Wanted: Indian brides and grooms for Pakistanis
Y.P. Rajesh, Reuters/New Delhi
Daughter, 24, Sunni, good-looking, fair, slim, religious, Urdu- speaking. Looking for educated, working groom. Contact box 382, Karachi, Pakistan.
It reads like an innocuous matrimonial advertisement in a Pakistani newspaper. However, it is not a Pakistani publication but a major Indian newspaper that has published the advertisement -- and similar appeals from 11 other Pakistani men and women looking for spouses across the border.
Divided by more than a half-century of animosity by razor-wire and restrictions on travel and communications, things are at last changing between two nations that share much in common.
A year-old peace process has shown real warmth between people of both countries, made cross-border travel easier and raised hopes of permanent peace.
More and more families on both sides are looking for love across the barriers.
"LoC: Love over Country, Matrimonials across the border," said the Sunday Times of India, which launched a weekly section last month in an unprecedented cross-border matchmaking effort.
The reference to the other, more well-known LoC or Line of Control, a military ceasefire line that divides disputed Kashmir between the nuclear-armed rivals, was not lost on readers.
It was only last month that India and Pakistan agreed to open a road link between the parts of divided Kashmir they control and launch a bus service across the Himalayan frontier, a move that pumped life back into a flagging peace process.
"We have for a long time believed in a borderless world. That people cannot be confined by artificial, man-made constructs," said R. Sundar, director for corporate affairs at Bennet, Coleman and Company Ltd, the firm that publishes the Times of India.
Ties between India and Pakistan have been frosty for most of the nearly 60 years since Pakistan was created after the partition of the subcontinent by departing British colonial rulers in 1947.
The neighbours have fought three wars, two of them over Kashmir. They went to the brink of a fourth war in 2002 after Kashmir-based Islamic militants attacked the Indian parliament in New Delhi.
India has long accused Pakistan of arming and training Islamic rebels fighting against New Delhi's rule of its portion of Kashmir, something Pakistan denies.
Ties have since warmed and a cricket tour last year reminded both sides just how much they share in terms of culture, history and outlook.
Case in point: Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf was born in New Delhi before partition and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was born in Gah village, near the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.
Such family links are repeated among countless people on both sides of the border, be they Hindu, Muslim or Sikh.
Millions in Islamic Pakistan have relatives and friends in India, whose more than 1 billion people include about 130 million Muslims.
Until now, thousands of Indian and Pakistani families have sought to make matches across the border through letters and personal contacts, a Pakistani embassy official in Delhi said.
"This is probably the first time that such a systematic service is being offered. It is good," the official said.
The Times, which is India's largest English-language newspaper, has struck a deal with Pakistan's largest daily, Jang, to offer the matchmaking service.
Under the arrangement, brides and grooms in Pakistan, or Pakistani nationals living elsewhere in the world, can post their matrimonial ads in the Times of India through the Jang newspaper or its website.
Similarly, Indian nationals looking for partners in Pakistan would soon be able to advertise in the Jang, Sundar said.
The service is free initially but a fee would be charged later, he said, adding he expected the new warmth in ties between the neighbours to boost the matrimonial service.
"Having said that, I must say that the political climate between the people of the two countries was always good," he said.
GetRTR 3.00 -- MAR 2, 2005 08:37:26