During the 2011 ICC World Cup semifinal, my family and I were watching the intense match between India and Pakistan. As Pakistan was chasing India’s total of 260 runs, on a Zaheer Khan ball, I shouted, “Go get that Pakistani terrorist!” The next few moments were a blur to me. I was taken out of the room and given a good scolding by my father, a brigadier in the Indian Army.
He explained to me, “If this is the attitude you will have, it will be extremely hard for us to change our nation’s circumstances.” He told me that no Pakistani cricketer had ever directly affected me or caused me harm, so why am I so rude towards them?
I did not really understand what he had meant by that, and as later that evening India went on to win the match, everybody celebrated the victory while I sulked in the corner.
As I look back upon that time now, I realize that what my father said was true. No citizen of Pakistan causes me any harm, so why do I have such a negative attitude towards them? In fact, why is it that about 64 percent of Indians dislike Pakistan, and that there is also a lot of anti-India sentiment in Pakistan?
India’s former Prime Minister, late Atal Bihari Vajpayee once famously said, “You can change your friends but not neighbors.”
It is important to realize what that statement really means. No matter how much Indian and Pakistani citizens hate each other, it is vital for them to accept that they are always going to be neighbors no matter what. There is no running away from each other, and the least they can do for the good of both countries is have good relations and be accepting of each other.
However, getting this acceptance and better relations will not be an easy feat, and will require a gradual change from the ideologies of citizens.
The fact is that diplomatic attempts have failed to make the situation better between the two countries. There has been the Simla treaty, which was held after the 1971 war and concluded with both countries holding a cease-fire line on the Kashmir border. However, the agreement has been violated by both sides several times since.
Furthermore, there was the Agra summit in 2001, which would let there be more trade between Pakistan and India. The negotiations between the two countries broke down after just two days.
These failures, however, can be overcome by the youth. Perhaps through interactive modes of communication such as social media, sports, and the film industry young Indians and Pakistanis could understand each other better.
A great example of such interactions is a YouTube video done by the comedy channel All India Bakchod. The creators of the video made Pakistani and Indian citizens talk over the phone on Independence Day and filmed their conversations. Both sets of people talked about cricket, Bollywood and authentic delicacies of the local places, such as samosas and gulab jamuns.
The video then showed how at the end of the conversation, the people shared their social media information and promised to give each other a follow. A Pakistani man even invited the Indian he was interacting with to his hometown, Karachi.
Aman ki Asha, a campaign towards peace, started by the two leading media houses of India and Pakistan, is another great example to the youth of how cooperation is possible. The program initiates several different seminars, articles, blogs and cultural interactions between the citizens of the two countries, showing that change could be implemented with the help of citizens alone.
These interactions show us that, despite the hostility citizens of the two countries might think they have for each other, they can easily relate and interact with each other if they wanted to.
However, there will be repercussions to this solution. The India and Pakistan cricket rivalry, which was once upon a time dubbed as the “Mother of all cricket battles,” has been restricted to only the major tournaments, with no friendlies allowed. This has been due to the tense diplomatic relations between the two countries. However, if the youth of the countries were more accepting of the opposing nation playing at their home ground, perhaps the Indo-Pak relationship could mend as well.
Even when it comes to Bollywood, the situation remains quite tense. Pakistanis watch a lot of Bollywood and popular films such as Sultan have made 37 crore Indian rupees there. However, when it comes to Pakistani actors working in Bollywood, they are not accepted very well. Famous Pakistani actor Fawad Khan, who worked in three popular Bollywood movies, was banned from working in the industry after the Uri attacks in which four armed terrorists attacked an Indian army base in Kashmir. While the attacks were a terrible tragedy and 17 army personnel were killed, banning an actor who had nothing to do with the situation added fuel to the fire of already tense relations between India and Pakistan.
Politics have failed time and again to mend the relations between India and Pakistan, so maybe it’s up to the youth to take matters in their hands and interact with each other using popular culture, sports, and Bollywood to make peace.
My father’s words back in 2011 really resonated with me when I was an elementary student at an international school in Nepal.
There, one of my best friends was a Pakistani boy, whose father worked at the Pakistan Embassy. We got along really well as he was the only other student who could speak in Urdu (a language very similar to Hindi). He used to come to my house often and eat parathas cooked by my mother, and I used to go to his and eat samosas.
The fact that even though we were from two nations which absolutely despised each other but still had so much in common showed me that the hatred between India and Pakistan stems from prejudice, and can be overcome if the effort of getting to know each other is made.
Edited by Gauri Ratan