12,000 Km Away In US, How Indian, Pakistan Students Cope With Border Tension

Indian students say they find it easier to bond with Pakistani students than those from Europe and US.

Some Indian students said it was easier to bond with classmates from Pakistan than, say those from Europe

WASHINGTON: As tension spikes again between New Delhi and Islamabad, far away in Washington DC, a group of Indian student-entrepreneurs talk about how the tit-for-tat between the two neighbours hasn't impacted their relations with Pakistanis here. It is easier to be friends outside the subcontinent, they say.

Parth, who is studying to be a pharmacist, says, "The little bit of Hindi that I know, I can speak with them. So I think the culture overpowers any divides that we have". It is a divide that they have left behind, 12,000 km away. In fact, they argue that it was easier to bond with classmates from Pakistan than, say those from Europe or even America.

It's a sentiment they all share. Harshit, who is running an ecommerce analytics start-up says, "They share our love for cricket, food and even Bollywood. We joke about (Pakistani cricketer Shahid) Afridi all the time."

It is a sentiment that Naseem, a student from Islamabad, agrees with. Mention India, and the Pakistani student promptly starts talking about how most people mistake him for an Indian. He did feel awkward initially but doesn't mind it anymore. 'Look at it closely and there isn't much of a difference," he adds.

But what about the escalation at the border, the headlines and off and on, even war mongering? Akash who just graduated from George Washington University says, "Our generation will let go off this history. There's so much more to things".

Naseem and Akash concede this isn't how their parents back home look at the other country but then, they figure they can't do much about it.

So what's it like being an entrepreneur in Washington DC, often considered a poor cousin of the birth place for some of the world's greatest companies, Silicon Valley.

Rahul, who moved to the US when he was one-year-old, explains, "The companies here aren't as big as the ones in Silicon Valley but they are working towards it. There is some good work happening here so I chose to be here."

Many of the others were also firm in their resolve to go back to India one day. Harshit, already a founder, says he has given himself three more years to get all the learning he can and then head back to use these experiences there.

They also don't seem particularly worried about concerns regarding safety and security. "Attacks on outsiders are scary but they happen everywhere, in Europe, Australia everywhere. It's not just in the US," says Rahul.

The key is also to build trust and relationships with Americans and Anirudh says they've cracked that too. "Many of my American friends have learned how to do bhangra with me and so whenever the music starts, they put their hands in the air and start doing bhangra."