The Pakistan Studies Programme at the Academy of International Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia in collaboration with the Jinnah Institute, Islamabad and the Australia-India Institute, Melbourne conducted a lecture by Ms. Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s former Ambassador to the United States and former Federal Minister of Information & Broadcasting, as part of a series of lectures by distinguished speakers in which eminent persons from India and Pakistan visit each other’s countries and deliver lectures at their premier educational institutions. The lecture titled “Transition and Opportunity: Regional Peace and the Strategic Imagination” was held on July 31, 2013 at Dayar-I-Mir Taqi Mir building, and the session was chaired by Prof. S M Sajid, the officiating Vice-Chancellor of JMI. [Link to Audio]
Rehman went through the various challenges and opportunities the two nations are facing with the changes in the region and its structure in her lecture. Referring to the lectures that are taking place between Jamia Millia Islamia and the Jinnah Institute she said, “we are here building bridges”.
Rehman spoke at length on the India-Pakistan “water war” where the two sides have been constantly trying to take over the Indus River for their own irrigation purposes. She said that problems such as these have been a hindrance to any kind of progress between the two nations. Criticizing India’s negligence to the peace-process, she remarked “I don’t see a strategic building group proactive in India,” bringing to light how India wasn’t making enough efforts towards better bilateral relations.
In her opinion, if there was any way for peace between the two nations, we would have to look further from the topics which have stopped any progress, saying “Kashmir will remain a core concern but we need to move beyond that,” stating that there was a need to move beyond “cold war politics.” For any dialogue to occur the Indian public would have to take charge and pressure their parliamentarians to enable an Indo-Pak dialogue.
Citing several problems between the two that have stifled chances of diplomacy, she also mentioned that “India still looks at Pakistan through an outdated lens” and while they try to move forward with any discussion, the Mumbai attacks “burns a hole in every conversation” and “negotiations in this view are not possible.”
According to Rehman, the Southern Block consisting of India, Pakistan and other Asian nations, will become a powerful block only second to China in the near future. Yet the difference between the poorest and the richest will be huge. To curb this, she suggested that rather than battling with each other, these two nations should get together to battle a much bigger problem of poverty within the countries.
But not all things have been stagnant and some improvement have been made she said, citing examples of actual change occurring with the challenges in visa issues have been removed making it easier to travel between the countries for distant family members, though national airlines still did not fly between India and Pakistan, pointing to the fact that more still needed to be done. In closing, she said “we cannot change the past but the future is definitely in our grasp.”
Listen to Sherry Rehman’s lecture titled “Transition and Opportunity: Regional Peace and the Strategic Imagination” held on July 31, 2013 at JMI here: