As India celebrated its 64th independence day on Monday, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani sent out greetings to his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh.
“On behalf of myself and the people of Pakistan, I avail this opportunity to extend our greetings and felicitations to you and to the people of India on the country’s day of independence,” said Gilani in his message to Singh.
“On this day, I would like to reiterate our desire to have harmonious, cooperative and friendly relations between our two countries to achieve our shared goal of peace, progress and prosperity,” the message read.
Meanwhile, at the stroke of midnight on Sunday, a 10-member Indian delegation of journalists, civil society activists and scholars crossed over to Pakistan’s side of the Wagah Border to mark Pakistan’s Independence Day. Later, a Pakistani delegation crossed over to the Indian side to mark their day of independence.
Delegates held candles and sang songs of friendship. The Indian delegation, led by journalist Kuldip Nayar, included filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt and other civil society members.
Both delegations lit candles at the Zero Point to promote peace in the region and improve bilateral relations.
“This vigil is not just to mark Independence Day but also to disseminate a message of peace and brotherhood,” said Imtiaz Alam, secretary-general of the South Asia Free Media Association (Safma).
Alam suggested that a peace park be built on Wagah Border in memory of those who lost their lives during the 1947 partition. “In this park, people from Pakistan and India should be able to sit together and have a dialogue or organise joint cultural shows,” he said.
“The new generation in both these countries wants South Asia to be the centre of the world. We can do this only when we have common interests and resolve our disputes,” said Indian delegate Professor Sucha Singh Gill, director-general of the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development.
Safma spokesperson Marium Khan said the association desired that the people of Pakistan and India move freely within the two countries so that bilateral relations are strengthened.
A musical show was also arranged at Safma Headquarters in Lahore, where Mohsin Shaukat Ali performed.
“It is always good to be here. We are neighbours and I hope that we can live like good neighbours,” said singer Hans Raj Hans, who was part of the Indian delegation.
APP (with additional reporting by Ali Usman in Lahore)
Published in The Express Tribune, August 16th, 2011.