Indo-Pak dialogue “Strategies for Peace”
Date: March 21, 2011
“Indo-Pak dialogue at the Jinnah Institute to discuss strategies for peace”
Islamabad, March 21, 2011: Delegates from India and Pakistan agreed that they need to urge their governments to relax visa procedures for citizens of both countries and work towards establishing stronger people to people networks at a roundtable hosted by the Jinnah Institute on peaceful relations between India and Pakistan. The group developed strategies for building greater trust and cooperation between the two countries with the aim of increasing regional peace and economic exchange.
Sherry Rehman, President of the Jinnah Institute, stressed the need for voices from both sides of the border to engage in a sustained dialogue to mitigate conflict. She argued for changing the narrative in the media and said ‘Let’s agree to de-legitimize and actively discourage inflammatory talk on media platforms on both sides.’
Kuldip Nayar, former Indian Parliamentarian and prominent journalist, urged both countries to work towards ‘a no war pact’ and recognize that ‘war is not the only solution.’
Senator Nayyar Bukhari of the PPP, leader of the House in the Senate, emphasized terrorism as a major conflict driver. He added that people on both sides are now looking for more urgent tactical and deliverable solutions to conflict. He said ‘A certain state of mind existed previously and now we need change. The public at large has a role and they must be educated, we need people to people contact.’
Senator Mushahid Hussain emphasized the importance of greater economic collaboration in the region. He said that ‘India had made a strategic mistake in opting out of the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline’. He emphasized the need for greater economic cooperation in the region. He underscored the need to build a constituency that is vested in building peaceful relations between the two countries.
Nasim Zehra, anchor and journalist, encouraged members of civil society on both sides of the border to engage mainstream media on specific Indo-Pak issues. Participants agreed that more could be done in India in relation to media and civil society participation.
Shahid Siddiqui, Parliamentarian and Editor of Indian publication Nai Dunya, said that governments should concentrate on the issues that can be resolved first, like Siachin and Sir Creek. He derided the fact that there was a visa agreement between India and Pakistan but no implementation. He also urged those seeking peace to pursue their objectives more aggressively.
Human Rights Activist Tahira Abdullah highlighted that long term goals should be prioritized, especially given that poverty is high in both countries. Pakistan and India spend large proportions of their budgets on military spending. India should lead the way on cutting military expenditure and more resources should be diverted to the social sectors like education and women’s rights. With regard to Kashmir she pointed that the conversation thus far has not included representation from Kashmir. This is vital for progress on the issue.
Activist and journalist, Jatin Desai, stressed the need for composite dialogue to be resumed as soon as possible and proposed the creation of a parliamentarian caucus, developing strategies for a more open media and a platform for common people to express their views and influence foreign policy. All participants agreed that the power of public opinion was central to any sustained dialogue.
Mosharraf Zaidi introduced the idea of engaging with the younger population of India in order to understand and develop a more realistic dialogue between the two countries. He also said that the post-partition generation is not invested with the memories of partition that the incumbents carry today, which means that a new conversation must begin with people under the age of 35.
Ramesh Yadav from Amritsar, filtered the discussion away from larger policy concerns to the power of grass roots mobilization. He stressed the need for people from both countries to engage with each other at a more personal level and this could only be done easing visa restrictions.
Mohammad Maalik, editor of the News, said that issues like water conflicts have to be resolved if further conflict is to be avoided, while Cyril Almeida of Dawn said he felt that there is really no constituency for peace in either Pakistan or India, but that they need to be created.
Participants agreed to work towards urging their government to ease visa restrictions and concentrate less on strategic issues.
Participants included parliamentarians, senior media representatives and rights activists.
Pakistani participants included Sherry Rehman, (President of the Jinnah Institute), Nayyar Bokhari (Senator PPP), Mushahid Hussain (Senator PML-Q), General (Retd.) Talat Masood, AVM (retd.) Shahzad Chaudhary (AVM retd.), Nasim Zehra (Director Current Affairs, (Dunya) Maj Gen (retd.) Asad Durrani, Mohammad Malick (Editor, The News), Cyril Almeida (Dawn) , Tahira Abdullah (Rights Activist), Zeenia Shaukat (PILER), Karamat Ali (Founder of PILER), Kishwar Naheed (Poet), Amir Mateen (News) and Mosharraf Zaidi (Columnist).
Delegates from India included Kuldip Nayar: (Former member of Parliament and Indian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom in 1990 and veteran journalist), Dr. Bhalchandra Mungekar (member of the Upper House of the Indian Parliament (Rajya Sabha), Jatin Desai (activist and journalist and national joint secretary of Pakistan-Indian People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD)), Mazher Hussain: (Executive director of Confederation of Voluntary Agencies (COVA), Ramesh Yadav (representative of folklore in society), Shahid Siddiqui ( former member of parliament, Editor of Nai Duniya, a leading Urdu daily), Haris Kidwai (General Secretary of PIPFPD’s Delhi chapter)