Can social media influence diplomacy? With the recent Pathankot attack on the Indian air force base in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district, the official relationship between India and Pakistan has once again been thrown into limbo. But several citizens of these two squabbling nations have taken to social media to declare that they want peace and to urge their governments not to let "warmongering" derail talks between the two countries.
Indian officials made it clear as the attack was unfolding that they believe that the perpetrators of the attack are from the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed group, even though the United Jihad Council from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir claimed responsibility for the action. This comes amidst speculation that the attacks could derail foreign secretary-level talks scheduled for January 15.
However, citizens on both sides of the border have taken to social networks such as Facebook to urge the governments to not stop talking because of the recent events and instead work together to ensure peace in the region. Led by activists from the citizen group Aman Ki Aasha on Facebook, several Indians and Pakistanis have changing their profile pictures with messages appealing to their leaders to get back to the discussion table.
The campaign was kickstarted by Mumbai resident Ram Subramanian immediately after the operations concluded in Pathankot.
“For long we have seen our leaders fail to lead us and allow situations and incidents lead us,” he wrote. “For long the majority, we people who want peace, have been ruled by the actions of the few who want violence. For long we people have been quiet.” Subramanian added that people will now be able to speak through these pictures.
“War is not absence of peace, it’s a denial of justice,” says Rafiq Kathwari’s profile picture who is a member of the group and currently based in New York.
New Delhi resident and technology business owner Samir Gupta, meanwhile, posted a video of himself singing a popular hindi song to appeal for peace between the two countries. His profile picture, too, makes an emotive appeal to the leaders on both sides to “not let hate win” and that the future generations will thank them for their efforts towards peace.
Pakistani journalist Beena Sarwar has been urging people to post peace messages and change their profile pictures in support of the hashtag #KillTerrorisMNotTalks with the aim of getting “India Pakistan governments to continue talks and not give in to warmongering/sabre rattling after the Pathankot attack.”
While many citizen groups including this one have previously organised similar campaigns to call for peace every time the tensions have flared up due to derailment of the diplomatic process, what’s striking this time is the fact that many people are urging the governments to not just keep talking but also act on the terrorism in a more quick and stern manner.
Here are some more pictures.