Last week I attended a two-day seminar in New Delhi, organised by Rotarians in India, called Rotary South Asia Goodwill Summit. It had Rotarian delegates attending from five out of the seven SAARC countries – Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal. Unfortunately, Maldives and Bhutan do not yet have any Rotary Clubs. This seminar was attended by 560 Rotarians of which 130 were from Pakistan alone. All the Rotarians had paid for their own travel and participation, to be a part of this goodwill and peace initiative in the region.
The seminar was addressed by such luminaries like Mr Inder Kumar Gujral, Former Prime Minister of India; Mrs Chandrika Kumaratunga, former President of Sri Lanka; Mr Tariq Azim Khan, Federal Minister of State for Information & Broadcasting, Pakistan; Mr Farooq Sobhan, former Foreign Secretary of Bangladesh; Mr Justice Khalil-ur-Rehman Ramdev, Judge, Supreme Court of Pakistan; Ms Sujata Koirala, MP, Nepal; and, Mr Mani Shankar Aiyar, Indian Union Minister. Two things emerged out of the two-day deliberations. Firstly, without exception, people want to live in peace in the region; and, secondly, there is growing acceptance that while differences may be in the minds of the Governments of India and Pakistan, it was only peace, brotherhood and mutual affection that was in the minds of the people of the two countries. It is becoming increasingly evident that inroads to normalizing ties between the two neighbours could only be made by improving people-to-people contacts. It is my very considered opinion that there is an upsurge of hope for peace among the people in both countries. They are looking for normal relations between India and Pakistan and a better life created by the enhancement of political, economical and social opportunities. [Read More]