Jinnah Institute arranged lecture of Indian journalist on Indo-Pak peace

The costs of abandoning a constructive Indo-Pak dialogue are perilously high – this was the ringing assertion from Mr. Raj Chengappa, award-winning Indian journalist and current Editor-in-Chief of India’s Tribune Group of Newspapers, who was discussing the neighbouring countries’ bilateral relations at the Jinnah Institute on Thursday.

Jinnah-InstituteAddressing guests at the fifth round of Jinnah Institute’s Distinguished Speaker Series (DSS) held in Islamabad and attended by a large audience of former ambassadors and intellectuals, Mr. Chengappa argued that both India and Pakistan had become enveloped in their own narratives, and that it was high-time that these were changed. Discussing the similarities between the two countries, Mr. Chengappa pointed out that both Pakistan and India enjoyed massive youth bulges, exploding middle-classes and sizeable markets. He added that the collective needs of both South Asian countries were such that their economies now required 10 percent growth rates, and that nothing less would suffice: “Such growth is not possible without peace,” he insisted. The established Indian editor also said he firmly disagreed with those who argued that there should be no dialogue with Pakistan until progress was made in the Mumbai trials.

The Distinguished Speaker Series is a core part of Jinnah Institute’s Indo-Pak track II diplomacy initiative. In the past the DSS initiative has greatly facilitated and enabled the exchange of high profile public speakers including parliamentarians, academics and policy experts between the two neighbouring countries. It is aimed at fostering greater mutual understanding of bilateral issues and increasing public participation through people-to-people contacts. Thursday’s lecture organized by the Jinnah Institute and entitled, “Indo-Pak Relations: New Beginnings, Old Endings?” saw the Indian journalist speak at length about his experience interacting with officials from both sides, and his own views on the potential for constructive engagement between the two countries. Mr Chengappa has also formerly served as Managing Editor for India Today, and is the noted author of the best-selling book on India’s nuclear programme titled, “Weapons of Peace: The Secret Story of India’s quest to be a Nuclear Power.”

Commending Pakistan’s transition to democracy, he opined that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif seemed more assured, and expressed his confidence in the new PML-N government’s ability to confront the country’s many domestic challenges. While recounting the chequered trajectory of Indo-Pak relations, Mr. Chengappa identified the various dips and escalations witnessed by the two countries, but was quick to add that he remained optimistic about future prospects for peace: “India and Pakistan have moved from fighting, to talking about fighting, to fighting about talking. However, it’s not as if progress has not been made. I see the glass as half full.”

The lecture was finally followed by a questions and answers session with members from the audience.

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