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India-Pakistan dialogue resumption:By Liaquath H Merchant

3 November 2009 No Comment

The Dawn, Nov 3
( The author is Co-chairman, Pakistan-India Citizens Friendship Forum, Karachi)

IN the midst of the attacks in Pakistan by terrorists and militants, the offer of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to resume the peace process – dialogue — with Pakistan came as a pleasant response as we do need to have a sense of security and peace on our eastern border so that more emphasis may be given by security forces to deal with militants within and in our northern region.
The Indian prime minister is reported to have said: “I strongly believe that the majority of people in Pakistan seek good neighbourly and cooperative relations between India and Pakistan. They seek a permanent peace. This is our view as well.
“I call upon the people and government of Pakistan to show their sincerity and good faith. As I have said many times before, we will not be found wanting in our response.
“I appeal to the government of Pakistan that the hand of friendship that we have extended should be carried forward. This is in the interest of people of India and Pakistan.” There may be some conditions placed by India for political reasons but Pakistan’s response like India’s should be that all issues and differences are open for dialogue and discussions as this is the only way forward. The Indian prime minister is reported to have earlier said that we can choose our friends and partners but not our neighbours. This is a fact that applies to both sides so let us live with this in mind.
The recently-concluded ‘intraKashmir dialogue’ held in Srinagar from Oct 9 to Oct 11 organised by the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation (CDR), New Delhi, was evidently a success as working groups discussed and came up with recommendations and solutions on:
(i) Across Line of Control (LoC) trade, (ii) LoC cooperation in different fields and (iii) Dialogue process.
Sixty-four participants representing communities and regions of Jammu and Kashmir, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, India and Pakistan participated in the dialogue over a period of three days.
The discussions included the dialogue process, confidence-building measures and expansion of economic cooperation across the LoC. The discussions were encouraging as they dealt with the following :
(i) Facilities for package tours including pilgrimage tourism.
(ii) Educational linkage between regions and reservations of seats in different educational institutions, particularly professional colleges, with free exchange of academicians and students for the purpose of study and research.
(iii) Exchange of artists and arti sans and holding of cultural shows and sport events on both sides.
(iv) Cooperation in the field of media, exchange of newspapers and entertainment channels.
(v) The need for a focused, sustained and uninterpreted dialogue process between India and Pakistan which should not only be result-oriented but time- oriented as well.
(vi) Promotion of trust and confidence between different civil society groups and non-governmental organisations.
(vii) Delinking of terrorism from the dialogue process.
(viii) Restoration of back -channel diplomacy (ix) Promotion of facilities for travel between the two countries.
(x) Condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
Sushobha Barve, the heart and soul of the ‘Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation, New Delhi, must be congratulated for her dedication over the years and the achievements at the present conference.
A link-up between the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation and similar organisations in Pakistan would indeed serve the hopes and aspirations of the people of India and Pakistan for a durable peace. The need of the present time is for a people-to-people contact, freedom of trade, travel, tourism, cultural exchanges, resumption of cricket and other sporting events, exchange of visits by academics, students, musicians, professionals, artists, artisans and exchange of information, books and technology.
We must inspire trust and confidence in each other and leave behind the era of suspicion and mistrust and get down to basics.

This piece appeared as letter to Editor


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