The Times of India and the Jang Group have plans as part of the Aman ki Asha initiative to begin a journalist exchange programme under which journalists from each side will have an opportunity to work in a newspaper of the neighbouring country.
Tahir Hasan Khan, president of the Karachi Press Club and senior political correspondent of The News, told a press conference on Tuesday that a suggestion in this regard was accepted by Editorial Director Times of India J Deep Bose during a Pakistani delegation’s visit to Mumbai and Pune last month.
The delegation comprising 14 journalists from Karachi visited Mumbai and Pune on the invitation of the Mumbai Press Club.
In a visit to Mumbai University, he said, the delegates reminded the vice chancellor of the memorandum of understanding that he had signed with the University of Karachi, and insisted that the process should be continued.
“Pune University is also ready to sign a memorandum of understanding with the University of Karachi to introduce faculty and student exchange programmes.”
Khan, who was led the delegation of journalists during the visit from May 21 to May 28, was of the opinion that politicians had jumped on the bandwagon after industrialists, doctors and journalists, and were now lobbying for peace between the two countries.
“At Mumbai the interior minister organised a programme for us, where opening a Pakistani consulate in Mumbai was under discussion. He assured us that within a week he will write a letter to the central government.”
In the same meeting, the interior minister also expressed his wish to accompany the next delegation of journalists from India to Pakistan, the KPC president said.
The delegation also met the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), known for its anti-Pakistan sentiments, and they too agreed that hostilities between the two countries should stop.
The delegates visited the Raosawami Museum in Pune, and a Sikh temple. “During the visit the Aga Khan Palace was opened for us despite the holiday on Sunday, and the doors of Gandhi’s last resting abode were also opened for us,” Khan said.
They also visited the Mumbai Stock Exchange, where traders expressed the need to improve trade ties.
Karamat Ali, executive director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, who was part of the delegation, said, “After the 26/11 crisis no other delegation has been as successful as this delegation. Journalists are the best ambassadors.”
He said that the labourers in Pakistan could only be protected if there was peace in the subcontinent.
Answering a question if there was a global ploy to use the Indo-Pak friendship as a means to create a power which could fight China, Ali said, “India and China may have border disputes but on the face of it their relationship is strong. China is India’s second biggest trade partner and by 2015 it will become the biggest. So India does not want to fight China.”
The delegates shared that the response they received in the neighbouring country was overwhelming, and “it felt like home”.
At one point, a poem by Fazil Jamili, a member of the delegation, drove the Indians to tears. “Such was the love felt,” said a delegate.
On the invitation of the Karachi Press Club in 2011, a delegation of journalists from Mumbai had visited Karachi and Hyderabad.