Saturday, 30 April 2011

Pakistan-India ties: To break the ice, demilitarise Kashmir, by Umer Nangiana

Pakistan-India ties: To break the ice, demilitarise Kashmir
By Umer Nangiana

Parliamentarians, mediapersons, bureaucrats, academia, former diplomats and peace activists from India and Pakistan have emphasised on measures to ensure uninterrupted talks, demilitarisation of Kashmir and no-war pact between the two nuclear states of the South Asian Subcontinnet.

They discussed promotion of regional cooperation and host of other contetious issues at a two-day ‘Islamabad Dialogue’, organised by two non-government organisations – the Jinnah Institute and the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation, New Dehli – to welcome dialogue between India and Pakistan.

Welcoming the recent agreements on granting Most Favored Nation status for India and the removal of non-tariff barriers for Pakistan, the participants suggested that “a liberalised bilateral trade regime was of urgent importance and must be pursued vigorously”.

They agreed that terrorism should not be used as an instrument of policy. Sectarian and communal bias in the functioning of the agencies and institutions of the state were unacceptable and must be discouraged. They also stressed the need for an increased interaction between judges, members of bar councils and investigation agencies of the two countries. Media should maintain professional standards when reporting on bilateral issues.

They also called for giving highest priority to human rights in Kashmir. New Delhi and Islamabad should facilitate a dialogue between representatives from all parts of Jammu and Kashmir reflecting all shades of political opinion as part of an inclusive peace process. Former Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Haider and former ISI chief Gen (retd) Asad Durrani said that Kashmir is central to the peace process and needs an inclusive dialogue involving all stakeholders in both parts of Kashmir.
Jinnah Institute president, MNA Sherry Rehman highlighted the gains made through the Track II dialogue process between India and Pakistan and urged more frequent interactions between members of civil society.

Baijayant Panda, a member of the Indian Lok Sabha, said that lack of peace in South Asia and the strained relationship between India and Pakistan has stymied economic growth in the region.

Aziz Khan and Humayun Khan agreed that the peace process should proceed in increments, but remain uninterrupted.

Participants condemned terrorism in South Asia. Pakistani participants agreed that terrorism posed a serious challenge to the country. Teesta Setalvad, a renowned human rights lawyer from Mumbai, noted with concern, the rise of extremism in India.
Former secretary foreign affairs Riaz Khokhar and columnist Mosharraf Zaidi, noted with concern, the shrinking constituencies for peace among young people in both the countries. They flagged this as a potential threat to peaceful relations in the future and urged both countries to work towards curbing this negative trend.

The dialogue concluded with a joint resolution, proposing measures including consideration of a no-war pact, a peace treaty between the two countries and the renunciation of the use of violence, in any form, by either country.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 30th, 2011.

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