‘Make Kashmiris equal partners in peace process’

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New Delhi, Apr 01: A two-day conference on India-Pakistan Civil Society Review of Strategic Relations has emphasized that people of Kashmir should be made equal stakeholders in the peace process and part of the dialogue process. At the same time it has also recommended demilitarization of both sides of Kashmir including Gilgit and Baltistan. In the recommendations formulated at the end of the conference here on Saturday, it has further stated that the civil societies of India and Pakistan should set up study groups to comprehensively study the problem of sharing of water in Indus Basin, identifying potential sources of conflict and possible areas of conflict. However, the conference expressed satisfaction that the two countries were adhering to the Indus Water Treaty. The participants urged upon the two nations to work for a holistic and integrated management of water between them. It has recommended developing a regional framework for sharing of water in the entire SAARC region. It has also concluded that a No War Pact should be signed by India and Pakistan. In addition, the two countries should vigorously implement all military CBMs that they have mutually agreed upon. These should also be extended to other areas as well. Earlier, speaking at the concluding session, CPM General Secretary Prakash Karat said that the Government should find a solution to Kashmir issue by talking to both Pakistan and Kashmiris. But at the same time the overall process of advancing Indo-Pak relations cannot be held hostage to other factors. Karat strongly felt that certain vested interests rake up the bogey of Pakistan to create communal problems. The composite dialogue between India and Pakistan should continue and be further broadened. Senior leader of Pakistan Peoples Party and lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan said that the Indo-Pak ties can only be improved by following a spirit of positive reciprocity. At the same time he felt that the cricketing ties have a vital role to play to bring the two nations together and demanded that the Government of India should lift all bans on Pakistani cricketers’ participation in IPL and other tournaments. He suggested that South Asia should be made nuclear-free zone. Such move will lead to a gradual calibrated disarmament between India and Pakistan. Dwelling on the significance of South Asia, he said that Pakistan should give up its Middle-East “embrace” and instead connect with South Asia. Siachin should be declared a peace park, he suggested. Independent MLA from Kashmir, Engineer Rashid, while appreciating the forward movement in Indo-Pak relations wondered as to where the fate of Kashmir lies in the entire game plan. “Treat us like human-beings,” he said. Referring to the efforts made to resolve Kashmir problem, he said that no formula has worked till date because all efforts were bilateral. “Kashmiris had no role in any such peace effort made during the last six decades,” he added. Asking India and Pakistan to decide about Kashmiris’ role in peace initiatives, he said that the two countries should respect their own commitments made to Kashmiris. He further advocated that Kashmiri militants should also be involved in peace initiatives as without them no such effort will succeed.

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