MIRPUR (AJK)
The participants of ‘Delhi Dialogue’ agreed that renewed vigour is required towards resuming the composite dialogues between Pakistan and India , says a report reached here from across the Line of Control.
The dialogues brought together senior journalists, policy experts, academics, advocates, former military officials and diplomats from India and Pakistan to discuss a wide range of outstanding issues between both countries, the report said.
Entering its fourth year, the dialogue is part of an India-Pakistan Track II diplomacy initiative by the Jinnah Institute and the Centre for Dialogue and Reconstruction, which seeks to promote peace between the two neighbouring countries through constructive engagement and dialogue.
The Pakistan delegation comprised former ambassador Sherry Rehman, former ambassador Aziz Ahmad Khan, parliamentarian Shafqat Mahmood, former DG ISPR Athar Abbas, Syed Babar Ali, Arshad Zuberi, Ammara Durrani, senior journalists Zahid Hussain and others. The Indian delegation consisted of former foreign secretary Salman Haider, former ambassadors Jayant Prasad and Sharat Sabharwal, Dr Rajmohan Gandhi, Siddharth Vardarajan, Prem Shankar Jha, Lt General (r) Syed Ata Hasnain, Jyoti Malhotra, Suhasini Haidar, Gul Muhammad Wani, Sunil Sethi, and Syeda Hammeda.
Held in the backdrop of the upcoming Indian elections, the participants agreed that the expected victory of a Narendra Modi led Bharatiya Janata Party could have a transformative effect on bilateral relations.
Despite skepticism on Modi’s policy towards Pakistan, the participants unanimously hoped that the new government in New Delhi will build upon earlier initiatives taken under previous governments and expeditiously pursue the revival of the stalled dialogue process with Pakistan. The Pakistani delegation urged its Indian counterparts that unlike India , a cross-party consensus existed in Pakistan on improving relations with India and resolving all outstanding issues. They said that recent overtures of the Pakistan government presented an opportunity which must be reciprocated by India .
In a unanimously adopted joint resolution, participants agreed that Islamabad and New Delhi must move forward on a menu of outstanding items in order to move the region out from the shadows of instability, human insecurity and lost opportunities in trade, energy and information connectivity.
They urged both the governments to fully implement all the agreed CBMs in letter and spirit, cooperate on outstanding issues and address each other’s concerns on key issues like Kashmir and terrorism so that the stalled bilateral dialogue can be resumed. They hoped that any future bilateral dialogue will be irreversible and uninterruptable, unlike past initiatives.
The joint resolution called upon both the governments to urgently take up discussions on Jammu and Kashmir so that a solution that is acceptable to India , Pakistan and the people of Kashmir on both sides of the Line of Control can be found. Discussions on improving cross-LoC trade and travel focused on extending the issuance of travel permits to all residents of Azad Kashmir and Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
The participants also analysed last year’s ceasefire violations and called on both Indian and Pakistani military establishments to regularise high level staff and field commander meetings to resolve any future untoward incidents on the LoC.
Noting that people-to-people contacts were essential in improving relations between the two nuclear armed neighbours, the dialogue participants recommended the extension of one year multiple entry visa policy towards all categories of travellers, particularly media-persons, artists, students and academics.
They recommend that Non-Discriminatory Market Access be granted by Pakistan to India at the earliest and urged India to remove all non-tariff barriers to facilitate trade between both countries. They urged the governments to ensure that the Wagah-Attari border is opened for 24 hour and both the governments should explore opportunities for opening all economically feasible land routes for trade and travel, particularly Ganda Singhwala-Ferozpur, Muktasar-Fazilka and Khokhrapar-Munabao.
With Afghanistan undergoing an important transition in 2014, they recognised that competing interests of Pakistan and India in Afghanistan could affect bilateral relations between both the countries. They recommended that both countries should engage with each other to clarify apprehensions on their respective roles in a post-2014 Afghanistan. Participants also recommend that opportunities for mutual cooperation in the development and reconstruction of Afghanistan be explored, especially under the aegis of Saarc.