Any act of violence bearing an impact on bilateral relations must be investigated impartially and professionally before reaching conclusions regarding their nature, perpetrators and origin. All formal and informal government channels should be used more effectively to share information on a real-time basis.
This was agreed upon and recommended by former diplomats, editors, journalists, academics and analysts from India and Pakistan, who met in Colombo for the 10th Chaophraya Dialogue on March 2 and 3, organised by the Jinnah Institute (JI) and the Australia India Institute (AII).
Welcoming recent decisions on expansion in trade between India and Pakistan, the key opinion-makers from the two countries recommended continued efforts for a permanent environment of peace and stability through sustained dialogue. The participants of the conference noted the restrictive visa procedures between both nations, and urged for its relaxation to allow increased people-to-people contact.
They also agreed the visit of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Pakistan would go a long way towards achieving greater stability in the bilateral dialogue, and would help enhance the pace of progress on outstanding issues between India and Pakistan.
On terrorism, the conference emphasised that both countries should establish mechanisms for real and effective co-operation to handle terrorist activities, while restraint should be exercised by the two governments as well as the media, in the wake of such acts of violence.
Noting that Jammu and Kashmir is a complex issue, the conference stressed that it required the direct involvement and attention of the heads of both governments. The existing confidence building measures in the disputed territory should be implemented in letter and spirit, and should be expanded, they recommended.
On water security issues between the two countries, the experts suggested that both India and Pakistan continue to work within the framework of the Indus Water Treaty (IWT). Meetings of the Indus Water Commission should be held more frequently than the one mandatory meeting annually.
Discussing media, the participants agreed that it was imperative that Pakistanis and Indians benefitted from impartial and well-informed reporting of news.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 4th, 2012.
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