Article: Embracing the ‘Enemy’
by Mehwish Riza (Pakistan)
You never know when your dreams come true, when you finally achieve something that you thought would never become a reality. Each time I go there, I see a big barrier, a big gate of steel. I never thought I would walk through it. June 2, 2016 was the day when I finally crossed that fence. Today, as I look back, I cannot imagine how I stepped into a new land, looking for new hopes, and gearing to the new experience that I was going to embrace. Before my visit to India, I believed that Indians don’t like Pakistanis. We do have so much in common, but such negative perceptions have aggravated the conflict. We stress so much on what divides us, rather than what unites us!
My journey began by crossing the ‘Wagah’ border. For me, the feeling was unbelievable. I still recall the visible happiness on each one’s face as we crossed over into India. 12 Pakistanis were going to represent their country in India as part of Aman ki Asha’s Model United Nations (MUN) held in Nagpur. Prior to our departure to India, every one of our friends and family cautioned us and told us to “BE SAFE”. This got me worried and nervous! Until I had crossed the border, I kept thinking about how I had to ensure my own safety. As I completed formalities with the Indian Customs Office, my worries vanished since their good and welcome demeanor gave me confidence. I started noticing a slight change in my perceptions from that very moment. We were received by Sanchit Seth who was a part of team ‘Aman ki Asha’ the previous year. He accorded a warm welcome to us and on our way to Haveli we sang a lot of songs. I noticed how similar India is to Pakistan. Roads, buildings, the surroundings felt so familiar to me. I didn’t realize I had actually crossed the border and was now in a different country.
One thing that was different from what I have seen in Pakistan is that Indian women are commonly seen driving vehicles. I have watched many Indian movies and was very excited to witness the same things in real life. After a delicious lunch at Haveli, we headed towards Delhi from where we had to take the train to Nagpur. Upon reaching Delhi at around 9 pm, we met Devang Shah who was leading the MUN event. He seemed very determined, enthusiastic, passionate and a visionary to help build peace between India and Pakistan. I felt very inspired as I met him. Post dinner we had to wait for four hours for the train to Nagpur. We also met Devang’s friend Mayank Karnani who is part of the executive board of the Aman ki Asha council. He spoke about his passion to strive for South Asian unity and development.
On our way to Nagpur, we interacted with different Indian passengers and upon observation, I concluded that people are not bad, neither are their thoughts bad. It is media reportage that creates hateful perceptions about the ‘other’. We reached Nagpur around eight in the evening where we welcomed in the traditional Indian way by the organizing team of MUN. Through the traditional welcome of applying ‘tika’ (a symbol of welcome) on our foreheads, I thought that they were welcoming to be a part of their culture.
The conference was held at Yeshwantrao Chavan College of Engineering and it commenced on June 4, 2016. The ceremony was formally inaugurated by the Mayor of Nagpur city and Rutwik Joshi, the Secretary General of the conference. Post this; we headed towards the debate platform. There were 12 delegates from Pakistan and 6 from India along with co-chairs who facilitated the debate. We debated on ‘Combating Terrorism in South Asia’. The co-chairs from India and Pakistan were Devang Shah and Muhammad Tabish Javaid respectively. I was the delegate of ‘Peace’. The first day progressed well as we debated on different motions like root causes of terrorism, role of media in promoting antagonistic relations. We were also provided with the assistance of a research team for the same. During the evening, we celebrated ‘social night’ wherein we got the opportunity to network with other delegates. After this, the delegates gathered and discussed points well past midnight to come up with a joint resolution to be presented the next morning. The aim of forwarding a resolution was to highlight the commonality of thoughts and ideas among Indian and Pakistani youth. The resolution favoured creation of a model organization with cooperation from SAARC nations to help governments on both sides track the activities of non-state actors involved in violence.
On the second and last day of the conference i.e. June 5, all the delegates came together to present a joint resolution. We discussed the resolution clause by clause and approved it unanimously with no opposition. It was co-authored by one Pakistani Delegate and one Indian Delegate. In the evening, a prize distribution ceremony was organized to honor the best delegates during the conference. With this the conference came to an end. The saddest part was to bid goodbye to our friends as we headed back to Delhi. All the members of the organizing committee came to see us off at the station. At each and every point during our stay, the organizing committee members took care of us and showed us that they really valued our presence. On our return to Delhi, we stayed there for a day and moved around visiting the city. We visited India Gate, Karol Bagh and Chandani Chowk. On our way to the Wagah border, we also had the opportunity to visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar. During our India visit, we interacted with a lot of shopkeepers and they were always happy to have us. They were hospitable, welcoming and their respect for Pakistanis was evident.
My India visit gave me a lot of memorable moments and I brought them back with me to Pakistan. Friendship, care, hospitality, love that I received in India is something that I will never forget. Sitting down to write this piece, I wondered what all I learnt from this trip. Everything that happens to us teaches us something good. I have learnt to live life, lead myself to the path of learning, become brave to face challenges and learn how to enjoy the moment that ‘is’. Through discussions at the conference I have learnt how to communicate, every moment with people in India made me feel as if I am at home, smiles of strangers have taught me respect and I am now more convinced that we are one people. Our Indian friends took care of us, they were happy to have us. Why? I thought about this repeatedly. I urge the readers to analyze what they see around them before judging others or forming hardened perceptions. When we analyze issues without any barriers in mind, then we know that people across the border are also our friends, not enemies.
I am eagerly awaiting a time when all kinds of barriers between India and Pakistan will be done away with and we can visit each other without any formalities. But this is possible only when we talk to each other peacefully. All of us have a moral responsibility to partake in peace building because only then can negative perceptions and hatred be challenged. I am grateful to the entire organizing team of MUN and Aman ki Asha because of whom I am taking back these wonderful memories, to be cherished for a lifetime. PAKISTAN – INDIA ZINDABAD!!!!!
This article was edited by Dr. Nidhi Shendurnikar Tere (Vadodara, India)
Mehwish Riza is a final year student of Business Administration at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. She was a delegate at the second edition of the Aman ki Asha Model UN Council, Nagpur. She was a volunteer at the launch of Aaghaz-e-Dosti’s fourth Indo-Pak Peace Calendar.