Indian, Pakistani parliamentarians push for easing visa regime

August 19th, 2011 - 8:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, Aug 19 (IANS) Calling for an “uninterrupted” dialogue between India and Pakistan, parliamentarians of the two countries Friday pushed for liberalizing the visa regime to ease travel between their people and underlined the need for resolving all outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir and terrorism.

The two-day parliamentarians’ dialogue, co-chaired by senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Yashwant Sinha and Pakistani Senator Jan Mohammad Khan Jamali, ended Friday by backing “uninterrupted and uninterruptible” dialogue that which was agreed to by the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan at their talks last month.

The parliamentarians focused on expanding people-to-people contacts through the easing of travel and trade restrictions and called for consolidating the outcome of the composite dialogue over the last 14 years.

“Peace and friendship at the popular level is what we need between India and Pakistan,” Congress MP Mani Shankar Aiyar, who participated in the two-day dialogue, told IANS.

Aiyar said the constituency for peace was expanding in both India and Pakistan.

“There is a huge constituency for peace in Pakistan from the rehriwalla (street vendor) on the streets of Karachi to (Pakistani Army chief) Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani,” said Aiyar when asked what he thought about the support in Pakistan for the peace process.

Most MPs said more Pakistanis are realising that terrorism is their biggest problem and it has become a Frankenstein monster, he said.

Besides Aiyar and Sinha, the Indian MPs who participated in the discussions included Shashi Tharoor, Naveen Jindal, Rashid Alvi and Shatrughan Sinha.

The dialogue ended with a joint statement containing a slew of suggestions for taking forward the peace process between the two countries. The parliamentarians decided to brief their respective governments and the presiding officers of their parliaments about the recommendations of the conference.

“While recognizing that some progress has been made in the formal processes of the dialogue, the parliamentarians recognise that peace, security and development require the resolution of outstanding issues,” said the joint statement.

They stressed that the progress in the dialogue would be consolidated by urgently addressing all outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek and the challenge of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including bringing to justice the perpetrators of the of 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack.

Focusing on people-to-people contacts, the parliamentarians recommended “making visa regimes as close as possible to those in regard to friendly countries”.

They recommended that early action should be taken to introduce various categories such as trusted visitors’ programmes on both sides to include categories such as senior citizens, elected representatives, business persons, accredited journalists, students and cultural and sports personalities.

The parliamentarians also urged their governments to address the issue within the framework of the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty.

The dialogue was organised by Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT), a think tank that works for strengthening democracy and democratic institutions in Pakistan. The first edition of the dialogue was held in Pakistan in January.

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