Pakistani handloom and handicraft traders took part in the Dastkar South Asian Bazaar held at the Dilli Haat on August 23-September 1. They said that such cultural initiatives not only promote business, but forge a lifelong relationship between the people of both countries.

"Our relations are not delicate like political relations which will evaporate in a day. We share a bond which is lifelong and is formed on the strong foundation of love," Shahid A Bundu Khan, owner of the Bundu Khan chain of restaurants said. "This too is our 'janambhoomi' (place of birth). My great grandfather was from India, so we very much belong here. Political tensions between the two countries will always be there, but people from both sides want peace," Bundu Khan said.

His grandfather entered the business in 1948, and their ‘grill specialities’ are very popular in Pakistan, he said. Nine groups from Pakistan came to India via Wagah border in Amritsar. They brought with them flavours from various regions - intricate embroideries from Sindh, popular lawn fabric from Karachi, exquisite furniture carved in semi-precious onyx stone, and heavy gabba (carpet) work from Abbottabad.Though their business was ‘average’ considering the amount of money they had to pay for customs and a tax of 11.35 percent on the sale of each product, yet the enthusiasm to be in India kept the Pakistani traders going.

"Custom duties are astonishing. We haven't made profit but there isn't loss either. The moment people hear 'Pakistan', they are excited to see us and talk to us with warmth and much respect," Maihzaib Khan, who represented the Sindh Women Chamber of Commerce, said.

Maihzaib said her ‘multani’ embroidered kurtis were much appreciated. On her first visit to India, she said that ‘this feels like a second home’ and she will be more than happy to come back again.

Khalida Khan was a bit apprehensive about how they will be received as tension between India and Pakistan had aggravated recently.

"It all went well," said Khan, with a sigh of relief. She was referring to the August incident in which five Indian soldiers were killed as Pakistan violated the ceasefire along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.

"We were wondering how we will be accepted post the recent tensions between the two countries. But people have been kind and we have been received well," Khalida said.

The war clouds will always play hide and seek and political gains will keep skirmishes going, but Bundu Khan feels love across the border will always find new ways to communicate.

"If you cut my hand, can you tell me from the colour of my blood whether I am from India or Pakistan?" he asked. "People want love not war. Good people happen to be on both sides of the border and they will always find a way out to meet. Initiatives like this are bridges to bring people together. Let's hope we have many more strong bridges in future. It is good for people and great for business," he said.

(Agencies)

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