Mariam’s narrative reignited my passion to visit India and experience the joy in person, however, my happiness was marred when I realised that for me the Indian tourist visa remains unobtainable.
It is unfortunate that travelling restrictions deprive many Indians and Pakistanis to enjoy the rich culture and heritage of both the countries, however even these setbacks fail to deter people like myself from yearning for a day when it would be possible for Pakistanis and Indians to travel across the border without any limitations or restrictions.
Contrary to the image portrayed by politicians, media and groups with extremist views, the fact remains that a huge percentage of Pakistanis and Indians are extremely fond of each other’s respective cultural heritage, lifestyle and countries. These are also the people who are staunch advocates of relaxed visa policies between the two countries and support the notion that congenial ties will help in abridging the gap that exists between India and Pakistan.
According to a poll conducted by the Times of the India Group and the Jang Group, a hefty 72 per cent of the Pakistani population desires peaceful relations with India, whereas 60 per cent Indians show optimism about building better ties with Pakistan.
It is believed that a fairly large percentage of Pakistanis and Indians interact with each other and meet outside their native countries, whereas there are who have never met a Pakistani or Indian their entire lives. However, hospitality and amicability shown during limited interaction that the residents of both countries enjoy on official tours or even during emergency situations prove the love and respect we share for each other.
Every year many ailing Pakistanis visit India for medical treatments and return with successful treatments. The initial apprehension, if any immediately vanishes with the warmth exuded by Indians. Similarly, Pakistanis are also known to have jumped on every opportunity to appease Indians wherever and whenever possible.
In the beginning of July 2012, an Indian plane with 122 passengers on board made an emergency landing in Nawabshah, Pakistan. The Pakistani officials wholeheartedly offered assistance to facilitate and expedite the relief operation. The hospitality was hailed by the Indian media and triggered a series of positive comments from Indians and Pakistanis who wanted to travel and be able to enjoy each other’s company.
An Indian overwhelmed by Pakistani hospitality commented, “How much I wish to visit Pakistan! What a scene it would be to see Pakistani tourists coming to India on regular trips and visiting the exotic places of India. Just imagine, Indians spending summer vacations in Murree and Pakistanis enjoying the backwaters of Kerela!”
Though I have never visited India, the mere mention of Kerala makes me dream about the picturesque beauty of the state, historical temples, tempting food and ethnic dance performances.
Over a billion people continue to suffer because of a few fundamentalist groups, who do not want us to live in harmony because of their vested interests, political power and influence. And the question remains: what does a common Pakistani or Indian have to do with decisions being made by the upper echelon of state politics? Why should they pay the price for the actions of a bunch of people who hold such extreme opinions? If we can all live together and support each other in foreign countries, why cannot we do the same in our native countries?
It is important to understand that fundamentalists who pose threats to Indian citizens are also destabilising Pakistan.
“Whether you talk about the Lok Sabha attack of 2001 or Mumbai attacks of 2008, being a Pakistani I am utterly embarrassed. Believe me I would do anything to see the culprits behind such terror attacks hanged because killing humans is despicable. No one deserves to die the way they were killed. I cannot describe how sorry and sad I felt for the loss of dozens of lives and I must say that majority would share the same sentiment,” said Adnan Rizvi.
Denying visas to common people or eying those with suspicion and disgust who play no part in these barbaric crimes perpetrated against both countries only helps the motive of these fundamentalists. The bond we share is unbreakable and extremely special because we remain an offshoot of the same tree. How many countries in the world enjoy that privilege?
Karthik Naralasetty, Chief Executive Officer of Socialblood, said, “As an Indian I have a special bond and respect for the people of Pakistan. I believe we are divided today just because of a few ignorant politicians. I have lived in the US for a while for my education and for the first time in my life I had a chance to meet citizens of Pakistan. We bonded better than people with other nationalities just because of the fact that we hailed from India and Pakistan. We shared the same food, music, movies and we thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company.”
Karthik fervently hopes that one day he will be able to visit Pakistan and taste sewyan (vermicelli) in Lahore and other food items served especially during the month of Ramazan.
I hope and pray that one day the rulers of two of the greatest South Asian countries will understand that many citizens of both the nations deeply oppose the hatred that most of them propagate. I wish to see the day when the silent majority overtakes the hate mongering minority and brings about a revolution in which India and Pakistan work harmoniously for the welfare and progress of human rights. That they act on behalf of those thousands of people who are sacrificed in the name of this hatred.
Mahatma Gandhi very rightly said, “We shall go from love to love and peace to peace, until at last all the corners of the world are covered with that peace and love for which, consciously or unconsciously, the whole world is hungering.”
We must not give up this hope that love and peace will indeed one day reach all corners of the world. Instead, we must continue to spread this message until all that remains is love and peace.