India and Pakistan have been at war — officially or philosophically — for more than six decades.

But in the past year, two publishing powerhouses in the troubled region have led a peace movement and curated the conversation around what the countries have in common instead of their differences. At this week's INMA World Congress in New York, those two newsmedia companies received INMA’s highest award for their groundbreaking efforts.

Ravi Dhariwal, the newly elected president of INMA and top executive of The Times of India, accepted INMA’s Best in Show award alongside Shahrukh Hasan, executive of The Jang Group in Pakistan. Out of hundreds of entries, judges chose the joint campaign because it prompted activity, created relevance and produced results. It also successfully demonstrated their brands through creativity and impact, which serves as an inspiration to the industry worldwide.

In 2010, The Times of India of India and The Jang Group of Pakistan created an unprecedented partnership that looked beyond the contentious political boundary between the two countries and toward the ancient bonds that tie together their populations. It began as a lunch meeting between the two executives and grew into a vast programme aimed at creating a paradigm change in country relations. And based on their candid and friendly exchange during the ceremony, the campaign has forged not only a partnership, but possibly also a budding friendship between the nations.

“The most difficult part was getting the visa,” Hasan said during the acceptance speech. “The rest of it was really easy.”

Titled Aman Ki Asha, the campaign had three main planks:

  • Cultural exchange: In the first quarter of last year, the newspapers focused on a cultural exchange with music festivals held across three Indian cities in which artists from both countries shared a common stage.

  • Conflict resolution: The Times and Jang held an editorial meeting in Karachi, a strategic summit in Lahore, and a conference in Delhi on the contentious issue of water sharing.

  • Commerce: Aman Ki Asha organised the largest-ever Indian-Pakistan trade meeting in New Delhi, featuring prominent names in business and policy in both countries. The meeting recognised major untapped opportunities for bilateral trade and identified six high-potential industries.

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Aman Ki Asha has been hailed as a game-changer in India-Pakistan relations, with governments and the business communities rallying behind the initiative.

“We wanted to do something that would give a little bit of spine to our politicians to help create peace,” Dhariwal said.

The private-sector initiative has occasionally helped facilitate dialogue between the two countries, sometimes in difficult situations such as after the Mumbai terrorist attacks. Research shows the campaign has also helped change the desire for peace among ordinary people in India and Pakistan. It has been hailed by the Commonwealth Games organisers, the British Parliament, and the U.S., French, and German governments, among others.

“Newspapers in South Asia are known worldwide for their corporate social responsibility campaigns, which fuse editorial stances with marketing and community relations campaigns that aim to mold public opinion in profound ways,” says Earl Wilkinson, executive director of INMA. “Publishers are particularly good at merging these campaigns with the newspaper’s brand and making them rallying points central to their marketing strategy. The Times of India and Jang Group campaign stands out among the world’s best news industry marketing campaigns this year.”

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