ISLAMABAD: The upcoming elections in India will determine whether or not any forward movement is possible in promoting bilateral relations between India and Pakistan as resumption of bilateral dialogue is not possible before the elections.
This was stated by participants of a debriefing session at Jinnah Institute on Thursday. Speakers also said there had been a positive change in the perception of India in Pakistan and that this change was reflected in last year’s election campaign where ‘India-bashing’ was not a feature.
The session was held to discuss the Indo-Pak bilateral relations by attendees of the 13th Chaophraya Dialogue, and it was noted that there was a consensus in Pakistan regarding improvement of relations with India.
“Intensifying the dialogue process is the only way to overcome obstacles in bilateral policy change on both sides,” said Jinnah Institute’s vice president Ambassador Aziz Ahmad Khan adding that recommendations from the 13th Chaophraya Resolution were important tools to form public policy and mainstream opinion in Pakistan.
Chaophraya Dialogue is the second oldest Track II process running between India and Pakistan. It brings together senior interlocutors who are able to impact foreign policy in both Islamabad and New Delhi.
The thirteenth round of Chaophraya was held last month in Thailand where participants had agreed at a 21-point joint resolution.
Participants of this dialogue agreed that as India holds a general election, contacts between the two countries should continue and intensify in 2014.
The round also addressed nuclear issues, Afghanistan and reviewed developments across the Line of Control (LoC) over the past few months.
The Chaophraya declaration also welcomed the recent meeting held by DGMOs of both India and Pakistan and urged regular contact at the DGMO level as well as flag meetings along the LoC.
They recommended that such meetings should be formalised in an agreement and encouraged military to military contact at the highest level.
The 13th round of Chaophraya also demanded that all confidence building measures agreed so far between India and Pakistan be fully implemented in letter and spirit.
Meanwhile, speaking at the debriefing session held on Thursday, Development Consultant Mosharraf Zaidi said the issue of Afghanistan had critical importance for the region.
He maintained that while India had growing economic interests in Afghanistan, Pakistan had a far greater stake in stability and security of that country especially after the withdrawal of international forces.
“But I say that there is an exaggeration over the issue of Indian involvement in Afghanistan and it has caused undue alarm in Pakistan,” Mr Zaidi added.
He also said that Track II discussions brought up indicators of human development in Afghanistan and that social safety interventions such as the Benazir Income Support Programme can be designed in Afghanistan to improve the lives of its citizens.
The speakers discussed the declaration of 13th Chaophraya round that demanded normalisation of trade relations between the two countries and demanded the governments of two countries to implement visa agreement of September 2012.
Author Zahid Hussain observed that despite Indias strategic distrust with China, the two regional rivals enjoyed twice the volume of trade than India and Pakistan.
He said that aim of the Chaophraya Dialogue was essentially to create an enabling environment for government-to-government negotiations to get underway.
The speakers said that on the issue of Afghanistan, both India and Pakistan needed to make concerted efforts and ensure a peaceful transition in the region.
They also cautioned that the Durand Line may vanish if insurgency inside Afghanistan does not end.