Talking peace in the times of war mongering:
Pakistan India People’s Forum seminar condemns violence, demands dialogue
New Delhi, August 15, 2013: The seminar and report release function organised by the Pakistan India Peoples’ Forum for Peace & Democracy (PIPFPD-India) at India International Centre, on the eve of the independence days of Pakistan and India reminded both countries that a permanent transformation to the India-Pakistan conflict can only come through dialogue processes between the two South Asian democracies and not through military methods and war. Condemning border skirmishes, violence and ceasefire violations by both armies across the borders, PIPFPD demanded that both governments get back to dialogue and resolve issues through positive engagement. On the occasion, the Forum released two reports – Siachen: End to the Impasse? and Fishing in Troubled waters: The Turmoil of Fisher People Caught Between India and Pakistan. The seminar was addressed by prominent South Asian dignitaries, fishworkers from Saurashtra and a representative from Nubra Valley, the closest human habitation to Siachen.
The two reports were prepared by Dialogue for Action (DfA) and bring to light the complexities pertaining to both issues. While the Siachen compilation exposed the myths and lies around “the need for militarisation in the Siachen glaciers”, the report on fishworkers points towards the need for a Maritime Economic Co-operation between India and Pakistan that can help sustain the livelihood of fishworkers in India and Pakistan, while creating a joint mechanism for resolving the maritime issues, including the conflict over Sir Creek.
Senior journalist and political commentator Jatin Desai gave an overview of both issues. “In December 2012, when composite dialogue between both countries was ongoing there were 40 Indian fishermen in Pakistani jails. We were hopeful that arrests would become minimal but ironically there are 437 Indian fishermen in Pakistani jails today. And there are 171 Pakistani fishermen in Indian prisons. All happenings at the Line of Control (LoC) affect the sea. Moreover, there are 750 boats of Indian fishermen in Pakistan’s custody and 150 boats of Pakistani fishermen in Indian custody.
Prof. Manoranjan Mohanty, senior academician and South Asia expert, who chaired the seminar emphasised on the need for questions to be put forward to politicians in India and Pakistan highlighting the need for peace and democracy.
Member of Parliament Mani Shankar Aiyar highlighted issues between the two countries and said “there is no question of stopping talks between the two neighbours. What alternative do we have besides engaging in dialogue processes?” He added that, “we need to find a solution and that cannot be possible if we constantly engage in one-upmanship”. He asserted that “the war mongers, often found roaming around TV studios, has nothing to lose in a war situation. However, it is for the people of India to decide whether we want to lose 50 or 500 or 50 lakh soldiers, in the war pursuit to avenge the killing of the 5 Indian soldiers”.
Pakistani peace activist and labour expert Karamat Ali, said that, “PIPFPD emerged with the understanding that for normalisation of the issue, people had to transcend their own identities and move beyond national identities. It is important to come together as citizens.” Explaining that people in ‘power’ positions do not want these issues resolved, Mr. Ali called on the people of the region to understand the need for focus and become involved directly in the process. He expressed the need for each of these platforms to take up issues of the entire region sincerely. He added that “we need our state to become accountable towards the common people on these accounts” and called for the emergence of a South Asia people’s union.
Pakistani writer and journalist Beena Sarwar, emphasized the fact that “bureaucratic incompetence is a reality and is applicable to both countries, specifically when it comes to getting fishworkers released.” She said that common people from both countries have no problems with one another and want to meet and interact and it is important for us to come together and make this possible.
Senior journalist Bharat Bhushan detailed the issue of Sir Creek and said that “it is important that we do not combine the issues of Sir Creek and fishworker arrests, since the governments are using this as an excuse and saying that all other issues can be settled only after the bigger issue of Kashmir is settled.”
Mr. Motup Chewang, a mountaineer and resident of Nubra Valley, the closest human habitation to Siachen, spoke of the degradation of the glaciers and the negative impacts of militarisation on the environment, local communities and the soldiers. “The Karakuram range contributes to 3% of the ice cap of the world and the bigger glaciers in the range work as a thermostat for controlling the temperature in the region. Siachen being the longest and the biggest glacier is the most crucial one. What has happened to the glacier in the past 30 years is beyond imagination”. He endorsed the suggestions and recommendations made by the report ‘Siachen: End to the Impasse’.
Velji Bhai Masani, a leader of the fishworkers community from Saurashtra, responded to the positive suggestions made by the report ‘Fishing in Troubled Waters; the turmoil of fisherpeople caught between India & Pakistan’. He congratulated the joint Judicial Committee on prisoners’ and the peace activists from India and Pakistan for securing the release of many fishworkers languishing in the jails in India and Pakistan. Asserting the need for a ‘no arrest policy’, Velji Bhai demanded that both governments must not subject innocent fishworkers to territorial and other disputes. Adam Bhaya also from the fishworkers community in Saurashtra, commented that sheer indifference within bureaucratic corridors has ensured that fishworker prisoners are not released from jails despite judgements in favour of release are passed.
Laalubhai Patel, Member of Parliament from Daman and Diu, who has been committed to the cause of fishworkers and has contributed immensely in strengthening processes for the release of fishworkers, attended the seminar along with many prominent citizens, including film maker and peace activist Mahesh Bhatt, representatives of various peace fora like the Peoples’ SAARC and India-Pakistan Soldiers’ Initiative (IPSI).
For more information contact- Jatin Desai | 09869077718, Vijayan MJ | 09582862682