ISLAMABAD - The Standing Committee of the National Assembly on Foreign Affairs yesterday recommended a set of policy options for Pakistan to promote normal relations with India.

The Committee which met under the chairmanship of Awais Ahmad Khan Leghari, MNA after threadbare deliberations on Pakistan’s relations with India, finalised and adopted the following policy approaches with specific policy recommendations.

The Committee agreed that Pakistan’s approach towards India should be based on the principles of reciprocity from New Delhi that may be simultaneous or sequential, reduction of trust deficit between the two countries through collaborative efforts, resumption of dialogue and result-oriented dialogue that must focus on resolution of conflict which will be the end result of the above three principles of engagement.

The committee recommended that Pakistan should continue to seek comprehensive engagement with India on all outstanding issues. However, in the absence of this scenario, the committee recommended the Government of Pakistan to selectively engage with India in four key areas, including resolution of Kashmir issues, water, bilateral dialogue, trade, cultural and communication and restrainment.

The committee noted that the selective engagement will not only help resolve issues that are critical to Pakistan’s long term sustainability as a nation but will do so by appealing to the needs of both countries and on a relatively equal footing.

Furthermore, initiating the resolution of conflict by taking proactive measures, Pakistan will increase its support in South Asia and the international community, giving it more political clout in the long run.

The committee recommended that Pakistan should continue to call for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute as the core issue between the two countries. Continuity of the proactive diplomacy on Kashmir on all international fora should be pursued. A key component of Pakistan’s proactive involvement on the Kashmir issue should be lending solid moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri’s struggle for self-determination according to the UN Resolutions.

This refers to the following policy actions: institutionalisation of the 2003 Ceasefire Agreement, Pakistan should not encourage calls for active support of armed, banned, militant groups in Kashmir, allaying international concerns of not doing enough to tackle Alpha Elements working for the Kashmiri Cause, by monitoring and taking action against violent armed groups, lend support to tri-lateral peace process, involving Kashmiri leaders, Pakistan and India, strict border control mechanisms-automation, expansion of democratic space by tapping into civil society voices in Azad Jammu and Kashmir as well as Indian Occupied Kashmir and seeking reduction in state-sponsored violence against Kashmiris in IOK.

Water issue: the committee urged that water issues should be discussed holistically, rather than focusing on particular projects such as Wullar Barrage/ Tulbul Project. Pakistan should engage in comprehensive Water Diplomacy with India in the following areas:

Pakistan should actively highlight the violation of Indus Water Treaty by India on international forums by drawing attention towards the humanitarian aspects and how these violations are producing an adversely affecting Pakistan’s water resources and environment.

Pakistan should lobby with International governments which have environmental protection as their mandate. Forums like COP21 can be ideal for this purpose and should be optimally utilized, unlike in the past.

An independent office of Indus Water Commission (IWC) should be established with neutral experts from outside the South-Asian region who work directly under the supervision of the UN. There should be a permanent liaison between Ministry of Water & Power and Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to promote informed decision making on water related issues with India.

Bilateral Dialogue: while enhancing the capacity of the Indus Water Commission Pakistan should resume bilateral dialogue, regular meetings and talks between the Indus Water Commissioners to ensure regular data sharing and minimizing water related conflict between the two countries.

There is a need to resume secretary level dialogue between India and Pakistan on the area of water diplomacy. In order to track availability of data and information relating to water flows, Pakistan and India need to establish a joint Sophisticated Forecasting System.

This will allow for real time data sharing regarding the flow of water in the rivers and tributaries of the Indus Water System. Real time data of minor, major tributaries and all head-works, etc. will be shared through the use of a website and moreover, the website must also include three dimensional models of dams.

Trade: Pakistan should focus more on reducing and controlling the informal trade. This can be done through enhancing the capacity of Custom Department and Border forces. Furthermore, by relaxing the process to acquire Visa, informal trade can be controlled. Pakistan should make a comprehensive trade policy which benefits its domestic market and local industries.

The policy should focus on developing our infant industries so that they can compete with well-established industries of India. Pakistan should capture the space available in the Information Technology sector within the Indian market.

Moreover, there is a need to expand legal trade between the two countries while discouraging informal trade. For this purpose, there is a need for testing facilities near borders.

Pakistan should call for dismantling of non-tariff barriers in India, in order to create a level playing field for Pakistani products. Culture & Communication: renewing the Cultural Agreement 1988 - Cultural Agreement that took place between India and Pakistan which was signed in 1988 requires renewal. The renewal of Cultural Agreement should call for cooperation in the fields of arts, culture, archeology, education, mass media and sports. For constant monitoring of this cooperation, cultural centers are to be established. Moreover, there is a need to initiate cultural and educational exchange. This will allow exchange of students and will also betterment in relations through cross culture of ideas.

Restrainment: this option refers to Pakistan adopting a defensive policy towards India. The pause reflects a discontinuation of proactive policy measures on the part of Pakistan towards India. Although it is not complete disengagement, any actions taken under Restrainment are contingent on the Pak-India and South Asian dynamic. For this reason, the salient feature of Restrainment is monitoring ongoing events and responding proportionately. Therefore, while adopting this option, Pakistan should not enter into long-term agreements with India. Simultaneously, Pakistan should continue making efforts to increase its political clout in the international arena and in its region, in reference but in absence of India’s cooperation. The following are certain areas where Pakistan can make proactive efforts to increase its international influence:

Development of bilateral ties with SAARC countries and other regional states such as Iran over energy needs and strengthening the relationship with China to tackle Indian expansionism

Focusing on untapped opportunities that exist in Central Asia like the Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India gas pipeline, vigorously pursue IP Gas Pipeline ( Post P5+1 Nuclear Deal) and ensuring smooth implementation of the CPEC projects.

In order to sustain progress in the fields of peace and security, both countries should pursue the implementation of the Lahore Memorandum of Understanding and all Confidence Building Measures relating to security.

Earlier, the committee also discussed budgetary proposals relating to PSDP of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the next financial year 2016-17 but adjourned its deliberations till next meeting.

At the end, the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Awais Leghari thanked the NUST Research Team and the honorable members of the committee for given their valuable input and make the above mentioned policy recommendations

The meeting was attended by Members of the Committee Daniyal Aziz, Mian Najeebuddin Awaisi, Syed Ayaz Ali Shah Sherazi, Muhammad Khan Daha, Dr Fehmida Mirza, Dr Shireen Mehrunnisa Mazari, Ghous Bux Khan Maher, Naeema Kishwar Khan, Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao and senior officer of the Ministry of foreign affairs and group of students from NUST University also attended the meeting.