ISLAMABAD - Pakistani and Indian lawmakers have stressed the need for enhanced people-to-people exchanges between the two neighbouring countries and sharing their experiences for the promotion of tourism and agriculture for the collective good of the people of the region.

At the final leg of the third India-Pakistan Legislators and Public Officials Dialogue on Sharing of Experiences on Governance and Democracy in Jaipur, India, the participants acknowledged that experiences on good governance in India and Pakistan in development of agriculture and tourism provide great potential for exchange of ideas and cooperation.

The event was organised jointly by Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT) and the Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS).

The final meet saw Rao Rajendra Singh, MLA and deputy speaker of Rajasthan Legislative Assembly, in the chair while participants included members of parliament and state/provincial legislatures from Pakistan and India, practitioners and subject-experts from the two countries who raised key issues and reform ideas covering the themes of promotion of agriculture and tourism.

The participants stressed the need for opening more avenues of interaction and learning between the two countries. They agreed that each delegate has a responsibility to carry forward the proposals discussed for policy reform in two countries. “Need for a time-bound roadmap in this regard was also highlighted.”

The participants also underscored the need for facilitating greater engagement of youth in the two countries in areas including democratic and governance development. They said that enormous potential of cooperation in tourism promotion exists in the two countries which remained untapped. They believed that tourism offers a key avenue of promoting peace between India and Pakistan.

In addition, they stressed that the two countries must explore avenues of promoting nostalgic and religious tourism as well. An exceptional example offered in this regard was that of respect and following of Sheikh Burhan-al-Din Dargah in Rajasthan which is equally popular among Muslims and Hindus.

Lack of an efficient and relaxed visa regime was highlighted as a major stumbling block in promotion of tourism between Pakistan and India. Delegates urged the governments of Pakistan and India to adopt citizen-friendly visa regime allowing free access to citizens of the two countries.

Delegates also stressed that potential for promotion of India-Pakistan tourism must be tapped, especially in areas bordering the two countries. In addition, both sides supported opening up of more points across the border, such as Khokhrapar Monabao, to facilitate travel and trade opportunities. The preferred scheme of tourism promotion for the two countries should be to focus first on in-country tourism, followed by promotion of regional and international tourism in the two countries.

Participants from both sides felt that one of the major impediments in promotion of tourism in the sub-continent was indeed the prevailing security environment which could only be overcome by bridging the trust gap between the two neighbouring countries. Besides, there was a dire need to share intelligence and mutual cooperation in fighting terrorism.

Later in the session on focussing on learning from each country’s effective agricultural practises, participants noted that both the countries were beset by similar set of challenges in this regard. These include growing populations and limited land resources; depletion of groundwater and climate change which lead to frequent droughts and volatility of prices of agricultural products.

Delegates noted joint solutions could be adopted including area expansion or intensification, greater technological development, diversification in the form of high value crops and greater spending on information dissemination and agricultural research.

In the Indian experience, promotion of livestock farming in areas facing water scarcity has proved more successful. Participants supported promotion and development of solar farming in arid areas. Need for research and cooperation for research in the sector were also stressed. The two countries must also focus on development and use of organic farming practices in the agricultural sector.

Special vote of thanks was offered by the delegates for MP Mani Shankar Aiyar for facilitating the cooperation between CUTS and PILDAT and in his leadership and facilitation of the Dialogue.

The Pakistani delegation included Senator Lt-Gen (r) Abdul Qayyum, Senator Saud Majeed, MNA Afzal Khan, Parliamentary Secretary for Finance Shehryar Afridi, KP Assembly Speaker Asad Qaisar, Sindh PMA Ms Mahtab Akbar Rashdi, Leader of Opposition Punjab Assembly Mian Mehmood-ur-Rashid, Punjab MPA Dr Najma Afzal Khan, Former SSP Muhammad Ali Nekokara and former IG Police Dr Muhammad Shoaib Suddle.