Sunday, February 5, 2012

Mani Shankar Aiyar: Inside Pakistan - 1

Mani Shankar Aiyar - a Congress politician in India (now a Rajya Sabha MP, but earlier a member of the Lok Sabha from a constituency in Tamil Nadu)was born in Lahore, Pakistan (then British India) in 1941. (Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, the late University of Chicago professor and Nobel Laureate in physics, also from a Tamil Brahmin family, was born in Lahore in 1907).

After Partition, his family migrated to what became India, and later, in the 1970s, Mani became the Indian Consul-General in Karachi. A strong supporter of people-to-people contact between India and Pakistan, a visa-free travel regime, and 'an uninterrupted and uninterruptible' dialogue process between the two Governments, he hosted a TV series Inside Pakistan with Mani Shankar Aiyar during Fall 2011 with the channel NewsXLive, and the programs are now available on youtube. They are a major contribution to mediated people-to-people dialogue, and to the demystification of Pakistan and Pakistanis for India and Indians. I have decided to blog the series here.

In this program of the series, he crosses the border at Attari-Wagah, travels to Lahore, visits his old neighborhood, his old building, even the tenant who lives in the apartment his father had, interviews the family of Saadat Manto, and interviews many ordinary Pakistanis (including passers-by on the street) about India, Pakistan, people-to-people and state-to-state relations. A most enlightening, and most uplifting program, for it raises the hope of ordinary citizens being able to eventually persuade their governments to build abiding peace in South Asia.

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