Interstate conflicts are an integral part of the 21st century. The previous century was dominated by two world wars which were extremely violent and the repercussions of which the world is facing even today. It becomes essential to the study the different dynamics of interstate conflicts in order to expedite the processes of conflict management and resolution. There are different actors in a conflict environment and mass media is an important one among them. It is through mass media that conflicts are communicated to citizens. Mass media influences the citizen’s impression and image of the other i.e. the enemy in question. Proliferation of mass media technology has resulted into mediates conflicts. Conflict is continuously hammered upon the audience by various forms of media and hence the need to critically examine the various aspects of media’s role in conflict. This study deals with the most crucial conflict in South Asia i.e. of India-Pakistan. This conflict has shaped the political and economic situation in the sub-continent.
Mass media’s role in the India-Pakistan conflict has been much debated by scholars and media n professionals alike. What has not been explored is the possibility of Peace Journalism as opposed to mainstream War Journalism between the two countries. For this very purpose, the researcher has selected a Peace Journalism campaign named Aman Ki Asha (Hope for Peace). The campaign was launched on January 1st, 2010 by The Times of India (India) and The Jang Group (Pakistan) leading media houses of the respective countries. The campaign intends to create an enabling environment by facilitating dialogue between the two governments, encouraging people-to-people contact, thereby contributing to peace between the two countries.
The initiative is the first of its kind by print media in the sub-continent. It seeks to satisfy its quest for peace by discussion on all contentious issues between the two countries through mediums like seminars, conferences, cultural festivals and all other forums of people to people contact. The campaign has also committed itself to positive use of print media to promote the benefits of peace and give space to each others point of view on issues of dispute. So far, Aman Ki Asha has organized literary and music fests, editors conferences, trade conferences and strategic seminars to realize its vision.
Peace Journalism in the context of India and Pakistan assumes much importance because media in both the nations have been vehicles to spread hate and animosity. Dissemination of stereotyped images and conventional messages has been at the forefront of media activity in India and Pakistan. During the Kargil War (1999), media contributed to building up of the war hysteria. Thus, media has essayed a by and large negative role when it comes to promoting peace between the two neighbors. Looking at the above mentioned arguments, Aman Ki Asha offers a different perspective on what kind of role can be played by the media in the course of India-Pakistan conflict. It is a Peace Journalism venture launched for the first time in the media history of the two nations. Its critical examination can offer insights into the workings of the Peace Journalism model in current and conflicting times. Moreover, it comes at a time when there looms a constant threat about a nuclear zed conflict in South Asia. Hence, the campaign has been chosen for the study.
Use war as a metaphor for disease one which needs cure Incorporate the idea that was is a disease that has afflicted the people of both countries Peace has been used as a metaphor for a healthy state of mind and body. Healthy and progressive relations between India-Pakistan can be established through peace. Intricate connections between war-disease and peace-health have been affirmed by all the articles under this theme. Cooperating on health issues is seen as a possibility of widening dialogue among citizens of both countries. The articles under this theme depict the campaigns stress on cooperation between soft areas like health, IT, education, agriculture, tourism etc. However, there is no specificity on what kind of mechanisms ought to be developed to counter these health threats. There is not much information available in the articles on what kind of health threats do people in Pakistan face and also no commentary about the need to channelize money being overspent on defense by both nations on building better health infrastructure.
Thus, there is no correlation established between the concept of perceived threat and neglect of peoples issues in both countries. People-to-People contact through sector-wise cooperation has been emphasized repeatedly but questions about its sustainability and impact have not been addressed at all. The styles in which the three articles have been written is starkly different The stand point taken by all the three stories is pro-peace and pro-cooperation The article dated November 20, 2011 seeks stories from ordinary people on both sides of the border. It talks about ailing Pakistani children being operated in India free of cost It shows that the existing gap between the two nations can be successfully bridged by its common people. There is no exploration of the facet of Pakistanis contributing to Indian medicine and healthcare in any way but the vice-versa has been reported.
Business/trade has been identified as another important area of cooperation by the campaign. This is evident from the number of articles devoted to the theme. The articles on business identify visa restrictions prevalent between the two countries as the major hurdle for advancement of economic ties. They contain important statements from policy-makers marking a shift in the attitudes of governments on both sides when it comes to trading. Eg: Statement from Pakistani Commerce Minister first to visit India in 35 years. Trading ties with India for Pakistan are a subject of national interest not only for its government and citizens, but also for its military establishment which speaks volumes about the military being an important stake-holder in the political system of Pakistan. The militarys stake in the peace process may lead to an entirely different set of consequences which has not been debated at all.
There is also a passing mention about the arrangement of SAFTA (South Asia Free Trade Agreement) but no analysis of how its workings have been hampered by the discord between India and Pakistan. Apart from increasing trade ties, the two nations as mentioned in the articles can also help each other in building institutions of commerce and capacity building of people in the field of business. Enhancing trade tries is not viewed as being restricted to the easing of the visa regime but has been furthered to action oriented cooperation. A possibility to strengthen regional cooperation through SAARC (South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation) has been envisioned. This shows the desire for normalcy not only in bilateral relations but peace for the entire South Asian region items etc the latter granting the same to Pakistan in 1996.(2)
Kabul river treaty between Afghanistan and Pakistan and how Indias aid to Afghan developmental projects is creating mistrust between India and Pakistan. This is in consensus to the Peace Journalism model developed by Galtung which says that peace journalism does not restrict the number of parties in a conflict to two and also reports about other parties which may have an indirect or direct influence on the conflict. The article provides a factual and critical analysis to dispel suspicious thinking on part of Pakistan.
This is an important component of peace journalism because if threats of conflict are critically analyzed, then they might reveal certain misconceptions and pre-conceived notions.(3) This a very good example of peace reporting and it stands out among the entire lot of articles mainly because it is analytical in nature as opposed to factual reports. One of the characteristics of peace journalism is looking at larger benefits of peace and cooperation, which this article successfully does. It also prescribes peace alternatives for eg: How India can facilitate an Afghan-Pak water treaty to remove suspicions about its role.
Culture may not seem to be an obvious avenue of cooperation between the two countries but it is an important one because culture has deep influence and impact on people. It is through culture and different forms of mass media that existing stereotypes can be dismantled. India-Pakistan cooperation in the sector of culture is not an institutionalized one. It has grown by itself. Over the time, Pakistani artists have been accepted whole-heartedly by the Indian audience and they have also gained commercially by being a part of the Indian entertainment industry. Their Pakistani identity has not come in the way of their achieving success in Bollywood.
They have made a home for themselves in India, says the article, which essentially signifies the transcendence from rigid to flexible national identities in this case. There is a possibility for greater cooperation in sectors of film and music by the way of cross country productions between India and Pakistan. For eg: An India-Pak film festival. This is a very significant article because the Aman ki Asha campaign itself has been a venue for various cultural exchanges between the two countries through which the ability of culture to bring people together is demonstrated.
(4) Civil Society and Peace Activists:
A number of civil society organizations and NGOs are working to promote peace and harmony between two nations. They include among others South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA), Pakistan, Green circle Organization (GCO), Pakistan, Institute for Secular Studies and Peace (ISSP), Pakistan and Aman Ki Asha (Hope for Peace) a joint venture of two daily newspapers of India and Pakistan. (5) Peace between India and Pakistan has been stubbornly elusive and yet tantalizingly inevitable. This vast subcontinent senses the bounties a peace dividend can deliver to its people yet it recoils from claiming a share. The natural impulse would be to break out of the straitjacket of stated positions and embrace an ideal that promises sustained prosperity to the region, yet there is hesitation. There is a collective paralysis of the will, induced by the trauma of birth, amplified by false starts, mistrust, periodic outbreaks of violence, suspicion, misplaced jingoism and diplomatic doublespeak.
Tragically, opportunity knocks unheard on doors bolted on the inside. Opportunism, that appeals to atavistic passions, elicits an instant response to every single knock. It is one of history’s ironies that a people who share so much, refuse to acknowledge their similarities and focus so avidly on their differences. We believe it is time to restore the equilibrium. Public opinion is far too potent a force to be left in the hands of narrow vested interests. The people of today must find its voice and force the rulers to listen. The awaam must write its own placards and fashion its own slogans. The leaders must learn to be led and not blindly followed. Skepticism about the given is often the genesis of faith. This skepticism has been brewing. It can be unleashed to forge a new social compact between the people of this region. The media in India and Pakistan speaks directly to the hearts and minds and stomachs of the people. It can help in writing a final chapter, adding a happy twist to a story that seemed headed for tragedy. It can do so by shaping the discourse and steering it away from rancour and divisiveness.
It has the maturity to recognize the irritants and obstacles to peace and will not take a timid stance towards the more intractable and contentious issues – whether relating to Kashmir, water disputes or the issue of cross-border terrorism. It can offer solutions and nudge the leadership towards a sustained peace process. It can create an enabling environment where new ideas can germinate and bold initiatives can sprout. The media can begin the conversation where a plurality of views and opinions are not drowned out by shrill voices. It can cleanse polluted mindsets and revive the generosity of spirits which is a distinctive trait of the subcontinent. It can help cool the temperature and wean away the guardians from fortified frontiers. It can argue the case for allocating scarce resources where they are needed the most. We believe that this is an intervention whose time has come. We recognize that set backs will occur but these should not derail the process. We will need to reach out and pluck the low hanging fruit in the beginning before we aim higher.
Issues of trade and commerce, of investments, of financial infrastructure, of cultural exchanges, of religious and medical tourism, of free movement of ideas, of visa regimes, of sporting ties, of connectivity, of reviving existing routes, of market access, of separated families, of the plight of prisoners, will be part of our initial agenda.. They talk to each other about food, about music, about poetry, about films, about theatre and about the prolonged absences spawned by lost years. They share anxieties, discuss rising prices, seek advice on their children’s education, gossip about their in-laws, trade anecdotes and laugh at the foibles of politicians. We want to lower the walls so that the conversation continues. We owe our unborn generations the right to rise out of the depths of poverty, and squalour. It is embarrassing to read the statistics confirming our resistance to positive change in the fields of education, health and poverty alleviation. All social indices are stacked against us and will remain so unless we scatter the war clouds that menace our skies.
There are external elements at work in the region that thrive on the animosity between the two neighbours. They have a stake in keeping the region in turmoil. We need to combat them by making them irrelevant. A surge of goodwill and flexibility on the part of civil society and the media will push these forces back by denying them the raw material that manufactures hate. Our subcontinent needs to follow the footprints left behind by the great poets, sufi saints and the bhakts who preached and practiced love and inclusiveness. This is the land of Tagore and Ghalib, of Bulleh Shah and Kabir, of Nanak and Moinuddin Chisti. It is their spirit that will guide us in this journey. The one and half billion people of this region await the dawning of an age where peace, equality and tranquility prevails. This will happen when every heart beats with Aman ki Asha. What Aman ki Asha has achieved so far:
Aman ki Asha has brought about a sea change in perceptions about each other among Indians and Pakistanis. Independent surveys in India and Pakistan have shown that as a result of the Aman ki Asha campaign, every positive perception about Pakistan in India has improved, and every negative perception has decreased. Some of the more significant changes in perception include. Before Aman ki Asha was launched only 4% Indians knew Pakistan’s point of view on the Kashmir; after 12 months of campaigning this increased by 425%, to 17%.(6) 1. The terror perception of Pakistan decreased from 59% to 29%. 2. The hope for sustainable peace “in our lifetime” increased from 13% to 29% 3. The desire for peace amongst Indians increased from 62% to 82% Indians familiar with and following the Aman ki Asha campaign had an approximately 40% more positive perception about Pakistan than those not familiar with Aman ki Asha.
By openly and aggressively campaigning forthe resolution of disputes, establishing trade and investment relations and greater people to people contacts, Aman ki Asha has enabled all other stakeholders , NGOs engaged in peace-building, politicians, the business community and civil society leaders – to openly advocate normalization of relations between Pakistan and India far more rigorously than before. (7) Aman ki Asha has brought the business communities of both countries together in their individual capacities as well as the two largest business associations of India and Pakistan the Pakistan Business Council and the Confederation of Indian Industries. By strongly advocating economic collaboration and making presentations to the Commerce Ministry of Pakistan, Aman ki Asha has provided impetus to Pakistan’s grant of MFN status to India.
By providing a platform for an open and honest discussion on contentious issues and giving voice to the strong desire of the people of both countries for peace, Aman ki Asha has given tremendous confidence to both governments to negotiate with an open mind and show flexibility (during his visit to Pakistan, the then Indian Foreign MinisterS.M. Krishna publicly acknowledged that, “the sea change in the relations between India and Pakistan during the last two years is largely attributable to the efforts of Aman ki Asha and we now share the optimism of Aman ki Asha”). All mainstream political leaders of Pakistan – Mian Nawaz Sharif, then Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani, Altaf Hussain, Imran Khan, Liaqat Baloch – have strongly endorsed the objectives and the positive contribution of Aman ki Asha. Aman ki Asha has not only captured the imagination of the people of both countries it has drawn wide and vocal support from the international community.(8)
From the above analysis, we can conclude that the Aman Ki Asha campaign has focused on events like meetings of elites, dialogues with top level officials, policy makers, and subject experts to stress on sector wise engagement between the two countries. The campaign is an initiative to dismantle stereotypes prevailing in both countries and a subtle critique on the media which relies heavily on nationalistic discourse and demonizing the other. It has provided a scope for voices of peace to be heard and has ventured the path less treaded. It has tried to establish itself as a model of peace journalism by portraying the good work done by people on both sides of the border. The thrust of the campaign comes from the belief that peace can be achieved as a result of cooperation enhanced in different sectors. However, the articles of the campaign do not delve deeper and provide a critical commentary on various peace alternatives that can be made available to India and Pakistan. Certainly, peace reporting should be optimistic, but it should also be balanced with the aim of guiding future policy decisions.
Many first time initiatives taken up by the campaign have been discussed in the articles (eg: meetings of delegations of subject experts, visit of Pakistan Commerce Minister etc). The campaign has been a platform for elites of the two countries to meet up and exchange ideas. The articles have not covered a single visit of an Indian delegation to Pakistan which may come out as a skewed form of 15 cultural exchange. This is not to conclude that vice-versa exchanges have never taken place. Only they have not been reported in the selected sample for study. The study is limited in the sense of not being able to study the Jang Group of publications for articles about the campaign that have appeared in the Jang newspaper and its other associates. The inability to study the Jang newspaper has been because of the language barrier. The articles in the newspaper are in Urdu. However, future studies can consider including The News International, a daily from Pakistan which has partnered Aman Ki Asha with The Times of India.
Studies including articles from Jang and The News International will be able to provide a more holistic and balanced view of the campaign. Also the paucity of news articles talking about exchanges between common citizens can be attributed to two reasons Since, the campaign is of a continuous nature it may not be possible to deem each exchange and interaction between representatives of both countries as news. Hence, only some which are considered to be important and of news value have been presented in the campaign. Foreign Policy is the domain of the elite and interaction between elites is perceived to be of much more importance than between ordinary citizens to bring about an effective change in the attitudes of policy makers.
Despite the lacunae in the articles analyzed, the campaign comes extremely close to the normative prescriptions developed by Galtung for a Peace Journalism model. As has been observed in the data analysis section, all the articles conform to the selected considerations in some or the other way. All considerations may not apply at the same time to a particular article. Through analysis, there has been an attempt to depict the underlying nuances of the documents which may not be quite apparent to the reader. The campaign thus, serves as a Peace Journalism model the first of its kind in the context of India-Pakistan and assumes not just greater importance but also greater responsibility to meet the challenges that lie.
1 Patel, T. (2005). News Coverage and Conflict Resolution: Aid or Impediment. Unpublished M.Phil Dissertation, University of Queensland. Australia.
2 http://amankiasha.com/faqs.asp Accessed on February 23, 2012 3 Chattarji, S. (2008). Tracking the Media: Interpretations of Mass Media Discourses in India and Pakistan. Routledge, New Delhi. 4.http://amankiasha.com/joint_statment.asp
5. Alam, I. (2006). Media and Peace in South Asia. Pakistan: Free Media Foundation. 6. Anupama, C. (2007). King of Bollywood: Shah Rukh Khan and the Seductive World of Inidan Cinema. New York: Warner Books. 7. Bhaumik, S. N. (2006). Politics of Indian War Films. Pakistan: South Asian Policy Analysis Network. 8. Holm, A. N. & Holm, A. N. (2008). Batting for Peace. Germany: VDM Publishers. Bibliography:
9. Kukreja, V. & Singh, M. P. (2008). Democracy, Development and Discontent in South Asia. New Delhi: Sage Publications India Pvt. Ltd. 10. Rao, S. (2010). Shah Rukh Khan: Symbol of Indian Secularism. Pakistan: South Asian Journal. (Journal # 29, named: Cinema in South Asia). 11. Saigol, R. (2006). Ideology and Curriculum in India and Pakistan. Pakistan: South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA). 12. Gupta, A. (2006). India’s Soft Power. Indian Foreign Affairs Journal. Page # 50-52. New Delhi:
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