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07/04/2013

Pakistanis, Indians dance, laugh together, courtesy of soft-drink maker

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Coca-Cola Small World Machines - Bringing India & Pakistan Together from Coke Pakistan on Vimeo.

Emotion is a powerful selling tool, as anyone familiar with Molson's "I am Canadian" ad campaign knows full well.

To coincide with Canada Day, Molson recently unveiled its new commercial "The Beer Friday," a television spot about a travelling red beer fridge, decorated with an iconic maple leaf, placed in various European cities that could only be opened using a Canadian passport.

Well, move over, Molson. Coca-Cola's recent ad in South Asia may well trump the "I Am Canadian" ads.

Coca-Cola in March placed video-camera equipped cola dispensing machines in India and Pakistan, two neighbours whose history has been marked by mistrust and three all-out wars.

"It saddens me that we have a neighbour we can't even go visit," a voice says as the commercial begins amid a flurry of video clips showing daily life in both India and Pakistan.

But the video link offered by the machines, both placed in a respective shopping mall concourse, give Indians and Pakistanis a way to communicate.

"A moment of happiness," the ad says, "has the power to bring the world together."

The machine simultaneously coaxes someone in India and Pakistan to trace peace signs, happy faces, and hearts. All the while with a view of their country's so-called enemy next door.

"Do a Dance," the machine urges. "Trace together."

"Young people can exchange ideas, hearts, gestures, and take away the communication gap that exists," another voice announces.

Yes, it's a saccharin-laced three-minute spot that's designed to sell an even more sugary drink. But some viewers will be able to set that aside for a moment, and enjoy a glimpse of Indians and Pakistanis dancing, laughing together. Sort of. The way it should be.

Rick Westhead is a foreign affairs writer at The Star. He was based in India as the Star’s South Asia bureau chief from 2008 until 2011 and reports on international aid and development. Follow him on Twitter @rwesthead

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