Former ambassador of Pakistan to Qatar and Jordan, Arif Kamal, Tuesday called for imaginative steps to make the cross-Line of Control trade between the divided parts of Jammu and Kashmir a success.
Interacting with students and faculty members of various departments at the Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST), the former envoy said all restrictions on cross-LoC trade should be removed.
What has been done so far is insufficient, he said, adding we need to revisit what is already in the pipeline. He said the steps taken for trade by the governments of India and Pakistan have become stagnant and stale.
He said the trade is alive because of two things: first, it (trade) was based on zero tariff; second, it was the Kashmiris desire to overcome bottlenecks.
He said the cross LoC trade was the first major confidence building measure (CBM) with the people of J&K, which has the potential of becoming mother of all CBMs, taken so far by the two countries. But, it all depends on the directions of the things, Kamal said, adding there was need for a strong political will.
He said the limited opening of borders between the divided parts of J&K was the point of convergence between India and Pakistan.
For everlasting peace and stability in the region, Kamal said, Kashmir should become a bridge rather a point of conflict.
We converge on one point that we should not be held hostage to conflict. People have the right to achieve peace and progress, Kamal said, adding
relationship between India and Pakistan could not smoothen unless people of J&K were taken along.
He said the people-to-people contact was fundamental to overcome the prevailing trust deficit between India and Pakistan. Sharing of experiences and ideas is important for regional stability, he said.
Asserting that J&K was not a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan, Kamal called for inclusion of Kashmiri people in the dialogue process. Both the nation have failed to impose their kind of solution to the dispute, he added.
He said the sated position of Pakistan on Kashmir was unchanged. Pakistan says right to self determination is the only solution to the issue, he said.
Besides trade and travel, Kamal called for educational engagement across the divided parts of the state, as another CBM.
He said the quality of education in this part of the state was better than that in the other, as Pakistan-administered Kashmir was late starter in higher education.
But the literacy rate is higher in PaK, Kamal claimed, adding in 70s two things expanded in PaK- electricity and primary education. Everywhere you find electricity and primary schools, he said, adding women literacy rate in PaK was higher than in whole of Pakistan.
Arif Kamal, a seasoned diplomat, who served the Pakistan Foreign Service for 34 years, is presently director of the Global Studies Centre at the Institute of Strategic Studies, National Defence University, Islamabad.
Besides students and faculty members, former vice-chancellor of IUST, Prof Siddiq Wahid, was present on the occasion.
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