Many efforts have been made to reduce tension between Pakistan and India over the years, and every little action for the cause of peace has some value.
I was in Wagah, Pakistan on December 20, 2011.
It is a village on the border with India. Actually, the border goes straight through the village and half of the village is in India.
It’s just another example of how international borders are often drawn arbitrarily.
One side of the village is in the Pakistani province of Punjab and the other is in the Indian state that is also named Punjab.
So the people on both sides are both Punjabis and speak the same language.
Every evening, they have a flag-lowering ceremony on the border.
I attended this event a little before sunset on December 20, 2011.
It was an elaborate ceremony, with border guards on parade, music, and much fanfare.
There was a reasonably large crowd on the Indian side and a slightly smaller crowd on the Pakistani side of the border.
The people on both sides of the border seemed to be enjoying themselves.
At one point, the people on the Pakistani side shouted “Pakistan” and the people on the Indian side replied by shouting “Hindustan.”
This exchange went on for a little while.
At the end, the border guards simultaneously lowered the two flags.
I was also enjoying myself, but suddenly I got some strange feelings.
I thought to myself, “Here we are in this little village, which was never divided and was never on an international border until 1947. And now, a little over 64 years later, this place is part of the border between two countries that have fought three wars and now possess nuclear weapons. If there is another war, this place could be a battleground.”
So, I was no longer sharing in the celebratory spirit of the two crowds.
And then I got another idea. I thought it would be good to make a small gesture promoting peace.
I had a piece of paper in my pocket. I took it out and folded it into a small paper airplane.
And I wrote the phrase “Peace plane, not a war plane” on the little paper airplane.
I was sitting only about 10 or 15 meters from the Indian border at the time. I thought I could walk up to the border and toss it into India.
I thought someone on the other side might appreciate the gesture. What a strange ring that phrase has: “Someone on the other side might appreciate the gesture.”
Thinking it over, it appeared to me that the border guards wouldn’t allow me to make this little action promoting peace. But I thought I’d ask them anyway. And they did not give me permission.
So my little peace plane never got to fly to India.
Of course, if the little peace plane had flown to India, it would not have resolved the disputes between the two countries.
That is the job of diplomats and the citizens of the two nations.
However, every little effort counts for something.
Finally, before I left, I handed the little peace plane to one of the Pakistani border guards and asked him to hand it to someone on the other side of the border.
He told me that he would hand it to one of the Indian border guards.
So my little peace plane did not get to fly into India in the air but it seems it got to India somehow.
Maybe someone on the other side appreciated the gesture.
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