Thursday, January 07, 2010

It's Nice To See This Whole "Aman Ki Asha" Thing Lasted All Of Five Minutes

Because it was four minutes longer than I expected.

Some quick background. "Aman ki Asha" was a program launched on January 1st jointly by two massive media conglomerates: the Jang Group in Pakistan and the Times of India Group in India. It was aimed at promoting peace and love and all the rest of it on the subcontinent. Worthy goals, to be sure. And we will leave aside the irony of the fact that two news organizations that tend to take the more jingoistic view of things in South Asia are collaborating in this venture; I'm not one to be a wet blanket with these things. If they want to herald a new dawn in relations between India and Pakistan, I'm firmly behind them.

Here's the problem though: it doesn't really matter who is behind them. When you have militant violence in Kashmir flaring up, and Indian generals blustering about taking on China and Pakistan in a war and finishing it in 96 hours in the same week as this initiative, it basically tells you all you need to know.

The problems in South Asia are structural: India is a big country, getting more powerful, with an eye on regional hegemony. Pakistan is a smaller country, perennially insecure, and as a consequence meddling in the internal affairs of countries on both its eastern and western borders. There is a long history of each damaging the other country whenever possible. Until these structural elements of the Indo-Pak relationship are reconciled by the leadership in each country -- Pakistan must understand that parity with India is a fool's errand and therefore must be abandoned as a national objective, and India must understand that Pakistan has real substantive concerns which the former has done nothing to assuage -- relations will be fraught. It's really not that complicated. And while I applaud the Jang and Times of India Groups for Aman ki Asha, I suspect even they know there is little point to the enterprise.

UPDATE: I hope people don't read the heading of this post and think the entire thing has been scrapped already. I was being sort of facetious.


somethingrichandstrange said...

did the two organizations abandon the project then? link please.

Ahsan said...

Haha no, not at all. Sorry if my heading gave that impression. I'll post a clarification.

Kalsoom said...



Aman ki Asha is a fantastic initiative, and truly encompasses a lot of the cultural exchanges and citizen diplomacy we've increasingly seen occur between India and Pakistan.

But I think we also have to be realistic about what that means in the grander scheme in terms of Indo-Pak relations. As much as citizens' perceptions may or may not have changed towards India and vice versa, the Pakistani military still has a very stagnant mindset towards India, the state is still wary of Indian influence in Afghanistan, (which may impact their approach to the Afghan Talban). The same can be argued for the other side.

We saw after the Mumbai attacks how quickly years of relatively better relations could derail the peace process. So while I think initiatives like Aman ki Asha are great and should be applauded, there should also be a recognition that that alone cannot bring peace, at least in the traditional sense, to the region.

Sandy said...

Right wing elements on either side look to flair up tensions. On the Pak side, these elements include the Army which uses the Indian threat as excuse to enjoy unlimited control over Pakistan, its resources and its Govt.

Until there is absolute civilian control, i dont think there will be any progress.

Anonymous said...

All they are saying is give peace a chance.

`` Boond boond se paani bharta hai``

Jaydev said...

I love this straight talking post. This whole "Aman ki Asha" whatever is some lame attempt at increasing circulation/TRP of respective media interests..and the only people whose cherry pop at this venture is some bleeding-heart-candle-light-vigil liberals with heads up their arse. If substantial issues and sincerity are not at the heart of CBM with de facto powers like intel-military ppl not onboard or hostile..its a huge waste of time like Lahore "peace" process.

And..the wrong people(Pak establishment) are being pissed off at the two-front-doctrine..since its an acknowledgment that a conventional threat from Pak is subsided at the moment (dealing with internal issues) and China has assumed the role of number one enemy.

aarfy said...

yeah, increasing number of people in india now see through this stupid people to people contacts thing which completely circumnavigates the real issues and serious discussion on the matter. a random poet invoking one-ness of humanity and suchlike in the hope of peace is one thing, but media houses doing the same is quite another. what kind of a fucking problem are they trying to solve through this? i don't believe the common man in india or pakistan has any time for hate anyway given what it takes for him to just survive with dignity in these countries. what gets my goat is that these people called up mumbaikars who had loved ones hunted in their own city about why we shouldn't give peace a chance - when we are still getting nowhere in getting the guys behind it being prosecuted let alone brought to justice in pakistan. that was fucking insensitive. i don't think people want to forget what the real problems are because an indian newspaper put up a dove and 'love pakistan' logo on their front page.

Ammar said...

For peace to foster between India and Pakistan we need to deconstruct the myths and stereotypes that have been built by both nations. At one end you can see nuts such as Zaid haimd proclaiming Hindus to be paleed (impure) and cowards we can see Bal Thakray gibber same sentiments against the Pakistani’s. Initiatives such as “Aman-ki-asha” are symbolic and we need to find common grounds of cooperation such as trade, culture and fighting extremism which is vital and foremost threat to both nation

Umair Javed said...

'Problems in South Asia are structural', agreed. Just the simple fact that 'Pakistani Nationalism' (and please note the quotation marks for nuanced sarcasm) is a derivative discourse, completely defined in terms of otherizing the Indian community and more importantly hell-bent on giving justification to secession in the first place, should pretty much render any attempts at peace building quite irrelevant. Till such time that the state in Pakistan is unable to build an independent identity that is distinctly indigenous as opposed to in terms of India, we'll be stuck with people like Zaid Hamid talking about hearing the voice of Radio-Pakistan from Delhi.

Karthik Sasihithlu said...


Just a clarification about General Kapoor's statement.

It clearly states :

"While the armed forces prepare for their primary task of conventional wars, they must also factor in the eventuality of "a two-front war" breaking out."

Could it not mean - India should be ready in the eventuality of it being attacked by both Pakistan and China simultaneously?

Somewhere down the line his statement was contorted to mean India will attack Pakistan and China simultaneously.

Best regards,

XYZ said...


while agreeing in general with your observations about Indo-Pak, I think you may be being a bit too hasty here with regards to the Jang-ToI collaboration. The colloboration, for all its faults and potential pitfalls, is hardly claiming to solve the outstanding issues, only to create the non-jingoistic atmosphere in which political debate can take place.

And in support of Karthik above, probably the sanest comment on the brouhaha about Gen. Kapoor's words has come from Ayaz Amir. Do read it.

Ahsan said...

Yeah I read the Ayaz Amir piece in the Khaleej Times, where it was republished I think. It was good.

Captain03 said...

the indian media wanting to promote pak-indian peace?
bullsh!t lol
usual they are the ones to point fingers at us when something in their nation goes wrong

Ayesha Hoda said...

I think such initiatives should still be taken. People power can eventually make some difference.

Aritra said...

Good initiative, but its basically of no use because its more or less depends on cultural exchange, though its effective but from the political point of view its not that worth.We dont want to fight with our neighbors & I believe nor a Pak citizen but its GOVT that comes first these days.What we can do is that we can all take part in this initiative and make our voices be heard to these diplomats.
Love u all :)

Tilsim said...

Sounds like a good initiative on the face of it. However, too much of the Jang group's coverage (I can't speak for the Indians), is so jingoistic and reactionary that it makes me suspicious and I conclude that it's just an exercise in Orwellian double-speak. May be it's a hopeful sign that saner elements in the Jang group are coming to the fore but I doubt it. The majority of the content of this media group betrays it's true ideology. True peace is built on mutual respect and not mutual fear. The Jang Group does little to promote mutual respect and cooperation. How I see it, the Jang Group's societal indoctrination, in the main, has been anti-thetical to peace with India for generations and responsible for a siege mentality in Pakistan. It's just double speak, I fear. I pray that I am wrong.

Tilsim said...

I will believe the Jang group is sincere when they stop giving intolerant and dangerous people like Zaid Hamid a massive platform to fool our country's citizens.

anoop said...

The average Indian(Govt) line- "Stop terrorism and we can solve all the issues"

The average Pakistani(govt) line- "Resolve Issues(you know what I am talking about-Idol worshippers) and then we will stop sending terrorists for azaadi of Kashmir who fight in Mumbai of places; not Kashmir."

Vicious cycle. India is the lesser victim here because of the fact that in 63 years it has been able to establish a good governance system and currently is the 2nd fastest growing economy in the world. Also,its touted to be the next World/Super power.
Pakistan on the other hand has suffered a LOT compared to India. Repeated bouts of Military interventions that has resulted in degradation of state institutions. On the economic front, Pakistan is no where close to matching the Indian juggernaut. Its economy has grown by a miserable pace of 2+ % compared to 7+ % of India.

I think the best solution for Kashmir is Status-quo. Infact, its the ONLY solution. Think about it.

ReeBz said...

Well whatever the "aAman ki asha" is, i personally think and feel that indian govt doesnt want peace with Pakistan and good relations. Keep Kashmir issue at a side, we are too weak to handle our own inside issues!!
What attitude India has shown to us in IPL, plus India keeps is such a hostile country always ready for a war with Pakistan.India is building dams over the rivers whose water flows into Paksitan, India has stopped our water and soon there will be a very severe water shortage along with electricity and gas.All the enemies of Pakistan want to send us back in stone age.India opens fire at borders anytime without any reason which results the loss of lives of our soldiers!
In short, no matter how much we struggle for aman ki asha, we cant get the hold of this "asha" until and unless india develops some positive attitude , and try to bring some flexibility in her attitude towards Paksitan!

gerry.faulkner said...

For those Pakistanis who do not know the latest theories circulating the Indian "peacemaker" cocktail circuits ( after a liberal dose of Old Monk Rum and Thumbs-up ) it is roughly as

1. Pakistanis and Indian Muslims are actually Hindus who have been converted by Arab-Turkish invaders under the sword. There fore they should be persuaded first by diplomacy and then by
by force if necessary to abandon their faith, and culture and return to Hinduism and the " ancient glorious Hindu culture".
What the ancient culture is whether it would be the culture of the southern Saivites, Dravidians, North Eastern Naga Tribals or Gangetic plain Brahmanical Vaishnavism is not defined. Nor is the status of the potential "re-converts" defined as to whether they would be Shudras ( low castes) or the adwijas (non-twice borns)
or whether they would be inducted as one of the two exalted twice borns ; which are the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas.

2. Communal riots in India where Muslims are slaughtered and border wars or incursions in Pakistan serve essentially the same purpose where the Pakistani/Indian Muslim is reminded of
the futility of taking on the Hindu might.
3. To India Pakistan is an illegitimate entity and basically a territory that has illegally seceded and it should be occupied "re-integrated" into India so that the Pakistanis can be re-converted to Hinduism ( presumably lower caste) to be ruled by the upper caste elite from Delhi.

Aman ki Asha anyone? Or is Himdutva ki Asha? Akhand Bharat ki Asha?


Sandy said...

It is becoz of ppl like u that extremism continues to breed in India as well. You put the rest of the Hindus, vast majority of whom are tolerant to shame.

One obvious question arises is why did these Hindus convert? One explanation is that by converting they got out caste hierarchy.

By modern standards, ancient hindu culture was far from glorious and inclusive. Neither were Christianity or Islam. But it was Christianity that reformed itself the fastest and today they are at the top.

Still sticking to the past is ridiculous. Instead focus on what we have and how can that be made better.

Karthik Sasihithlu said...

Its so sad to see such comments as Gerry's.. Why is it that some ppl view fellow humans with such suspicion?

Yeah, ok.. There might be a few fanatics here and there(just like there are there in Pakistan too), but stereotyping 1 billion people that way is ridiculous. We have better things to do than sit and convert non-hindus to hindus. How will we gain by that?

Dr. Manmohan Singh is the best thing to happen to India for a long time (and he is Sikh, mind you).. I am just hoping against hope that he ends up solving all our long standing disputes.


gerry.faulkner said...

The "vast majority of Hindus " is an undefined term in itself. Which vast majority. For example are the Manipuris Hindus ? ...and if so are they tolerant to say for example the rest of the Indians (whom they call "Hindustanis'). Manipur is supposed to be a Hindu majority region yet is racked with a festering 60 year insurgency and is governed by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act pretty much the way Kashmir is. The only reason the terrorist attacks in Manipur do not nmake headline news is that the Manipuris have no international or foreign sympathizers. So are they tolerant and peace loving?
The Indian peacemaker cock tail circuit ignores the need for peace within India with its myriad caste and ethnic tensions where every group hold a threat of violence as its ultimate trump card to wrest concessions or further sub-divide the states with more and more bureaucrat and political jobs where the bureaucrats do less and less
Why people changed their religion or converted to other religions has not been effectively answered. Revolt against the caste hierarchy have caused people to convert to other religions but not necessarily to Islam. Buddhism and Sikhism are a good example. However it is Islam that is targeted by the revivalists today.
The uncomfortable questions that the half-English -half Bambaiyya Hindi speaking upper caste elite in the "Old Monk-Thumbs-Up" cocktail circuits never ask is :

1. Are ALL Indian Muslims and Pakistanis converted Hindus?

2. Was the religion of India prior to the arrival of the " Muslim Invaders" exclusively Vaishnavite Santan Dharma was it a conglomerate of Sanatan Dharma and pre-Aryan religions such as tribal animists, Saivite, Advaita etc. What religion does the Naga who has not converted to Christianity follow?

3. How is ancient " Hindu" culture defined? Is it defined by Valmiki and the Laws of Manu?

I differ with you that Christians are at the top in India. If the Orissa Kandhamahal riots and the situation in " Christian" states of Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, are indicators of the status of Christians in India today then there is definitely room for improvement.

Sandy said...

When I said tolerant, I meant tolerant towards other religions. Vast majority of Indians are not fanatics like u.

Secondly, I had mentioned that Christianity had reformed itself fastest. This is on a global context. Hindus too started the process but there are still miles to go. But it is fanatics like u who are holding it back. Same way as Islam is today lagging miles behind.

U haven't answered what will u gain by converting millions to Hinduism? And do u really think this is going to be peaceful? Is it rally worth? I suppose u have been reading too much of Mein Kampf. If India is to become a superpower, then it needs to get rid of people like. U haven't understood what India stands for.

gerry.faulkner said...


Read my post carefully. I never said we gain by re-converting millions back to Hinduism (even if that was at all possible). The issue is what we WANT to believe. It is the mind set which is intriguing. If Pakistanis can go to forums such as and and read the feed back posts then they could judge for themselves if the readership of the Times of India is representative of the Indian masses,the Indian intelligentsia or both. Actually the vast majority of Indians have neither time, energy nor resources to write on the internet. It is the large ex-pat Indian population who have every thing they need to make their views known. If the internet posts are anything to go by then the views of this group are to put it mildly disconcerting.

ALL main stream religions have a darker side where religion is used to pursue a political agenda. Japanese Shinto Buddhist soldiers happily raped and massacred their Chinese victims under the Code of the Bushido during the thirties and forties; Christian Orthodox Serbs in Bosnia slaughtered both fellow Christian ( Catholic) Croats as well as half a million Muslims; Muslims have been slaughtering each other in sectarian conflicts for as long as we can remember, a good example of which was the Bangladesh war where one and a half million Bengalis and half a milion Biharis were butchered (all Muslims); The good Rwandan Hutu Christian pastors led their Tutsi parishes to the church where they they were slaughtered to the last child in a civil war that claimed half a million lives. Kenya recently saw churches become slaughter houses in post election violence claiming a good few thousand lives. Christian Europe connived and oversaw the largest slaughter of any one group of peole ever when six million Jews were collected deported, starved and gassed to death; Hindu-Muslim " riots" in India have claimed about 2 million lives since the British granted India independence with half a million being slaughtered during August of 1947. Caste, Naxalite, tribal and ethnic violence in Bihar, UP, north eastern India has claimed another 150,000 lives in modern India ( we are neglecting Kashmir! ). The Irish Republican Army happily blasted thousands of their fellow Catholic bretheren into oblivion and the Basque separatists in Spain have taken up where the IRA left off. The genteel Sinhala Buddhists of Sri Lanka fought a savage twenty five year civil war with their Hindu Tamil fellow countrymen in a war that took a few hundred thousand lives.

So who is bad and who is the worst?

We have never seen any religious leader either Buddhist, Christian Orthodox, Hindu or Muslim condemn violence in the name of religion.

Sandy said...

To say that we shud do wat christians, buddhists and muslims have done is ridiculous. Why aren't u focusing on how christianity has reformed itself. And even in areas where the Church is yet to reform, e.g. abortions, the people in the west have gone ahead and embraced the idea.

Thats wat is to be done. Look at the big picture and the larger goal. The larger goal is to rise, become a developed and may be become a superpower.

gerry.faulkner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gerry.faulkner said...

Christianity of all sects is the largest defined religion in the world roughly one and half times the size of the next most widely practiced religion which is Islam. Only 35% of the world's Christians live in Europe or North America or the " West" as you would call it. Is it really Christianity that has reformed or is it the development and adoption of a secular political system and laws ( often termed " anti-Christian" ),largely the result of a post-World War 2 revulsion to the treatment meted out to the non-Christian minorities in Europe. It is SECULARISM that has brought about the reforms, not Christianity and that too only in Western Europe and North America. One of the reasons for secularism was also the growth of a left-wing movement in Europe fuelled by the temporary success of the Soviet Union.
Apart from Western Europe and North America the rest of the Christian world remains as violent and intolerant as its Islamic counterpart. The continent of South America which is exclusively Christian majority has its share of beheadings, beatings, gender-discrimination and women abuse ( Columbia, Uruguay, Eucador, Chile, Paraguay, Panama, Mexico, Brazil).The Christian countries of Africa show very scant regard for human life, dignity or tolerance towards other faiths if the events, Liberia, Congo, Rwanda, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Uganda,Zimbabwe,Namibia, South Africa are anything to go by. The massacres,and intolerance both racial and faith driven, human abuse, and atrocities in these countries is a fair rival to the situation in the countries with non-Christian majority populations. In Eastern Europe ask the Jews, Gypsies, Muslims, and other non-Christian poplulations how they feel when they experience the " Christian" tolerance of the Bulgarians, Ukranians, Armenians, Russians, Serbs, Macedonians, and the Kosovar Serbs. In Kosovo and Bosnia it took military action to enforce the so called " Christian" tolerance.
Not so long ago even in the United States which championed the cause of freedom the bible thumping Ku Klux Klan would ritually lynch their fellow Christian blacks in front of a flaming cross. The church loving Australians hunted the Tasmanians for sport. Today the Mizo, Naga,Khasi tribals have not given up their head hunting, (their affiliation to the Presbetyrian Church notwithstanding) when they regularly abduct and behead the pastors from the rival church denominations. The Maronite Lebanese Christian Arabs conducted the the worst slaughter of civilians in the Middle East ever when they butchered 3000 Palestinian women and children in Sabra and Chatila (a feat only rivalled by the Bosnian Serbs in Srebenitza).
So has CHRISTIANITY reformed or is it the development of a secular order which in fact is hated and opposed by the practising Christians every where.

Sandy said...

Thanks a lot of enhancing the knowledge of all of us on Christianity. So let me get this straight, what u r suggesting is instead of emulating the Christians of Europe and America, we the Hindus & Islamists should stick to the path of violence.

Thats really a gr8 observation. So we shud be ready to live in condition that are similar to those of Africa, Ecquador or Chile. We shud not reform our respective religions becoz they are pure and everything is perfect. Hindu widows shud be continued to be burnt. Muslim women wud continue to wear burkha and be not allowed to work outside their homes.

Why isn't the Indian Govt listening to such brilliant, enlightened, maverick, illustrious, distinguished, celebrated, glorious, exceptional, splendid, superb minds like yours. (my poor vocabulary restricted the number of adjectives)

And why did the US abandon the glorious path that the Klan stood for? You shud be a consultant to the Govt.

gerry.faulkner said...

Read my post again.
It is not religious reform that solves problems but POLITICAL reform that is the solution where a SECULAR DEMOCRATIC order ensures stability. No religion can be "reformed" and that
goes for Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and all other faiths. A religion is based on belief which has evolved out of certain prevailing social or political conditions. If religion is to be a deciding factor then Hindu widows will continue to be burnt ( or confined in the ashrams in Haridwar to starve and freeze); Muslim women will continue to suffer the threat of an instant divorce without maintenance and be offered half the inheritance share of their male siblings and continue to be beaten by their spouses; un-married Christian girls in Kerala will continue to be sent to convents to become " celibate" nuns and pre-puberty choir boys will continue to be castrated and sexually abused at the church altar by "celibate" priests and bishops.

A secular democratic system ensures that common welfare, justice and security is available to all irrespective of the religious order or personal beliefs while at the same time guaranteeing the right to practice their individual faiths within the boundary of the existing legal order.
All civilized societies today survive and flourish because of a just social order, not because one or another religion is pre-dominant. Israel, Japan and South Korea are not a Christian nations but have a highly developed society with a strict secular order. Singapore is not a Christian country either but the secular order is maintained with remarkable inter-faith harmony.
Yes the USA dumped the Ku Klux Klan not because of Christianity but inspite of it, chiefly due to the coalition of liberal Left wing democrats and the liberal Jewish influence on the US political system. The American Jews are perhaps the most perceptive and progressive groups in the world that have strived to not only secure a place for themselves but also for every minority group in the USA.
Should the Indian government listen to mavericks like me? For your information this government at least is listening to a lot of "mavericks" like me. Which is why hate speech has at least for now become politically in-correct. It is the mindset that has to change. Religions can never be changed, for what is written in the scriptures and holy books will always be a rallying point for the fundamentalists.

Sandy said...

Religion per se may not be absolutely be reformed but its influence on society can be reduced so that there is inter faith harmony.

Religious reform and Political reform go hand in hand. At the political level, things like Sati have been banned and so has been the stand taken by many religious leaders. Today this problem is alomost removed. It was widespread just about 100-150 years ago.

Now I am not able to understand. First u talk about converting non-Hindus and then you talk about secularism and secular democratic system. How can both these things go together.

gerry.faulkner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gerry.faulkner said...

My first post was merely a statement on the mind set of the North Indian upper caste newly rich cocktail elite which includes the ex-pat populations, who are sympathetic to the ideology of the RSS where the status of Muslims in India has been very clearly defined by R.K. Hedgewar and Guru Golwalkar where the Indian Muslim should be ultimately converted back through force. The Indian cocktail elite, smooth talking, elegant, and well educated are not that different from their lathi wielding khakhi nickered counterparts so far as ideology and ultimate "solution" of the Indian Muslim problem is concerned. Indeed their contempt is
reserved not on;y for the Indian Muslims ( and of course Pakistanis ) but for lower caste Hindus, Dalits, Sikhs, South Indians, and north eastern tribes. Each of these groups has been categorized by a derogatory epithet. Thus the Sikhs are " Surds", the South Indians are " Southies", the Biharis are " Harrys"; the Andhra peasant is a "Loti" ; the Bengali is a " Bong" and the Harijan or Dalits are "Jans"; the Malayalis are Mallus , and of course the Indian Muslims are " Miahs" and the Pakistanis are " Pakis" or " Porkis". Which is why the Indian cocktailwallah will only shrug and say "the Surds had it coming yaar " when 5000 Sikhs were massacred following the assassination of Indra Gandhi in 1984. Similar was the reaction to the massacre of Muslims after the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992 when the cocktail circuit wallah would say " Why do the Miahs always make a fuss see what they get". Aman ki Asha is nothing more than an Indian cocktail circuit driven venture to sugar coat India's image. Recently the US Congressional Committee on Religious freedom has put India among the top five " Countries of Particular Concern". Which is why the English media in India ( The Times of India group) has been promoting Aman Ki Asha. It would be
interesting to see if the Marathi Samna group or the Indian Express were to promote a similar venture.

A case in point on Sati: Several attempts have been made over he centuries to eliminate Sati. The Mughals tried it and failed. The British enacted the Sati Prohibition Act and were the most successful in banning the practice through force and punishment where Sati was treated as murder. Now revivalist Hindutva politicians in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have started blessing the practice which has resulted in a spurt of KNOWN cases of Sati. These instances of Sati are only those that have been reported by the media or been witnessed by people who have been forthcoming to report it.Sati occurs regularly where the local media and law connive to keep it out the public information circuit. Evidence that the practice is growing is the sudden appearance of brand new Sati Temples and Sati Sthals ( Sati Stones ) which mark the locations of a Sati event and where more Sati events are likely to be planned.
Fact: No current religious leader has condemned Sati. No one in post independence India been punished for Sati.It is not only Sati that is increasing. Human sacrifice or " Narbali" has shown an increase too.

aarfy said...

this gerry dude is a mega-asshole.

with love,
from india.