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Haider Optimistic About Indo-Pak Peace Initiatives

Ranjani Saigal
03/08/2006

Aligarh Alumni Association of New England (AAANE) held its annual Sir Syed Lecture and Banquet at the Wyndham hotel, Westborough, MA on Saturday, February 25th 2006.  Former foreign secretary of India, Salman Haider gave a talk on the “Peace Prospects in South Asia”

The event opened in the typical Aligarian style with a Tilawat recited by Mr. Obaid Qadri. After President Dr. Syed Masarrat Ali gave his welcome address, Secretary Tariq Haq took a few moments to introduce Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). “The University was established in 1875 by the great visionary Sir Syed Ahmed Khan who wanted to bring Western education to India. AMU has the unique honor of providing great leaders to both India and Pakistan. Former Indian presidents Dr. Zakir Husain, Fakruddin Ali Ahmed  and the Pakistani president Ayub Khan were Aligarians.  AMU has produced some of the finest literary figures including Dr. Mazoom Reza and Javed Akhtar” said Haq. Dr. Deeba Husain who serves on the executive committee of AAANE introduced the mission of AAANE. “We want to uphold the cultural and literary tradition of our alma mater. We do so by organizing several cultural events and Mushaira. Charity is  part of our mission and we try to contribute to educational initiatives” said Husain. Ali Rizvi served as the master of ceremonies for the event.

The guest of honor was introduced by Prof Engseng Ho who is a professor of Anthropology at Harvard University. In his introduction Ho recognized Haider's contribnutions. “Salman Haider is responsible for creating a framework for negotiations of border settlements between India and its neighbors. He was the former ambassador to Bhutan and thanks to him, Bhutan and India have succeeded in maintaining a great relationship” said Prof Ho.

Haider began his talk by expressing optimism about the relationship between India and Pakistan. ““There is no settlement right now but a desire to settle is visible” said Haider. “After the end of the cold war the countries responsible for pushing India and Pakistan apart have now released their stranglehold on these two countries. The international scene is very conducive to settlement and that can only help the peace process.”

While Haider admitted that there was no obvious solution to the Kashmir, he felt that leaders are taking a  fresh look at the problem. “Statements such as - We may not be able to reach a border settlement but we can try and make borders irrelevant- from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh are proof that people are taking a different approach to solve the problem” said Haider.  He also mentioned that there are a few definitions of autonomy for Kashmir which are being toyed with which may provide a solution acceptable to all parties.

The talk was followed by a QA that was moderated by Mr. Mahmud Jafri. The QA session was unusual in that each participant’s question was itself a literary masterpiece. Whether it was quoting Ghalib or presenting their own works of poetry the Aligarians were able to showcase their skill with language within just the minute or two allocated to them. AAANE had made an effort to invite many of the leaders of the Indian American and Pakistani American community. These leaders asked interesting questions that further helped shed light on the issue.

When one thinks of Lucknow, one thinks of poetry, of a culture of mutual respect, of people who enjoy the finer things in life. Aligarh Muslim University is a precious jewel in the crown of Lucknow. Aligarians in New England deserve congratulions for cordinating a fine event that brought forth the spirit of their great alma mater.

 



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