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Aman Sharma asked: How can people-to-people contact improve bilateral relations and to what extent?

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  • Sumita Kumar replies:People-to-people contacts can involve personalities and professional groups engaged in diverse segments like business, law, education, tourism, media, sports, and culture. Track II dialogue between non-official eminent persons belonging to different areas of specialisation or backgrounds also constitutes people-to-people contact. Those involved may be academics, journalists, retired diplomats or retired military officers. Contact between the citizens of two countries enhances the understanding of diverse viewpoints and cultures and can serve to mitigate negativity about the ‘other’. Governments on both sides can encourage such contacts as a Confidence Building Measure (CBM). For instance, in the context of India-Pakistan relations, people-to-people exchanges were a part of the earlier Composite Dialogue process as well as the renamed Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue. India has been an attractive destination for people from Pakistan due to its advanced medical facilities. India and China have also agreed to promote interaction between the people of the two countries by encouraging tourism so as to strengthen bilateral linkages. While people-to-people contacts can play a role in softening attitudes and reducing tensions, it is doubtful whether such contacts by themselves can help overcome hardline positions taken by governments.

    Posted on June 25, 2019

    Views expressed are of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the views of the IDSA or of the Government of India.

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