Across the border – Part 1

So where was I? I was at Lahore. For the geographically challenged Lahore is (لاەور) is in the Eastern province of Punjab, which is to the west of India and just fifty minutes by flight from Delhi. Like most Indian cities, Lahore is a river side city built around Ravi.

On first sight Lahore reminds one of Delhi startlingly. What with billboards, lights and brown people and the short flight– I thought it was as good as flying to Chennai or Bombay. I am told that Lahore has close to nine million people and is the second largest city in Pakistan next to Karachi. Most people speak a curious cross version of Punjabi, Pashtu and Urdu which sounds remotely like Hindi and mostly like a flow of poetry.

Lahore is full of Mughal architecture and thousands of years of history. Take a look at my photographs of the city and its places here. I had gone to Lahore to participate in LUMUN ’05, a Model United Nations Conference held by the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) for a week. The conference began after this and this. The first day was rather interesting, especially since this was my first ever MUN.

MUNs are I must confess on hindsight are an exercise in diplomacy and protocol. It has its virtues in that, one learns about how the United Nations actually makes its decisions. For most part, however, it is disappointing. Why? It is disappointing to know that a body like the UN makes its decisions in a process that lends its representatives 45 sec to express their point of view. The idea that one individual can represent all that their nation and people want, desire or believe is bad enough– without limiting speech to a mere 45 seconds.

The second trouble is with the idea of diplomacy. Yes, diplomacy is vital to negotiations but not so much so that nations use to it to avoid taking a stance on issues. More often that not, speaking out is what brings about reform. Despite this, I still managed to get a special mention for outstanding diplomacy!

I was representing Belgium on the UNDP committee. Belgium is a rather obscure nation with a neutral point of view on most things. Its hard to get embroiled in controversy when you represent such a nation. Apparently that is not true for me. Our committee voted to discuss disaster management in a crisis situation where Belgium, France, USA and Canada decided not provide monetary aid to Earthquake stricken India!

One part of me is inclined to think that this was deliberate for the following reasons: 1) I am an Indian 2) I was representing Belgium and 3) It put me in a pretty pickle mostly because I was a tad too undiplomatic and radical for the UN as my committe director later told me.

In the end we managed to pass a rather hilarious resolution that made it incumbent upon developed nations to give monetary aid to developing nations . The resolution was signed only by developing nations and passed!

I spend most days at the conference drafting working papers, fighting to stay awake after a mere half-hour’s sleep the previous nights and passing motions for entertainment now and then.