India /Pakistan – That elusive visa: You can’t just ‘Google it’

My article in The News’ weekly Aman ki Asha page today (also on the website and TOI blog)

"Ye mein, ye Yusuf"... That's me, that's Yusuf...

“Ye mein, ye Yusuf”… That’s me, that’s Yusuf… Still from Google’s “Reunion” ad

Google’s tearjerker “Reunion” ad released on the web has tapped into a rising groundswell for peace between the people of India and Pakistan

By Beena Sarwar

The internet search engine Google’s moving, beautifully made little video “Reunion”, released on November 13 has gone viral. In less than a week, the ad on Youtube has been played over four million times, and shared endlessly on facebook, twitter and blogs, and posted on other video sharing portals like Vimeo (over 70,000 views). Continue reading

LoC tensions: Need facts, not hype

Jan 8, 2013: A grieving mother, mourning her son, Lance Naik Mohammad Alam.

Jan 8, 2013: A grieving mother mourns her son… Lance Naik Mohammad Alam.

My article in The News on Sunday, Jan 13, 2013

Need facts, not hype

Beena Sarwar

News about the death of two Indian soldiers at the Line of Control in Kashmir on Jan 8 triggered anger in India. Yes, a Pakistani soldier had been killed just two days earlier. But his body had not been mutilated. He had not been beheaded. For that is what Indian reports said, creating hysteria and leading to the beating of war drums: the bodies of their jawans had been mutilated, one of their heads was missing, and Pakistan was responsible (small mercy, authorities asked Indian journalists not to use the word ‘beheaded’ but ‘decapitation’).

India seemed to erupt in a storm of anger, outrage, and indignation, betrayal and hurt, and calls for retaliation against Pakistan. Understandable. Imagine the reaction in Pakistan had it been the other way around. Continue reading

People for peace: 8th PIPFPD Joint Convention, Allahabad

PIPFPD 7th Joint Convention, New Delhi 2005: Pakistani ghazal queen Farida Khanum with then Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran at a reception at Hyderabad House. Photo: Beena Sarwar

My curtain raiser on the Eighth Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) Joint Convention being held in Allahabad, India, Dec 29, 2011-Jan 1, 2012 (slightly shorter version published as an op-ed in The News). When the name was being decided, the Indians insisted that Pakistan should Continue reading

Prominent Indian citizens condemn violence in Kashmir on Eid Day, demand inquiry

In a press note released today, prominent Indian citizens have condemned violence in Kashmir on Eid Day and demanded an inquiry. Received from People’s Initiative on Jammu & Kashmir (c/o Confederation of Voluntary Associations, COVA, 20-4-10, Charminar Hyderabad, A.P. India; Ph:+91-40-24572984; Email: covanetwork@gmail.com

Violence in Kashmir on Eid Day: Condemnation and Demand for Enquiry

SEPT 13: We condemn strongly and unequivocally the incidences of violence and arson in Srinagar on the day of Eid by some miscreants. Continue reading

Conversations 12: A grounding for reconciliation

I forgot to upload the last few Conversations published in The News on Sunday, Aman ki Asha page in Political Economy. The entire archives are also up at the Aman ki Asha website

A grounding for reconciliation

Dilip D’Souza and Beena Sarwar continue their email discussion, questioning state versions of history and politics

May 20, 2010

Dear Beena,

So here you go – on my wife’s birthday I am taking a couple of hours off to write this to you. Please send whatever brownie points I’m eligible for to various powers that be in our countries.

Facetiousness aside, I’m once more in the hills as I write, this time in the south. Such a clean, quiet, beautiful spot. So peaceful, in fact, given our discussions for several weeks now, I cannot help wondering if such peace is the exception in our part of the world, rather than the rule; and if so, will that ever change? Is it meant only for an incredibly lucky few? Continue reading

Conversations 10: The trust deficit

May 6 2010

Dear Beena,

I am heartened too by our PMs meeting in Thimphu. But let me say that I also have hope from such events as your Aman ki Asha seminar, where there’s discussion between folks from both sides who have less political pressures on them than ministers.

Still, while I don’t mean to second-guess what happened at the seminar, I wonder about the urge to build a “consensus” in discussions like these. Is that always necessary or useful, what do you think? I wonder if we end up watering down our own emotions and concerns in the search for consensus, and thus leave them essentially un-addressed. If that’s at all true, it’s not a good prescription for peace. Continue reading

Kashmir solution ‘a hair’s breadth away’ – Kasuri at Aman ki Asha seminar

Aman ki Asha panel on 'A Common Destiny', April 23, 2010, Lahore

Back in Karachi after an eventful visit to Lahore for the Aman ki Asha ‘A Common Destiny’ conference that started on April 22, with a closed door discussion between distinguished Indians and Pakistanis deliberating on issues of strategic importance and the need for peace between the two countries. They agreed on this joint statement at the end of the day.

The following day, at a televised panel discussion, conducted by Iftikhar Ahmad of Geo TV,  former foreign minister Khursheed Kasuri elaborated on something he has hinted at before – that Pakistan and India had been a hair’s breadth away from a settlement on Kashmir. What stymied the agreement was instability within Pakistan and Musharraf’s ouster of the Chief Justice which led to a nation-wide movement. Following the panel discussion, he talked in more detail to some of the journalists present, including the Times of India’s senior editor Ranjan Roy, and Babar Dogar of The News. Their detailed stories, merged and published the following day with a joint byline, are available at this link. In brief: Continue reading

Aman ki Asha Press release: Dialogue on ‘A Common Destiny’

LAHORE, Apr 22: Prominent academics, writers and analysts from India and Pakistan met today at a closed-door seminar titled “A Common Destiny”, the first of Aman ki Asha’s series of discussions on issues of strategic importance.

Delegates at the first of Aman ki Asha’s series of discussions on issues of strategic importance to India and Pakistan, titled “A Common Destiny”, agreed on the need for peace between the two countries, and the importance of a sustained dialogue to resolve bilateral issues including Jammu & Kashmir, terrorism, water-sharing, trade and investment. Continue reading

Conversations 8: Clap with both hands

Dilip and my ongoing weekly email exchange (archives at the Aman ki Asha website, published in The News on Sunday Political Economy section, Aman ki Asha page on April 18, 2010:

April 15 2009

Dear Beena,

Rejuvenated by a few days tramping in the hills, I return to our fray, if that’s the word. Continue reading

Conversations 7: Frankly my dear, let’s give a dam(n)

I’m really behind on my postings. Below, Dilip & my Conversations (7th installment), published in The News on Sunday’s Aman ki Asha page in the Political Economy Section on April 4, 2010

April 1 2010

Hi Beena,

OK, so perhaps we are agreed that we should find a way to take forward the idea of a joint war memorial and/or peace parks on the borders. We should ask about your view that a serving soldier cannot openly support such an idea. I cannot imagine that doing so would be equated to refusing to serve and being called a conscientious objector. Perhaps we can write a letter to senior officers in both our countries, suggesting such memorials, and see where it goes. I’ll draft one and let’s discuss it. Continue reading

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