Islamabad talks urge efforts for greater cooperation
* AJK prime minister urges to keep channels of communication open between the India and Pakistan
ISLAMABAD: High level policy makers from India and Pakistan welcomed the resumption of a dialogue between India and Pakistan at all levels and urged both governments to follow up the spirit of cooperation and friendship demonstrated at Mohali with innovative, bold and actionable confidence building measures (CBMs) between the two countries.
A delegation comprising of senior Indian diplomats, legislators, journalists, reporters and academics discussed a range of issues with prominent Pakistani opinion leaders, ranging from bilateral dialogue, Kashmir issue, terrorism and the role of the media in Indo-Pak relations at The Islamabad Dialogue, organised by the Jinnah Institute from April 28 to April 29. The conference was part of Jinnah Institute’s leading initiative on peace building through Track II diplomacy between India and Pakistan. Jinnah Institute partnered with Delhi based think tank Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation (CDR) for the Islamabad Dialogue.
Jinnah Institute President, 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 at the track II level so that they can continue to feed into and inform the official bilateral dialogue.
Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Prime Minister, Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan, observed that the unresolved Kashmir issue is a constant hurdle in the establishment and continuation of good relations between India and Pakistan. He urged participants to keep channels of communication open at all levels since dialogue was the only tested means of conflict resolution. Kashmiri delegates called for an end to human rights violations in AJK.
Baijayant Panda, member of the Indian Lok Sabha, said that the lack of peace in South Asia and the strained relationship between India and Pakistan has stymied economic growth in the region. He said that improving trade relations will help normalise the overall relationship between India and Pakistan. Aziz Khan and Humayun Khan both agreed that the peace process should proceed in increments, but remain uninterrupted. Salman Haider and General Durrani said that Kashmir is central to the peace process and needs an inclusive dialogue involving all stakeholders in both parts of Kashmir.
The participants strongly 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 concerns the rise of extremism in India.
Center for Dialogue and Reconciliation Executive Director, Sushobha Barve, emphasised the need for continued engagement between civil society in India and Pakistan through track II and III dialogues. Riaz Khokhar and Mosharraf Zaidi noted with concern the shrinking constituencies for peace amongst young people in India and Pakistan. They flagged this as a potential threat to peaceful relations in the future and urged both countries to work towards curbing this negative trend.
Nasim Zehra, veteran journalist and the Hindu Strategic Affairs Editor Siddharth Vardarajan, chaired a panel on the role of the media in the Indo-Pak conflict. The participants stressed the need for professionalism and responsibility in their reportage on Indo-Pak affairs. The News Editor, Muhammad Maalick, urged the opening of the Indian airwaves to Pakistani media and news channels to provide an appropriate counter-narrative.