Delhi Dialogue suggests slew of measures for Indo-Pak reconciliation

New Delhi, Jan 22: The recent incidents on the Line of Control (LoC) underline the need to reinforce the 2003 ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan with new mechanisms such as increased demilitarized zones, reads a joint resolution adopted at the end of two-day Delhi Dialogue held here. The participants from India and Pakistan- comprising of retired diplomats, academicians, civil society activists, media personnel, and business persons- deliberated on a variety of bilateral issues including Kashmir dispute.

The joint resolution called on the governments of India and Pakistan to evolve a result-oriented and monitorable mechanism of dialogue to resolve Kashmir dispute. “This mechanism should include representation from both sides of the LoC aimed at a mutually acceptable resolution of the Kashmir issue.”

The conference, held on January 20-21, was organised by Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation, New Delhi and Jinnah Institute, Islamabad. The participants included Raj Mohan Gandhi, Prem Shankar Jha, Amitabh Mattoo, Salman Haider, Wajahat Habibullah, Suhasini Haider, Bharat Bhushan, Meenakshi Gopinath, Sushobha Barve and Shujaat Bukhari. From Pakistani side, the two-day deliberations were attended by former ambassadors Aziz Ahmed Khan, Shahid Malik, Industrialist Syed Babar Ali, Ayesha Siddiqa, Raza Rumi, Asad Sayeed and Salman Zaidi. They also met Minister of External Affairs, Salman Khurshid and shared the joint resolution of the conference.

The participants recommended that previously agreed proposals to resolve long standing issues such as Siachen and Sir Creek should be accepted immediately so that both countries can move forward in focusing on the core issues.

“The political question of Jammu and Kashmir remains unresolved. We urge that India and Pakistan remain engaged and the four point formula devised in 2006-7 should be used a basis for further dialogue.”

They said there is an urgent need to reduce the eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation on the LoC.

“We appreciate that 2012 was a year of progress in Indo-Pak relations during which the robustness of the bilateral dialogue was tested and despite challenges to the process, considerable headway was made on issues of trade and visa liberalization.”

The participants demanded resumption of the suspended bus service and cross-LoC trade on Poonch-Rawlakot route. “The stranded passengers must be allowed to return from the same route.”

They also suggested an urgent review of the performance and structural feasibility of cross-LoC trade by addressing the bottle necks.

They called for decentralization of LoC trade and travel by creating a single independent authority on the Indian side, converting the existing barter trade to routine cross-border trade with sufficient checks, opening up of the old Jammu-Sialkot and Kargil-Skardu trade routes; and introducing smart card service issued on the basis of State Subjects Certificate to overcome the cumbersome procedures for cross-LoC travel.

The resolution recommended that both governments should constitute a study group tasked to explore the potential for generating energy on both sides of the LOC, with a particular focus on exploiting the substantial hydro-electric potential of the region. “This will benefit all parties involved and provide a much needed economic impetus in J&K.”

Calling on the two countries to operationalize the agreed Investment Protocol of 2012, the participants suggested measures, including speedy approvals of projects by BOI and FIPB, and making the liberal visa regime a prerequisite for the investment protocol.”

“In particular, work visa category should be added to the new visa regime, including visas for technical experts and trainers. These should be one year multiple entry visas that allow up to ten cities, with exemption from police reporting.”

The joint resolution advocated unfettered access for media on both sides. “The governments must allow the circulation of newspapers, distribution of television signals and increase in the number of accredited journalists in both countries. We recommend that visas for journalists and their spouses should be facilitated without unnecessary delays.”

Given the energy deficit in both countries, Delhi Dialogue suggested India and Pakistan to explore and prioritize joint cooperation on energy projects.

On the issue of terrorism, the participants recommended that both governments should display commitment to fight terrorism and not encourage instruments of terror to take root, develop and manifest themselves in any form or manner.

“We urge the governments become more prompt, alert and transparent in briefing media, especially in wake of any incident of violence. We recommend that de-radicalisation should be adopted as a policy by both governments.

“We urge that both states should initiate several levels of counter terrorism mechanisms and bilateral dialogue which should include regular meetings between the heads of intelligence agencies, police officers, MEA-FO and media houses.”

They recommended that legal frameworks should be created to ensure that banned terrorist/extremist organizations do not re-group and restart operations.

“We emphasize that both countries should check hate material in all forms and take necessary measures to arrest their circulation; We recommend that the judicial review of laws to prosecute terrorists should be undertaken for counterterrorism results.”

The conference urged both governments to engage on the regional implications of the NATO pull out from Afghanistan in 2014 through dialogue on regional cooperation.

The participants stressed that cultural activities should not be affected in wake of a crisis. “We recommend that information sharing mechanisms are strengthened internally and externally and the existing structures be streamlined to achieve this objective.

“We recommend that culture, sports and humanitarian concerns should be prioritized by both countries in the bilateral parleys. We recommend that roaming cellular facilities should be provided to the people of both the countries.”

The conference underlined the need for full implementation of the decisions enlisted in Joint Statement of the Commerce Secretaries in September 2012.

“In particular, progress needs to accelerated in the following areas: non-tariff barriers, framing of the rules on custom cooperation, redressal of grievances and mutual recognition, ports and land routes should be made functional for 24 hours. Routes other than Khokrapar-Munnabao should be explored for trade; proposed joint business council should be put in place as soon as possible; roaming facilities for businessmen should be provided and air connectivity should be enhanced; sufficient numbers of banks should be allowed to operate on both sides; potential of railways be utilized to enhance the volume of land trade.

Adequate rakes should be made available on a daily basis. Electronic data interface (EDI) should be provided in land routes, both via road and railways.”

The dialogue series initiated in 2011 holds that increased people-to-people contact generates the momentum for policy change and allows key stakeholders on both sides to devise strategies for peace and regional cooperation.

The Rising Kashmir