The International Association for Human Values (IAHV), held a symposium, on April 18, 2004 on peace and harmony in South Asia at the Smith Center in Ohlone College, Fremont, California. The objective of the symposium was to facilitate a dialogue between members of the south Asian community to find common grounds for creating harmony and lasting peace in the region.
The program was attended by two hundred enthusiastic supporters of peace in South Asia. Mainstream local and international media was also present.
The panelists included: Tony Lin, advisor, North American Chinese Educational Foundation, Rona Popal, President , Afghan women's Association International, Kim Singh, Executive Director, Asian American Public Policy Institute, Syed R. Mahmood, President of American Institute of International Studies.
Ohlone President Doug Treadway moderated the symposium.
In his remarks Syed Mahmood argued that the most abuse word in the English language is PEACE.
"We all have our own definition of peace - we want peace on our own terms. Stronger nations want their hegemony over small or weaker nations. In my judgment the essential ingredients for peace are: Justice, fairness, courage, truthfulness and commitment."
"We are talking about Peace and Harmony in South Asia. I believe in practice before you preach.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am a proud American of South Asian heritage. I was born in India. Raised in Pakistan and came to the United States in 1969. My wife's family has been in America for nine generations.
Peace and harmony starts from your own heart and from your own family."
Syed Mahmood went on to say that Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Iran, Pakistan, Central Asia and other smaller states in the area can work together in bringing peace and harmony in the region. "
We need to eradicate poverty, educate the masses, improve the health care system, provide housing opportunities and create jobs. In India and Pakistan thousands of people do not have to sleep on the sidewalks."
He pointed out that Central Asia is a raw material market for Chinese, Indian and Pakistani products. "Central Asia has abundant oil to fulfill the need of these countries. Oil and gas pipeline has to go to India through Afghanistan and Pakistan from Iran and Central Asia. China is lending $350 million dollars and also helping Pakistan to build the warm water port in Gawader, Pakistan. Land locked Central Asia needs access of this port to promote their trade with the outside world."
President of American Institute of International Studies, Syed Mahmood, emphasized that strategically located state of Pakistan can play a very important role in promoting trade between these states. "In the future we may see a tussle between American oil companies and China to have access of Central Asian oil. China's appetite for oil is increasing very rapidly due to their economic boom."
Syed Mahmood said that without Pakistani support "we cannot win the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan. These countries need to help each other to promote democratic values in the region. It is also in the interest of Europe and America to have Peace and Harmony in South Asia."
He challenged the impression that Hindus and Muslims can not live together with peace. "A great number of Hindus believe that Muslims in India are " Baber kee Aulad" ( Children of Mogul King Baber). Jawahar Lal Nehru the first Prime-Minister of India writes in his book," Discovery of India," it is not correct. He writes, that Muslims came to India long before Baber. Mahmood reminded the audience, that Baber fought his battle against another Muslim ruler Ibrahim Lodhi."
Syed Mahmood referred to the history of India to elaborate his argument. He said that the historians divide the history of India into three major periods: Ancient or Hindu, Muslim and the British period.
1. Around 300 BC Chandragupta's empire covered whole of India, from Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal and extended in the north of Kabul.
2. Nehru mentioned in his book, what is called the Muslim or Medieval period, another change and an important one. It did not vitally affect the essential continuity of Indian life. These people became Indian. India continued to be an independent country. Their dynasties became Indian dynasties and there was a great deal of racial fusion by intermarriages. Other Mogul Kings Jehangir and Shahjan's mothers were Rajput Hindus. Feroz Shah, well known Sultan of Delhi had a Hindu mother.
3. The coming of the British, made a vital difference and old system was uprooted in many ways. British made India a typical colony, a subject for the first time in her long history. British remained outsiders and aliens.
Mahmood recommended the audience to read Nehru's book Discovery of India. "You will learn a great deal of History of India. Nehru talks about the process of Indianization of foreigners."
Mahmood reminded the audience that he has a great deal of respect for Gandhi, Jinnah, Nehru, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Liaquat Ali Khan. In my opinion these gentlemen were the most honest and sincere leaders of independent movement of India. A very notable Indian lady Mrs; Sorajnai Naidu, called Jinnah the ambassador of Hindu , Muslim unity. Ladies and gentlemen let us not forget, these people were human beings. These leaders could not agree, how to share power. This was also one of the reasons, why India was divided in 1947.
Let me ask you, how many of you know, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. He was the President of All India National Congress and an Indian nationalist Muslim leader. He was the only one, who opposed the partition of India till the last moment. Nehru, Gandhi, Patel and Jinnah all accepted the partition,
created India and Pakistan. One of the root causes of conflicts and clashes between Hindus and Muslims started with political differences in the leadership of Independent Movement.
On how to bring Harmony and Peace in South Asia, Syed Mehmood suggested:
1. Provide Jobs.
2. Educate people and provide skills in high tech industries.
3. Exchange and bring technologies in our societies.
4. Educate people about each other's values: Social, Cultural, Political and Religious.
5. Exchange of scholars and encourage dialogue between Individuals, States and Nations.
6. Treat each other equal, with respect.
7. Form regional economic groups to help each other in different fields.
8. Resolve issue of Kashmir by peace full means.
9. Restructure United Nations. The culture of veto power has to go.
In response to a question on the issue of Kashmir, Syed Mahmood responded that this issue should be judge in the context of partition of India in 1947. "States of Hyderabad and Junagudh was taken by India by force, because majority in those states were Hindus. Muslims are in majority in Kashmir. Why we do not use the same criteria." He also reminded the audience that a British author Alastair Lamb says in his book " Birth of a Ttragedy, Kashmir 1947," he raises grave doubts about the authenticity of Instrument of Accession signed by the ruler of Kashmir Sir Hari Singh.
Syed Mahmood called for a just negotiated solution for all people of Kashmir which include India, Pakistan, Hindu Pandits, Sikhs and Muslims.
The International Association for Human Values (IAHV) was founded in Geneva in 1997. Notable founding members of this organization include Sri Ravi Shankar and Dalai Lama.