Building Bridges of Understanding Among U.S., Indian, and Pakistani Youths

Posted by Robert O. Blake
November 14, 2012
Assistant Secretary Blake Addresses Students in Delaware

Last week, I had the pleasure of interacting with over 800 enthusiastic and engaged young people as guest speaker for an educational series on South Asia in Delaware. Connecting with students and other young people is truly one of the best parts of my job, for it gives me the chance to encourage young people's hope and optimism and their eagerness to make a difference in the world.

Sponsored by the Delaware-Delhi-Lahore Partnership for Peace, students from seven participating high schools in Wilmington gathered at Cab Calloway High School to learn more about India and Pakistan. Although not normally part of their required curriculum, these students were eager to hear about the evolving nature of India-Pakistan ties and the encouraging developments in relations between these neighbors.

Our discussion focused on a key element in the India-Pakistan relationship: the growth of trade and people-to-people linkages. While governments can do much to define a relationship, governments and people together can do so much more. It is the citizens of these nations who will propel the relationship forward, as relationships between nations are rooted in the relationships between their people.

The State Department supports many innovative initiatives to link Pakistanis and Indians. In 2011, we brought Pakistani students and Indian students to Huntsville, Alabama to attend the Advanced Space Academy at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. During the 10-day camp, the students learned about the demands of space voyages as well as the importance of cooperation. This year, we conducted the first-ever India and Pakistan soccer exchange program, aimed at encouraging Indians and Pakistanis to share their experiences and learn about the United States through the lens of sports.

During these interactions, people find that they have more in common than imagined -- they miss the same foods while away from home, share the same national obsession for cricket, and perhaps even a common language. Most importantly, they share the same vision for a future based on prosperity and security. They realize that their commonalities extend beyond the cricket pitch, and they form bonds that dispel previously conceived notions of the other. These seemingly small steps, one person at a time, help the two countries move toward better relations.

Our discussion of people-to-people diplomacy prompted questions from the students about the role they can play in fostering mutual understanding globally. Many asked about the Foreign Service and the career of a diplomat. But many wanted to know what they could do right now to build bridges of understanding among the United States, India, and Pakistan. The State Department encourages opportunities for Americans to become citizen diplomats through programs like exchanges and study abroad. The event in Delaware was a great opportunity to encourage our young people to get involved, and their energy and optimism gives me great hope for the future.

Editor's Note: November 12-16 is International Education Week. You can learn more about International Education Week and how you can become involved in citizen diplomacy by visiting



G R.
November 16, 2012

GBR in India writes:

People to people relationships may be congenial particularly when they are students; but they revert to adversarial positions when national and spiritual interests are in conflict with each other.

Muslim students studying in US would be quite liberal in their outlook and praise their hosts. But, can they go back and reverse the anti-Americanism spread by radicals in their own backyards. They dare not attempt. It is not easy to erase hatred bred from childhood against others.

Gran B.
November 21, 2012

Gran B. in Pakistan writes:

it is a pleasure to note that all three countries youth are brought together under one roof so that they may think over ways and means to develop good relationship among their countries It's a very positive step and we need more of this kind of get-together in future as well .Once people are connected in a friendly not then they would certainly have a better understanding towards one another.

Ashim C.
November 22, 2012

Ashim C. in India writes:

This student meet was an occassion to be effortfully friendly for whoever participated in it. It could not be otherwise. One would like to mention here at people's level there is no problem. This is most evident in behaviour of Pakistanis and Indians and also Bangladeshis when they meet and intermingle away from their homeland. The relationship is simply friendly. It is political class of these countries who have spoilt the atmosphere in the whole of sub-continent and the fundamentalists and extremists fuel the differences. Lock some ten thousand top leaders of all colours of these countries in some corner UN headquarter and order them either to fight themselves to end or arrive at some solution to the problems that articial trifurcation of the subcontinent has created. Put this proposal to vote among educated middle class of these countries after a campaign to educate them as to how they will benefit and how role of political leaders have affected their lives following division of sub-continent, one is reasonably sure that the proposal will go through with overwhelming majority. The sub-continent should be ideally a confederation of states organised on the basis of language alone and each would be economically independent for permanent peace. Pluralism of society demands the subcontinent becomes a confederation of states.


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