Ahead of External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna’s visit to Islamabad, parliamentarians of India and Pakistan Friday recommended a clutch of radical confidence-building measures, including allowing travel by citizens across the border in their own vehicles and visa-free access for educationists and senior citizens.
The Pakistani parliamentary delegation held two-days of intense discussions with Indian MPs led by Yashwant Sinha, senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and a former foreign minister, and Congress’ Mani Shankar Aiyar.
At the end of the discussions, the fourth India-Pakistan Parliamentarians Dialogue unveiled a slew of recommendations to expand people-to-people contacts and bolster strategic trust between the two neighbours.
Releasing the joint statement, Sinha said the meeting was held in an “extremely cordial” atmosphere and all issues which have a bearing on the India-Pakistan relations were discussed.
“The feeling among people of both countries is of friendship and peace…it is quite clear that the people of the two countries want to live in peace and prosper together,” he said.
The two-day dialogue focused on easing travel and trade and to create better mutual understanding to improve bilateral ties.
The MPs suggested that India and Pakistan should allow each other’s citizens to travel across the border in their own vehicles and discontinue the practice of police reporting to avoid undue harassment. They recommended visa-free access for educationists and senior citizens.
The MPs also recommended that both governments remove the ban/blockage on showing each other’s news and entertainment channels and pitched for greater exchange of artistes and media persons.
They urged the two governments to spur the implementation of the agreements relating to trade and accelerate the process of finalisation of trade in energy-related products.
The issue of fake SMSes allegedly emanating from Pakistan figured in the discussions.
Pakistan would respond if India provides evidence to it to support allegations that elements based on the Pakistani soil uploaded inflammatory content on websites on Assam violence, Pakistan’s Member of National Assembly Khurram Dastgir Khan told reporters.
“If the hate mails are generated or not generated (in Pakistan), it emphasises the reasons why we here in India as we are here to create a positive atmosphere,” he said.
Khan was reacting to a question on allegations made by India’s Home Secretary R.K. Singh that the home ministry has identified over 100 websites on which morphed images were posted from Pakistan to whip up communal tension in India.
Responding to questions about Hindus from Pakistan crossing over to India due to alleged ill-treatment, Khan said: “As far as we know, no Pakistani Hindu has so far applied for political asylum (here). The government is dealing with it and the Supreme Court has also taken note of it.”
The MPs welcomed the forthcoming meeting between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan in Islamabad Sep 7-9 to review the second round of the resumed dialogue. They urged the two governments to sign the proposed liberal visa regime agreement at the meeting between the foreign ministers.
They also underlined that heath-related travel and religious tourism in both countries must be facilitated as a priority by both countries.
They observed that that the time was ripe to resolve long-standing disputes such as Siachen and Sir Creek.
The parliamentarians also recommended an immediate release of prisoners who have completed their term and humanitarian treatment of fishermen and others who inadvertently cross into the territory or territorial waters of the other country.