I just returned home to Lahore after spending two days at the Pakistan-India Social Media Mela organised by a Karachi-based peace organisation. Many Indian bloggers, writers and journalists attended. There were visa issues, but the Pakistan High Commission staff in New Delhi stayed back in their offices till 10 pm to process papers. Pakistan Interior Ministry Advisor Rehman Malik played a critical role in expediting visas and even visited the venue to meet the Indian guests.
At the conference, there was no sign of any argumentation or regurgitation of old narratives. Younger members of the Indian delegation interacted with their Pakistani counterparts and despite some hawkish headlines on social media, there was not a single incident of an Indo-Pak spat like those we are used to. Unlike other gatherings, this was an unpretentious event and rarely dabbled in self-conscious claims of “tackling” bilateral ties. This is what we need in the subcontinent: greater movement of people, goods and ideas, and to stop deceiving ourselves that we can live in the 21st century as Cold War-bitten countries.
The day before the social media summit was to begin, the Indian authorities decided to hand over the Pakistani soldier who had accidentally crossed the border into India. The response to the incident was swift and reflected the growing level of trust between the two states. In the subcontinental universe, subtle shifts and nuances matter, given how intractable positions have been. […]