born of this enmity have passed from one generation to the next. PHOTO: AFP

‘People-to-people contact’ is a buzzword when it comes to improving Pakistan-India relations. Emphasised so much over the years, it has become a cliché.

The two countries have recently signed a new visa regime, which was endorsed by the federal cabinet last week. Under the new regime, the two countries have made an effort to ease what most people consider bottlenecks in increasing people-to-people contact such as the strict visa policies pursued by the two South Asian neighbours.

It will be premature to comment if the initiative will bring expected results, since we have been seeing ‘exchanges’ at different levels for the past many decades. Be it cricket, diplomacy, exchange of media and civil society activists, cultural troupes, visits by parliamentarians or elite school students, we have witnessed it every so often. Yet, the two countries never came close to anything that can be called good relations.

What can bring real change is a change of mindset on both sides. The differences between the two nations have a history of decades.

Following the partition, certain events and circumstances led to perpetuation of enmity. The sentiments born of this enmity have passed from one generation to the next.

When people from the two countries meet, the exchange of desire for good relations between the sides is a common norm. But nothing has changed on the ground.

The people-to-people contact has to be made more meaningful with the inclusion of true representatives of common people — the ones who matter. Only then can one hope of such contacts making an impact and creating an environment conducive for the two countries to achieve sustainable peace.

At the school level, curricula taught to students instill hatred in innocent minds against the other side. The places of worship which should promote love, peace and harmony — the real essence of almost all religions — have been acting as bastions of promoting hostility. Powers that matter in the policy making process have never tried seriously to pacify such ill feelings.

Mistrust on both sides, outstanding ‘core’ issues and desire to suppress the other side have been parts of official policy by the respective governments and there seem hardly any chances that it will change in the near future.

It is not pessimism but a fact that without change of mindset, the dream of real change will never materialise.

Read more by Irfan here.

Irfan Ghauri

Irfan Ghauri

A correspondent for The Express Tribune in Islamabad.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.