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‘Ache Din’ For Indo-Pak: Will The Softened Stand Lead To Peace Between The Nations?

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By Anusha Sundar:

After years of struggle demanding freedom from the colonial British Raj, the ‘3rd June Plan’, better known as the ‘Mountbatten Plan’ came into action. The idea was to divide British India into two independent states: The Republic of India and the Dominion of Pakistan. This was history, but what followed were years of disagreement and conflict between the two neighbours. Since their independence, the two countries have been engaged in four wars and several tense military face-offs. Inspite of several initiatives to engage in peace talks, India and Pakistan have always had a strained relationship due to the very circumstances in which the two states came into existence. With the new Modi Sarkar at New Delhi, and a similar right leaning Nawaz Sharif heading Pakistan, there seems to be a light at the end of the long tunnel. The Indo-Pak peace process finally seems to be heading in the right direction with decisive Governments agreeing to begin talks between the two Chief Secretaries this August.

Indo-Pak relations

While handling the Kashmir dispute is vital, there are several other fronts that the two Governments need to address in order to bring normalcy into their relations. The most promising change is the Pakistani general’s attempt to fight and extinguish the Islamist extremist terror groups such as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, the Afghani Taliban, the Haqqani network and other radical Uzbeks under the month old Operation Zarb-e-Azb. Although this military initiative received immense support from the Pakistani civil and political society, it can only become a substantial effort against terrorism if the Pakistani Government also focuses on the anti-India jihadist groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operating inside Pakistan. It is vitally important for their fight against terrorism to be credible to also redefine Pakistani nationalism away from religious terms. Jihadist terror groups were born out of and flourished due to the extremist state ideology that propelled Pakistan as an Islamist nation. In order to ensure cordial ties with India and other nations, Pakistan needs to divert its radical nationalism away and embrace a more secular approach.

Bilateral trade relations can prove to be a game changer in the Indo-Pak peace process now, especially with a business oriented Modi heading India. In this sense, the SAARC also offers a great opportunity for India and Pakistan to develop economic inter-dependence which provides an incentive to maintain warm relations. According to recent statistics, the Indo-Pak trade stands at a value of $3 billion while it has the potential of reaching $40 billion. The solution is to enable liberalization of trade networks which would ensure that SAFTA (South Asian Free Trade Area) works to its potential. Technology transfers, implementation of Special Economic Zones, reduction of custom duties to zero etc. are several methods that the SAFTA recommends in order to boost trade in the South Asian region, and India and Pakistan both being leading members of the SAARC can together ensure its implementation. Strong economic ties have always acted as building blocks for future development of relations as the France-Germany, India-China and Brazil-Argentina scenarios have established. Also, just as the EU and the ASEAN have successfully managed to use trade as the focus for international co-operation, India and Pakistan can exploit the same situation via the SAARC.

With the US led NATO forces departing from war torn Afghanistan, the onus is on India and Pakistan to partner up in order to protect their North-Western frontiers against security threats. While India has already formed close relations with the Afghan Government, it needs to make a pragmatic move towards Pakistan also in order to look after their joint interests. A joint military and political partnership will act as a great stabilizer of relations and operate as a deterrent against any deterioration of bonds.

Mistrust and suspicion has always clouded any attempts at neutralizing relations between the two countries. But now, with determined and unwavering resolve at both ends, the times seem to be changing. The Indo-Pak peace process restarted after Modi invited his Pakistani counter-part for his swearing in ceremony at New Delhi, an event first of its kind since 1947. The occasion, symbolic of the new Government’s efforts to brush away prior hostilities is also the beginning of a new, unprecedented level of deliberations. A significant part of these bilateral deliberations would centre on recent ceasefire violations that have continuously worsened relations. However, with a strong rightist presence at New Delhi, it has become obvious to Pakistan that it may have to face the brunt of any falter on its part. With both the countries eagerly looking forward to a close in the hostilities, will the two governments be able to deliver?

You must be to comment.
  1. Gomathi

    Hope against hope! Nevertheless, let us wait with a positive mindset.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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