Indo-Pak Track-II Moot Offers Suggestions

ISLAMABAD: The delegates of the Pak-India Track-II diplomacy cautioned the two countries to avert the looming threat that Afghanistan must not become a bilateral issue between the two neighbouring countries. The 3rd Islamabad Dialogue, organised by Jinnah Institute, concluded here and participated by delegates from both the countries including representatives of Foreign Office of Pakistan and Indian High Commission in Islamabad. 

The resolution, presented to the media by Jinnah Institute's President, Sherry Rehman, suggested a range of proposals aimed at outlining paths for peace in the region, which both the representatives of Foreign Office and Indian High Commission promised to forward to their concerned quarters making the foreign policies of the two countries. 

The resolution made recommendations for Indian and Pakistani governments to improve relations between the South Asian neighbours, calling for a commitment towards improving trade and travel between the neighbours and also stressed upon both the nations to cooperate on Afghanistan and address human rights concerns in Indian controlled Kashmir. 

It highlighted governance related concerns in both the countries that impact human rights and stressed the need for addressing the issue of fishermen and prisoners at the earliest. On the issue of Kashmir, various participants spoke on the need for both states to commit to implementing CBMs on trade and travel related to Kashmir. They called on local authorities to provide travel permits, as well as expand cross-LoC trade, integrating it into the wider regional trade. 

On the issue of fisher-folk arrested by both the countries, the lack of a maritime boundary was identified as a fundamental obstacle to resolving the issue. The participants also strongly advocated that the two countries must exhibit complete transparency on the prisoners issue and suggested a 'no-arrest' policy be introduced for fisher-folk. 

The panel also roundly condemned the recent tit-for-tat murders of prisoners and called on the two governments to make efforts to prevent such incidents from being repeated. In the joint statement, they appreciated the encouraging statements made by both Prime Ministers recently in the local media, adding the opportunity thus presented should be exploited to the full. 

"We find that the increase in India-Pakistan bilateral trade is encouraging despite the escalation of tensions on the LoC in January 2013 and urge that the implementation of commitments made on bilateral trade should be expedited by both countries," it said. They recommend that travel be made easier and the number of entry points on the land routes increased so as to facilitate people to people contacts and also welcomed the resumption of back channel diplomacy by the two countries. 

The two sides also recommend that there is a need for intelligence sharing at the highest level, keeping in view the common threat of terrorism. However, they emphasised that Pakistan and India must not allow Afghanistan to become another contentious bilateral issue. 

"We recommend that both security establishments engage in sharing their perceptions on Afghanistan, and should take each other into confidence regarding their concerns about the post-2014 Afghanistan," the statement added. They recommend that both countries should explore opportunities to collaborate in the fields of IT, communication, health, education and banking to help reconstruct Afghanistan. 

"We urge that Pakistan should consider allowing overland transit through the Wagha-Attari border for trade between India and Afghanistan," the statement added. Similarly, the delegates also noted that there should be no reluctance in keeping the dialogue on Kashmir on the forefront of bilateral discussions and all channels in this regard must be kept open. 

They also expressed concerned that the agreed CBMs on cross-LoC travel are not being properly implemented. It is essential that the leadership in both countries issue a public directive to the relevant authorities on the ground to take urgent steps to simplify and expedite procedures, they added. 

"We emphasise that cross-LoC travel should not be restricted to divided families, but rather be made permissible for all residents of Jammu and Kashmir", the statement said, adding the authority to issues travel permits should rest with the local administrations on both sides. 

It further said: "we hope that the growing prospects of Indo-Pak trade should also help ensure that cross-LoC trade is not restricted to Kashmir, but is part of the wider, bilateral trade regime," besides recommending that the two countries should make joint efforts for the rehabilitation of IDPs/refugees from both sides of the LoC. 

They also recommended that both countries put an end to extra-judicial killings and torture as instruments of investigation and law enforcement, adding that both countries should cooperate on the issues of human rights and ensure that captured prisoners are treated with dignity as per international norms. Additionally, they urged the two governments to give women a greater voice in the peace process and also suggested a joint India Pakistan watchdog to be formed to monitor human rights abuses and suggest mechanisms to prevent state violations. 

"We recommend that nationality verification of prisoners/detained fishermen should be completed within 3 months...we also urge both countries to institutionalise a "no arrest of fishermen" policy and establish marine risk reduction centers with the ability to communicate with each other," the joint statement said. 

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