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Pakistani children respond to letter of friendship from India

Outlook India - 5 April 2006

Carrying placards with slogans of Indo-Pak friendship, thousands of Pakistani school children who received the world's "largest love letter" with messages of peace and harmony from their Indian peers reciprocated the gesture by signing its golden strip.

With Indian and Pakistani flags painted on their cheeks, children from 13 schools, aged between six and 12, gathered at Qadhafi stadium in Lahore yesterday to respond to the letter titled 'From India with Love'.

The football-pitch size letter, which travelled throughout India collecting sentiments of children from various schools, districts and remote villages, says: "Dear children of Pakistan, let's join our hearts in friendship. Together we can make a better world." The Pakistani children responded with equal enthusiasm signing the golden strip in the letter, now being referred to as the 'Golden Bridge for Peace'.

The children who were overwhelmed by this gesture of Indian students said they favoured peace and harmony between the two nations.

"I think it is the best gift from India and hope that we can get more and more signatures and letters to show how much love we have for our Indian brothers and sisters," Aaliya Durrani, a student from a Lahore school, was quoted as saying.

There should be no visa restrictions between India and Pakistan, said another excited student Danish as he and his friends began reading the letter. "At least we should be free to visit Indian cities like we go to Karachi, Murree." Another young boy, Noor Malik, who got emotional as he responded to the letter, pledged that "after completing my education, I would ensure that people of my generation do not fight like our elders." Aizaz, Usman, Mahmood and Tayyab said they all wanted to tell the Indians that there was no difference between the children of the two countries. "We have come to show that we are a friendly nation. We are as good as you. Not all Pakistanis are terrorists," they said.

Though there were some children who were disappointed as they had thought the Indian students would have also accompanied the letter, the atmosphere was largely cheerful and some of them even sang songs of friendship.

"It is one one of the most significant days in the history of the Indo-Pakistan friendship initiative. This letter is a part of that initiative," John Silliphant of the 'Friends Without Borders', the leading organisation behind the "world's largest love letter," was quoted as saying.

Raza Shahid, a volunteer, said "we aim to take the golden strip of the letter back to India as the response from Pakistan." The 86,400 square-foot letter (360 ft by 249 ft), is made of tarpaulin. Around the body of the letter are 196 smaller pieces which make up the border bearing the names and addresses of Indian schools and signatures of thousands of children.

  hearts It may be long before the law of love will be recognised in international affairs. The machineries of government stand between and hide the hearts of one people from those of another. -- M.K. Gandhi