Track-II dialogue calls for continuity, speed on tackling Indo-Pak issues

NEW DELHI: While an Indian peace delegation is in Islamabad, exploring the road ahead for lasting mutual peace, a similar initiative was held simultaneously in New Delhi. A joint resolution issued after the 4th Delhi Dialogue arranged by the Jinnah Institute and Centre for Dialogue and Reconstruction, which concluded in New Delhi on Friday, 14th Mar 2014, called for expeditious action on resolving mutual issues between the two countries and for the new government that takes office in India after the upcoming general elections to carry forward the positive initiatives undertaken by previous regimes.  

Mariana Baabar writing for The News says the dialogue which brought together journalists, policy experts, academics, advocates, former military officials and diplomats from India and Pakistan for two days of intense deliberations to discuss a wide range of outstanding issues between both countries said in a joint statement that “Islamabad and New Delhi must move forward on a menu of outstanding items in order to move the region out from the shadows of instability, human insecurity and lost opportunities in trade, energy, information connectivity.”

The Pakistan delegation comprised former ambassador Sherry Rehman, parliamentarian Shafqat Mahmood, former ambassador Aziz Ahmad Khan, former DG ISPR Lt Gen Athar Abbas, Syed Babar Ali, Arshad Zuberi, senior journalists Zahid Hussain, Mariana Baabar, Amir Mateen and Ammara Durrani.

The India delegation included former foreign secretary Salman Haider, former Ambassadors Jayant Prasad and Sharat Sabharwal, Dr Rajmohan Gandhi, Siddharth Vardarajan, Prem Shankar Jha, India's former military commander in Kashmir (rtd) Lt General Syed Ata Hasnain, Jyoti Malhotra, Suhasini Haidar, Sunil Sethi, Syeda Hammeda and Gul Muhammad Wani (Srinagar university).

During interactions, there was considerable stress on Afghanistan and the likely situation there, following the phased withdrawal of US troops.  Participants expressed support for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process and recognised that a peaceful Afghanistan is essential for regional stability.

It recommended that serious efforts be made towards exploring the possibility of Pakistan granting India overland transit rights for trade with Afghanistan and India granting overland transit rights to Pakistan for other South Asian countries. Urging both countries not to let competing interests in Afghanistan negatively impact bilateral relations, it also urged regional countries to initiate a dialogue on adopting a non-interventionist policy.

The resolution endorsed by participants said, “We urge both countries to engage with each other to clarify each other’s apprehensions on a post-2014 Afghanistan. We recommend that opportunities for mutual cooperation in the development and reconstruction of Afghanistan be explored, especially under the aegis of SAARC.”

On the contentious issue of Kashmir, the resolution agreed that the bilateral dialogue should be irreversible and uninterrupted and urged both India and Pakistan to fully implement all agreed CBM’s, cooperate on outstanding issues and address each other’s concerns on key issues like “Kashmir as well as terrorism, with the aim of resuming the stalled bilateral dialogue.”

Both governments were requested to urgently take up discussions on Jammu and Kashmir so that a solution acceptable to India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir on both sides of the Line of Control can be found.

On mutual trade, it recommended that Pakistan grant India Non-Discriminatory Market Access (NDMA) at the earliest, and urged India to remove all non-tariff barriers (NTBs).

A statement issued later by the Jinnah Institute said: “As South Asia and the wider region grapples with the menace of transnational conflict, a renewed vigor is required towards resuming the stalled bilateral dialogue between Pakistan and India, participants agreed at the recently concluded Delhi Dialogue on Friday.”

There was agreement that a possible victory for the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the upcoming elections could have a transformative effect on bilateral relations between India and Pakistan. Despite scepticism, participants hoped that the new Indian government would build upon earlier initiatives taken by previous governments and expeditiously pursue the revival of the stalled dialogue process with Pakistan.

The Pakistani delegation tried to drive home the idea that unlike India, a cross-party consensus existed in Pakistan on improving relations with India and resolving all outstanding issues. They said that recent overtures of the Pakistan government presented an opportunity which must be reciprocated by India.

The participants also analyzed last year’s ceasefire violations and called on both Indian and Pakistani military establishments to regularise high level staff and field commander meetings to resolve any future untoward incidents on the LoC.

Noting that people-to-people contacts were essential in improving relations between the two nuclear armed neighbours, the dialogue participants recommended the extension of the one year multiple entry visa policy towards all category of travelers, particularly media-persons, artists, students and academics.

They urged both governments to ensure that the Wagah-Attari border is opened for 24 hour operations and both governments should explore opportunities for opening all economically feasible land routes between India and Pakistan for trade and travel, particularly Ganda Singhwala-Ferozpur, Muktasar-Fazilka and Khokhrapar-Munabao. Trans Asia

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