'Civil society alone can't ensure lasting India-Pakistan peace'

Last Updated: Fri, Jan 11, 2013 20:08 hrs

New Delhi: Civil society has a role in promoting India-Pakistan relations but is not the most important factor behind lasting peace between the neighbours, a majority felt after a debate Thursday amid a flare-up over killings of two Indian soldiers by Pakistan Army.

Moderated by Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor, the event, organised by the Debating Society of India, saw strong arguments on both sides of the motion -- Engagement between members of civil society is the most important factor in promoting a lasting peace between India and Pakistan.

While Indian film, theatre and television personality Kabir Bedi said politicians had failed to provide a lasting solution to issues affecting India-Pakistan relations, former Pakistan information and broadcasting minister Javed Jabbar said only politicians and governments could play a decisive role.

"The politicians have failed us for 65 years," said Bedi.

"Elevation of civil society is superlative to the reality of the state," said Jabbar.

Senior Pakistan Supreme Court lawyer Salman Raja said more people-to-people exchanges and better business relations between the two countries could act as a guarantor of lasting peace.

"More people-to-people exchanges and business joint ventures across the border could act as a guarantor of lasting peace," said Raja.

Indian print journalist Shoma Chaudhury countered his views and said geo-political realities were impacting India-Pakistan relations and assuming the most important role for civil society towards lasting peace was a fallacious idea.

While commentator and TV journalist from Pakistan Najam Sethi questioned what constituted civil society and said media in both countries played a negative role many times during attempts to push peace initiatives between the governments, another Pakistan TV journalist Wajahat S. Khan said media and civil society were evolving and would play a greater role in promoting peace between the neighbours.

"Who constitutes civil society? Media in both countries played a negative role many times during attempts to push peace initiatives between the two governments," said Sethi.

"Both media and civil society are evolving and will play a greater role in promoting peace between the two countries," said Khan.

Rajya Sabha member and former union minister Mani Shankar Aiyar said while politicians were accountable to people, who punish or reward them during elections, there was no such system for the civil society, which consists of all shades of differing view points.

"Only governments can make peace...Civil society role is not decisive," said Aiyar.

Former foreign secretary Salman Haidar said though there has been considerable lowering of tensions between the two countries, the adverse developments cannot be ignored by the Indian government.

Before putting the motion to vote of the house, Tharoor said the speakers should have touched upon the role of Pakistan military in the peace process.

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