Members of the Pakistani delegation at GES hope governments will make it easier for ties to grow.
HYDERABAD: So near, yet so far – that is the story of Pakistan and India. And that is why even though there were some 2,000 delegates from nearly 150 countries at the 8th Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Hyderabad, the arrival of a six-member team of entrepreneurs from Pakistan is not an everyday affair. The visit has been for more than just business, they say; there are heartstrings attached when a Pakistani visits India.
“I didn’t actually believe this would happen even after I got the call for this GES at Hyderabad,” said Meenal Tariq, who is a strategic leader at Invest to Innovate which helps social enterprises stay the course of business not just in Pakistan, but also Ukraine.
“Ummeed kam thee lekin tamanna bahut thi (The desire to come was way more than the hope that it would work),” said 28-year-old Atif Bin Arif, who runs Pakistan’s first private-guided tour company. “It is my first visit. Hopefully it is not my last,” he said.
Sadia Bashir started Pakistan’s first gaming academy in Islamabad two years ago and intends to start a second one in Lahore soon. She says she had heard so many stories about India from her grandparents who had migrated from here and there are many relatives among her in-laws in India.
“When I got my visa, I was super excited. And then at Abu Dhabi airport, when the lady in the Indian airline checked my green passport, she squealed, ‘Pakistani? Going to India?’ She was more excited than me. Then I thought okay, this sounds good and going to be great,” she said.
The visitors say coming to India is special. They came with lots of anticipation and excitement and are overwhelmed with how they were received and hosted.
Sihah Waris said an international news network had asked her if she felt apprehensive travelling to India. “Why should I?”‘ I asked but was wondering about it,” she said. But those thoughts dissipated away after coming here. “Somehow you don’t feel like you are in another country. The culture is the same, the food is the same and people are extra nice to you when you say you are from Pakistan, the smile gets even larger. It is really heart-warming,” she said.
Sihah is the brain behind Rise Moms that is meant to help working women continue as professionals with an app that allows live monitoring and updates on how their children are doing with caretakers. “60 per cent of working women give up when they have children for this very reason in both our countries,” she said.
Dr Asher Haasan, founder of DoctHers, concurs on why it was extra thrilling to be in India. “It is like going to another city of Pakistan. It feels like home and family unlike when you are in a New York or London.”
For people like Dr Haasan who identify so much with each other, the hope is that the governments will make it easier for business, and friendships to grow.
Meenah said it took her 30 hours to get from Islamabad to Hyderabad since there are no direct flights. “That makes collaborations really difficult even beyond the visa issues. A gentleman from Delhi with who we wanted to collaborate said let us meet in a third country where both our teams can reach. That is really so sad. That we have to meet elsewhere,” she said.
Each of the members of the Pakistani team also felt allowing people-to-people interactions would bring down the level of mutual distrust and help build a strong neighbourhood community.