Quite often, the normalisation of affairs between Pakistan and India is linked with changing the curriculum of the educational systems on both sides of the border. The suggestion makes sense considering that what you teach children in school tends to stick with them for the rest of their lives. Textbooks in both countries contain contrasting accounts of common events. More often than not, both versions are inaccurate, and published for propaganda. Sure, this policy worked when the politicians needed it to. But it has affected our populaces in a sustained way over the years, cultivating mindsets which find it impossible to comprehend peace with the ‘eternal enemy.’ That must change. Of course, differences will always remain. That is just the collateral of history. But as we talk of opening trade and travel between the two countries, an education that deals in some measure of objectivity, might be a good idea.

Still, no revision of schoolbooks will yield results as long as newer, bigger problems keep emerging in real-time. Take the Indus Water’s Treaty (RIP) issue. With India’s dam projects underway in violation of the IWT, rivers have started to dry in Pakistan, and resultantly the agricultural economy takes a direct hit. Changing a few linguistic flourishes in the curriculum doesn’t matter as much as dealing deftly with issues that threaten the survival of the country. Decision-makers, on both sides, are still very much insistent on practicing shortsighted, interest-based politics. ‘It’s good for us because it’s bad for them’ has to end. A mutually-beneficial approach, instead of policies designed to inflict harm on the other is the only way forward.

Secondly, just as we stress strengthening of trade ties, efforts can be made to accommodate the frequent and bold exchange of views through print and electronic media. Open discourse through journalism between opposing parties is rarely a bad idea. The good thing about open debate is that it educates the common public. Issues which appear simple and straightforward from one side may appear extremely complex from the other. Absence of meaningful interaction creates isolation, and deprives the masses from learning about varying perspectives which, like it or not, do exist. Ultimately, these measures will have to be part of an over-arching policy aimed at tackling issues on various fronts. The present will shape the future. Reform today – results tomorrow.