Since Pakistan was created in 1947, it has been caught up in tension, mistrust and conflict with its larger neighbour, India. In the past 63 years, the two countries have argued and sniped at each other, bluffed and counter bluffed, drawn each other to the brink and even gone over that brink into three wars. Territory is disputed, religious differences grow into hatred and mistrust, and zealots flourish.
The fact that both countries have nuclear weapons adds to the tension and fear.
In 2008, the fear and mistrust was ratcheted up a notch by the Mumbai attacks when gunmen stormed a hotel and 174 people died. Hate and recriminations spewed forth and peace seemed further away than ever. The militants and fanatics had, it seemed, won.
Today, the two countries have begun their first formal talks since that attack. The talks are tentative and preliminary, but they are a start, and we pray they lead to greater things.
The people of the two countries deserve peace with their neighbours, and the stability that will come from that. With more than a billion people living in India and 180 million living in Pakistan, one sixth of the world’s population is directly affected by relationships between the two countries.
World In Need has a presence in both countries.
In India, we have two homes just outside Delhi: Ashray Bhavan caters for boys and Asha Bhavan is for girls. The children, who would otherwise live in the slums of Delhi, are given a safe, healthy environment, good and nutritious food, health care, education and skills training, leading to hope for a better future than would otherwise be theirs.
In Pakistan, we also work with the poorest sections of society. We sponsor children throughout the country and in Islamabad, we run a school.
We believe every child has the right to a good education, regardless of where they live or the size of their family’s income. Through these schools and homes, and through our Child Sponsorship programme, we endeavour to give that education to children who would otherwise not receive it.
Education of today’s children is vital for the future of these two countries. Lack of education leads to ignorance, which in turn can allow those with an agenda of hate to foster divisions. Through education we can ensure the next generation leave behind intolerance, mistrust and lack of understanding.
Today’s talks are a start. May they lead to ever greater things.