I am in depressed agreement with many of the sentiments expressed in your editorial and in Humphrey Hawksley’s incisive article ‘Let’s rewrite this divisive narrative’ (May 2016 issue), though disappointed at the only passing mention of the grievousness of the West’s interference in Syria’s autonomy in particular, and the role that has played in bringing terrorism to European shores.
The world as a whole must roundly condemn the barbarity and mediaeval ideas of Daesh but also censure the West’s atrocious behaviour in the Middle East – especially Syria – and its almost pathological urge to force regime change on sovereign states, in this case by backing various fundamentalist groups in their fight against the Syrian government. Freezing Syria’s membership of the Arab League and sanctions against the country have prevented Syrians from acquiring many essentials and are nothing short of criminal.
What is needed is a Syria-led political solution based on dialogue between Syrians. But Western powers seem determined to ignore Syrian voices and instead support terrorists in the country under the banner of regime change. No wonder terror is coming home to roost in Europe.
Rachael de Vries
Speak up for Punjabi
It was with great pleasure that I read the piece in your May edition of Asian Affairs on the Lyallpur Punjabi Sulekh Mela. The festival had some excellent events such as the Punjabi Kahani, the role of women in Punjabi literature, and an exhibition of books on Punjab’s history.
I was especially interested to read about Dr Pippa Virdee’s views on the Punjabi language in Pakistan and the role it plays in tolerance and self-expression. There are many challenges that face the Punjabi language today. Although it is our state language and the tenth most spoken language in the world, today our children are being deprived of a closeness to our language. Punjab has been very open to the Hindi language and to English but now we are paying the price, as our children are being taught English and Hindi before even Punjabi. In many cities we can see that the influence of Punjabi is disappearing. There has been a UNESCO report that says in fifty years, the Punjabi language could fade away. Although there are many attempts for promoting Punjabi, like the International Mother Language Day on 21 February, the position is still difficult for Punjabi in Pakistan and in India.
This rich and beautiful language needs to have national recognition in both these countries and it should be the medium for education at the primary level before it loses its value to Urdu and Hindi and we all lose so much as a result.
Mr Akal Kochhar
Getting tough on graft
In light of Rita Payne’s very positive article on Baroness Patricia Scotland becoming the new Commonwealth Secretary-General, I hope other Asian Affairs readers will agree that the Baroness is a breath of fresh air – not only as the first woman to take the post, but also for her stance on agencies operating in Commonwealth countries meeting anti-corruption standards to gain access to aid.
David Cameron made us chuckle at his recent ‘fantastically corrupt’ comment to the Queen in the run-up to the anti-corruption conference, but Patricia Scotland looks like she means serious business with the proposals she is drawing up in this regard. With her at the helm, it looks like there could be life in the Commonwealth yet.