India-Pakistan Open Borders Group Meets
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
Perhaps inspired by the “Aman Ki Aasha” initiative of South Asia’s two major media groups – The Times of India and the Jang Group of Pakistan – Bay Area’s peace activists have launched a group known as Open Borders For Indo-Pak Alliance (OBIPA) to promote durable peace between India and Pakistan.
Rizwan Elahi and his friends such as Deepa Thakor have an ambitious goal to promote amity and peace through people-to-people contact. The group held its second meeting at the Chaat Bhawan, Fremont on February 16. It was attended by a dozen peace activists.
The peace enthusiasts believe that people-to-people contact was vital to help bring durable peace in South Asia
The OBIPA has decided to celebrate the independence day of India and Pakistan jointly on August 10 this year. The group believes that this initiative will promote and strengthen harmony between the large populations of Indians and Pakistanis living in the Bay Area and elsewhere.
It may be recalled that OBPA is not the first such effort. In November 2004 the Northern California activists, under the India-Pakistan Peace Coalition, initiated an ambitious plan to co-sponsor a peace train from India to Pakistan and a peace assembly in Multan to promote people-to-people contact between the two countries.
The peace train project was sponsored by the San Francisco-based United Religions Initiative (URI) - with branches in 50 countries - and aims at promoting global peace and justice through interfaith cooperation.
The URI's peace train and assembly was planned to include 50 delegates from Pakistan, 80 from India and 10 from Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Korea, Philippines, Indonesia and the US.
According to the co-founder of the India-Pakistan Peace Coalition, Ras Siddiqui, the URI project was to cost $40,000 dollars. However, the peace train and peace assembly project collapsed due to unknown reasons.
Reverting to Aman ki Asha, it is important to note that the project was launched on January 1, 2010 with a front page joint editorial in The Times of India and Jang Group Publications. It was the first time ever event in the history of India and Pakistan. Similarly, in another first, an identical independent survey of public opinion in India and Pakistan was published by both media groups.
Interestingly, Aman ki Asha peace anthem was written by the renowned Indian poet Gulzar and sung by Pakistan’s Rahat Fateh Ali and India’s Shankar. Times of India also got the iconic superstar Amitabh Bacchan to recite the Aman ki Asha peace anthem.
Like Aman Ki Asha, the organizers of OBIPA hope to encourage people-to-people contacts and thus contribute to bringing about peace between India and Pakistan. Soon they will be announcing the venue of their first project which is to hold joint independence day of India and Pakistan.