MUMBAI | In early November, Afghan, Pakistani, and Indian Seeds met in Mumbai for a week of dialogue, workshops, and skill-building. Due to restrictive visa policies, such cross border meetings are exceedingly rare in South Asia—this is the first such Seeds of Peace event to take place since 2011.
Through a series of workshops and keynote addresses from journalists, diplomats, and professors, the 25 Seeds had the opportunity to explore critical issues related to the conflicts affecting the region today. They focused on three core themes: Afghanistan-Pakistan related issues, Pakistan-India related issues, and U.S./regional related issues. Discussion ranged from the impact of U.S. drone strikes on the citizens of the region, the Kashmir border dispute, and economic issues in light of a changing political climate into 2014.
Guest speakers included Ashraf Haidari, Afghanistan’s Deputy Ambassador to India; Srishtee Sethi a PhD candidate at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences; and Prakhar Sharma, a PhD student at Syracuse University. A highlight of the program was a conference call with Samir Ahmad, a professor from the University of Kashmir, whose talk about the current state of affairs in Kashmir kept the Seeds engaged throughout. Seeds also met with Graduate Seeds Shanoor Seervai (India, 2003), Mujib Mashal (Afghanistan, 2002), and Fahad Kazmi (Pakistan, 2002).
By focusing on one theme each day, the discussions allowed the Seeds and the presenters to become deeply engaged with the issues. “Even though we all live in the same region, through the conference we came across information that was new to us,” said Shahzaib, a 2007 Pakistani Seed who was visiting India for the first time.
The conference then shifted into a small grants idea-generation session that was led by Seeds of Peace regional staff. Through a partnership with Ashoka’s Youth Venture, a two-day workshop module was developed that allowed Seeds to work as a regional delegation in order to identify local needs that they wanted to address. In the coming weeks, the Seeds will submit proposals to address these issues as part of a Seeds of Peace small grants initiative.
After a week of issue-focused discussions and a small grants workshop, Seeds went home feeling better equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to continue as change-makers in their societies; ones who are informed and invested in making a difference at the local, national, and regional level.
Throughout the week, Indian Seeds and their families hosted the Afghans and Pakistanis, a meaningful opportunity for them to build relationships across lines of conflict.