Students aim to expose India-Pakistan conflict

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Raised at an early age on opposite sides of the India-Pakistan border, Meghna Philip ’11 and Farrukh Malik ’11 might not have pegged each other as future collaborators. Ever since the two countries split more than 60 years ago, tension between India and Pakistan has colored a rough history between the two nations.

Yet years later, Philip and Malik are two of this year’s recipients of the C.V. Starr National Service Fellowship, granted by the Swearer Center for Public Service. Their enterprise, “The India-Pakistan Dialogue Project,” aims to improve relations between Indian and Pakistani students in South Asia.

The decades-long conflict has resulted in the present-day nuclear arms race between the two nations. “It’s like a Cold War scenario played out again in South Asia,” Malik said. Because of the current state of affairs, the two students wanted to create a forum for other students affected by the situation.

The India-Pakistan Dialogue Project aims to take advantage of 21st-century technology – social networking tools and an online forum – to foster dialogue between university students in India and Pakistan. With professors establishing the parameters, the forums will concentrate on the discussion of specific issues that impact the lives of the students and their communities.

The discussions will lead to a conference on College Hill in the spring of 2010. The moderating professors will select six or seven students who have demonstrated qualities that make them suitable to fly to Brown and attend the conference, Malik and Philip said.

The three main goals of the project are to create relationships between people of the two nations, identify students who show promise to be future leaders and create possible solutions for the issues that face Indians and Pakistanis, Malik said. To achieve these goals, Malik and Philip said they want to create a space for sustainable, productive discourse.

With the help of the Starr grant, Malik will travel to his home country of Pakistan, and Philip will travel to her home of India, during the summer. There, they plan to visit between five and 10 universities that will participate and establish the foundation of the project.

The contention between India and Pakistan is one that has permeated the lives of Malik and Philip.

“I grew up in Pakistan. It was like one of those things you couldn’t get away from,” Malik said of the conflict. “It dominated the headlines.”

Although Philip moved to the United States from India when she was five years old, she said she was always aware of the conflict between the two countries.

“The ironic part is the connectivity (between Indians and Pakistanis) exists everywhere else but South Asia,” Philip said. Outside of India and Pakistan, members of the two cultures associate with one another, she added, but in South Asia the tension persists.

If successful, the project will not only bring opposing sides together, but also will create exposure to the issues facing South Asian students everyday.

At the moment, Malik and Philip have enlisted Assistant Professor of History Vazira Fazila-Yacoobali Zamindar to help them, but they said there is room for growth and an increase in participation from interested students.

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