DUBAI: Which is more popular? Dosa or Biryani? Indian and Pakistani school students relished dosa-biryani spat as they discussed the culture, cuisine, education and technology of their respective countries in a virtual youth peace dialogue organised to commemorate the 75th Independence Day of India and Pakistan and as part of 'Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav' celebrations.
Organised jointly by India-based education enterprise Val-Ed Initiatives and Pakistan-based school Learn Academy on Tuesday, the 'Exchange for Change' programme had 20 Indian and Pakistani students from grades 6-9.
“We loved arguing over whether dosa is more popular than biryani. More importantly, we discussed our two countries' culture, education, technology, and much more,” said 12-year-old Aliza Fatima, a UAE-based Pakistani student.
Though Fatima loves sharing space with her Indian friends in school, her joy touched another level as she got the opportunity to interact with students of her age group from India.
The event was organised with a vision to build bridges for peaceful understanding and nurturing future minds of the two countries to become global citizenships who prioritise humanity before nationality.
Fatima said it was a great experience talking to children of her age in India.
“They speak better English and I also loved their energy, warmth and enthusiasm. It is like any other online event taking place very frequently these days, but it was made unique because we got to learn so much about each other,” she said, noting that the similarities between the two countries are simply too many to ignore.
“I think we should use technology to better understand each other,” Fatima said.
The participants took the opportunity to share, learn and engage in thoughtful conversations on their respective country’s landmarks, lifestyle, national challenges, portrayal of each other’s nation in social media and a wish-list of peace initiatives they want.
Aaradhana G, a participant from Lakshmi Public School in Madurai, said: “Women inequality, poverty and climate change related effects on rain are the biggest challenges to India which must be looked into urgently.” Another student Harshida Sunil said the dialogue session helped ''me understand our neighbouring country...and it definitely changed my mindset”.
Harshida said she was fascinated when she realised that there is a lot in common between the two countries.
The event featured a keynote by Mayank Solanki, founder of Val-Ed Initiative; and Dr Wahaj Kayani, CEO of Learn Academy.
''As we celebrate 75 years of Independence of both nations, we must put equitable values-based education of children first to achieve real peace between the two nations. The priority must be to ensure that our children put ‘Humanity before Nationality,'' Solanki said.
Kayani said, “Few elements should not pollute the minds of the children of both these nations. Put together, almost 150 crores humans live in our region and it is important we live life with humanity and peace for it affects the world directly.” The interaction between the students in the two neighbouring countries took place amidst a chill in bilateral ties over the Kashmir issue and cross border terrorism emanating from Pakistan. India has said that it desires normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan in an environment free of terror, hostility and violence.