Building bridges with peace parks

We all have to start somewhere and why not start with the citizens in the case of India and Pakistan

An instalment of ‘Conversations’, the ongoing email exchange between an Indian and a Pakistani journalist in this newspaper included a discussion on war memorials and peace parks, and the notion of such memorials and parks in India or Pakistan, or potentially a joint venture as a path to reconciliation (‘Push for peace parks,’ Aman ki Asha page, Political Economy section, Mar 28, 2010).

The inspiration stemmed from some precedents already set, hinging on universal philosophies of peace parks as places of introspection, reflection, greater understanding and healing. For example, the one between Israel and Jordan, the one running along the former Iron Curtain and a proposal for one between the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot territories, which incidentally would be more vital than ever given Cyprus’s recent election results.

Initially, I found the idea rather jarring – pretty out there and even alien. Then another example sprang to mind: the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) Commemorative Site at the Gallipoli Peninsula (Gelibolu) in Turkey. During the First World War, a protracted military campaign took place mainly between the Australian, British, and New Zealand forces and the Turkish Army. An annual dawn service is held there to commemorate the bravery and sacrifice of the ANZACs.

Many say that these battles left an indelible mark on the Australian psyche and have become a large part of Australia’s national identity. Even though all the Australian First World War veterans have passed on now, the numbers of attendees are increasing every year at the Gallipoli dawn service. ANZAC Day parades are held in most Australian cities and descendents of First World War veterans have been given permission to participate in place of their deceased relatives, proudly wearing their medals.

Due to the increasing number of people making the pilgrimage to Turkey, the Gallipoli Peninsula underwent extensive excavations and rebuilding between 1999 and 2000 through a co-operative process between the Turkish, Australian and New Zealand governments:

On the tiny beach affectionately called ANZAC Cove, where the ANZACs landed at dawn on 25 April 1915, an enormous epitaph is inscribed with the moving words:

“Those heroes that shed their blood

and lost their lives…

You are now lying in the soil of a

friendly country.

Therefore rest in peace.

There is no difference between

the Johnnies

and the Mehmets to us where they

lie side by side

here in this country of ours…

You, the mothers,

who sent their sons from far away


wipe away your tears;

your sons are now lying in our bosom

and are in peace.

After having lost their lives on this

land they have

become our sons as well.”

–Atatürk, 1934

The writer of these lines was the Turkish commander at Gallipoli, Mustafa Kemal who later became Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey and its first president. Atatürk means ‘father of Turks’. It could be said that he played a similar role to Mohammad Ali Jinnah Quaid-e-Azam in the creation of Pakistan.

On a visit to the Gallipoli Peninsula some time back, I felt a sense of unification about the whole place. The Lone Pine cemetery set up on the hill above Anzac Cove has a Wattle Bush, which is an Australian native flower. This addition gave the whole place a further unifying feel.

These days, Turkey and Australia have remarkable political and diplomatic relations. At the time of the First World War, Australia was allied with the British forces and, along with New Zealand, became involved in the war effort due to its close ties to Britain. Some would say that Australia’s involvement in the war was therefore a case of ‘guilty by association’; nonetheless, if it weren’t for their enemy status at one time, perhaps the ‘friendship’ wouldn’t be so strong today. In other words, this shared historical enmity seems to bond the two countries today in such a way that if they hadn’t have been through this, then this sense of fraternity would not be so vibrant.

Two further examples come to mind: first, Japan and Australia were enemies during the Second World War. Despite some existing tensions with regard to Japan’s involvement in whaling, on the whole the two countries enjoy strong economic, commercial and cultural ties.

Second, the recent plane crash on Russian soil and subsequent deaths of many of Poland’s highest government officials, including its president, appears to have been a catalyst in the thawing of Polish-Russian relations; united in tragedy. We all have to start somewhere and why not start with the citizens, in the case of India and Pakistan?

A friend recently reminded me of the relatively new social networking media in our midst, such as Facebook and Twitter to name a few. These have become invaluable social tools, connecting people all over the world. So, why not get the citizens of India and Pakistan connected? From little things big things grow.

The examples of Turkey and Australia, Japan and Australia, and the recent positive development in Polish-Russian relations suggests that shared bonds of enmity do not exclude a future productive relationship between two countries. There is hope.

The version above has some minor modifications. The original article can be found at:

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