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Indo-Pak Track II makes peace pitch, calls for connectivity

Call Indian atrocities “terrorism” & may be then world will notice: Sherry

BANGKOK, MAR 20 (DNA) -: Key civil society leaders and opinion makers from India and Pakistan, including parliamentarians, former diplomats, former military officers and policy experts met in Bangkok for the 18th round of the Chaophraya Dialogue from 18 to 20 March 2016, organised by the Jinnah Institute (JI) and the Australia India Institute (AII).

Pakistani delegates at the 18th Dialogue, which discussed and reviewed the state of bilateral relations in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on Pathankot Airbase, were led by Jinnah Institute President Senator Sherry Rehman along with Australia India Institute (AII) Director Amitabh Mattoo.

In addition to prospects for bilateral relations, special focus was given to recent tensions in Jammu & Kashmir, the challenge of violent extremism on either side of the border, the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, prospects for visa liberalisation and regional connectivity, as well as recommendations from two specially designated Task Forces on climate change adaptation and developing alternative histories and narratives that could positively impact public discourse.

Over the course of the two-day dialogue, participants welcomed the mature and constructive response of the governments of India and Pakistan to the Pathankot terrorist attack, and expressed the hope that the recent interaction between Pakistani Advisor to the PM on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and Indian EAM SushmaSwaraj in Pokhara, Nepal would lead to a revival of the dialogue process.

They also noted that the forthcoming Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) in Washington D.C this month would offer another window of opportunity for the two Prime Ministers to recommit themselves to a sustainable roadmap for Indo-Pak engagement in 2016.

On the issue of terrorism, delegates welcomed the fact that the governments in Islamabad and New Delhi were increasingly constructive in their engagement aimed at finding joint solutions to the issue of terrorism in South Asia.

On Afghanistan, delegates lauded the efforts of the Afghan government to combat extremist militancy, but concurrently expressed grave concern at the strength and stability of the National Unity Government in Kabul, which continued to face off a violent insurgency and an uncertain future.

Participants welcomed the signing of the TAPI and CASA-1000 projects, and suggested that India and Pakistan consider the possibility of discussions on Afghanistan as part of their bilateral discussions.

In a special session held on regional connectivity, participants urged the governments of both countries to implement previously negotiated roadmaps on visa liberalisation and tourism, and to develop a database of pre cleared, pre verified citizens for ease of visa issuance and travel across borders. In their deliberations, participants noted that flight options between Pakistan and India were often indirect and costly, and that travel between the two countries could take up to 14 hours, despite 60,000 citizens travelling annually each year.

Two specially designated Task Forces on Climate Change and Histories and Alternative Narratives also presented their findings during the conference. On climate change, panelists urged both governments to include climate change in their bilateral agenda, particularly on the issues of surface and groundwater; agriculture and food security; glacial melt and the protection and preservation of natural habitats.

The Task Force on Histories and Alternative Narratives, meanwhile, called for curricula reform and student exchanges, that could in turn foster a better understanding of national identities and citizenries in both countries.

The Chaophraya Dialogue is the longest consistently running Indo-Pak Track-II jointly administered by the Jinnah Institute (JI) and Australia India Institute (AII) to encourage informed policy dialogue on Indo-Pak relations. The process is now in its eighth year and has so far led to 18 rounds of dialogue.=DNA

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