NEW DELHI- 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.
The dialogue brought together senior 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. Entering its fourth year, the dialogue is part of an India-Pakistan Track II diplomacy initiative by the Jinnah Institute and the Center for Dialogue and Reconstruction, which seeks to promote peace between the two neighbouring countries through constructive engagement and dialogue.
Held in the backdrop of the upcoming Indian elections, participants agreed that the expected victory of a Narendra Modi led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could have a transformative effect on bilateral relations between both the countries.
Despite skepticism on the lack of clarity on Modi’s policy towards Pakistan, participants unanimously hoped that the new government in New Delhi will build upon earlier initiatives taken under previous governments and expeditiously pursue the revival of the stalled dialogue process with Pakistan. The Pakistani delegation impressed upon its Indian counterparts 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.
In a unanimously adopted joint resolution, participants agreed 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 and information connectivity.
They urged both governments to fully implement all agreed CBMs in letter and spirit, cooperate on outstanding issues and address each other’s concerns on key issues like Kashmir and terrorism so that the stalled bilateral dialogue can be resumed. They expressed hope that any future bilateral dialogue will be irreversible and uninterruptable, unlike past initiatives.
The joint resolution called upon both governments to urgently take up discussions on Jammu and Kashmir so that a solution that is acceptable to India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) can be found. Discussions on improving cross-LoC trade and travel focused on extending the issuance of travel permits to all residents of Azad Kashmir and Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir. The participants also analyzed last year’s ceasefire violations and called on both Indian and Pakistani military establishments to regularize 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.
Participants also recommend that Non-Discriminatory Market Access be granted by Pakistan to India at the earliest and urged India to remove all non-tariff barriers to facilitate trade between both countries.
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.
With Afghanistan undergoing an important transition in 2014, participants recognized that competing interests of Pakistan and India in Afghanistan could affect bilateral relations between both the countries. They recommended that both countries should engage with each other to clarify apprehensions on their respective roles in a post-2014 Afghanistan. Participants also recommend that opportunities for mutual cooperation in the development and reconstruction of Afghanistan be explored, especially under the aegis of Saarc.
The Pakistan delegation comprised of former Ambassador Sherry Rehman, former Ambassador Aziz Ahmad Khan, parliamentarian Shafqat Mahmood, former DG ISPR Lt. General Athar Abbas, Syed Babar Ali, Arshad Zuberi, Ammara Durrani, senior journalists Zahid Hussain, Mariana Baabar and Amir Mateen.
The India delegation comprised of former foreign secretary Salman Haider, former Ambassadors Jayant Prasad and Sharat Sabharwal, Dr. Rajmohan Gandhi, Siddharth Vardarajan, Prem Shankar Jha, former Lt General Syed Ata Hasnain, Jyoti Malhotra, Suhasini Haidar, Gul Muhammad Wani, Sunil Sethi, and Syeda Hammeda.