x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Dubai gathering builds India-Pakistan relationships

A programme in Dubai, organised by the Washington-based public policy institute New America Foundation, drew more than 30 researchers, aid workers, lawyers, environment experts and professors.

DUBAI // Indian and Pakistani delegates have ended a two-day gathering in the emirate to build and sustain cross-border partnerships in various sectors, from education to tribal affairs.

The programme, organised by the New America Foundation, a Washington-based public policy institute, drew more than 30?researchers, aid workers, lawyers, environment experts and professors.

They said the gathering met a need for continued dialogue and interaction between the two Asian neighbours in the midst of the continuing border conflict that has ignited tempers on both sides.

Most recently, tensions soared after deadly exchanges along the India-Pakistan border two weeks ago in which two Indian and two Pakistani soldiers died. Both sides have denied provoking the clashes.

The meeting in Dubai, on neutral ground, is the first of several annual interactions planned.

“There are many forces trying to encourage Indians and Pakistanis to move forward on a personal and professional level and this is one effort,” said Taufiq Rahim, executive director of Dubai-based Globesight, which partnered the New America Foundation in organising the gathering.

“Dubai is close to India and Pakistan and here they can see what they have in common rather than focus on the differences.

“We hope a substantive conversation will give them the impetus to pursue cooperation when they go back home.”

Arastu Zakia, co-founder of a non-government group Empower Futures based in Ahmedabad, India, aims to use the connections he has made.

His organisation fosters a mentoring network for young Indians online and via meetings with academic and industry leaders.

“Now maybe we can get some mentors from Pakistan who will answer questions of young Indians. This will help cross-border understanding,” Mr Zakia said.  “It can change the mindsets of people.”

Meetings are often held between retired Indian and Pakistani politicians and former government officials, but the two-day Dubai meeting that began on Saturday aimed to connect people working at the grassroots level.

Faiysal Ali Khan, founder of Fida, which works in tribal areas of Pakistan’s Waziristan, looked forward to collaboration with a Goa-based Indian activist, Stalin K, who publishes little-known stories of local communities across 23 Indian States.

“We have the same issues in Pakistan’s tribal areas that need to be highlighted,” Mr Khan said.

“We can learn from each other and collaborate online on social blogs and video conferences. Engaging on issues of everyday life is what we are keen to explore.”

The two-day meeting touched on trade, development, regional security, governance, water scarcity and climate change.

Peter Bergen, the director of the National Security Studies Programme at the New America Foundation, said: “We hope this gets people closer on areas of common interest.

“There is a shared interest in several sectors and we hope to continue this dialogue every year.”