Three resolute women and human rights activists Asma Jahangir, Salima Hashmi and Teesta Setalvad are unanimous on the exchange of arts and culture to bring India and Pakistan closer, the Hinustan Times reports.

Participating in a seminar ‘Building Blocks for Peace’ as part of the ongoing South Asian Foundation (SAF) – SAANJH Peace Festival in India on the 16th of October 2009 they said that besides culture, business ties can melt the border between the two countries that have borne the brunt of Partition

In her address Pakistan human rights activist and former bureau member of South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) Asma Jahangir said, “Festivals like these form a small part of the peace process. There is a need to do more. But we don’t want to miss any opportunity to get the peace process rolling.”

Jahangir said Pakistani’s had had enough of military rule. “We no longer want to be ruled by the armed forces. We want peace within our country and with our neighbour” she said.

Mumbai based journalist Setalvad held private TV channels and communal forces in the country responsible for war mongering in India. “The way things are reinforced is sure to promote negative feelings,” she said, stressing the need for access to each other’s media for a better understanding between the neighbours.

“Trade between the countries is important and should be allowed to go on,” she said. Comparing Indo Pak relations with the “love-hate psychology in China-Taiwan ties,” she said, “China and Taiwan, however, don’t mix business in the process. Its high time free trade between the countries be allowed. It will be economically good for the city of Amritsar.”

Setalvad said one couldn’t forget the trauma of Partition and the misunderstandings it caused. Apart from Punjab, people in the state of Bihar, West Bengal and Delhi were also affected. “By organising such peace festivals, Punjab is taking an initiative to heal old wounds. We cannot live with the bitterness forever” she added.

Artist and SAHR Bureau Member of Pakistan Salima Hashmi said that “India has anger post the 26/11 terror attacks. Pakistan has sorrow. A Pakistani delegation visited India after the attacks. We wanted to say that we are not causing the problems. We, too, have our kitty full of problems. Both countries face challenges like red tape and lack of resources but art and culture can help further the cause of peace.”

Source: Hindustan Times – 16.10.2009

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