Leading opinion makers from India and Pakistan including parliamentarians, retired diplomats, former military officials, members of the policy and media communities, academics and civil society actors met at Bangkok for the 8th rounds of the Chaophraya Dialogue from 18-19th October 2011. They conducted comprehensive two-day dialogues on a range of issues impacting the bilateral relationship: terrorism and extremism, Jammu and Kashmir, Afghanistan, trade and economic integration.
The Chaophraya Dialogue is an Indo-Pak Track-II initiative jointly undertaken by the Jinnah Institute and Australia India Institute (AII) to encourage informed discussion of bilateral relations and enhance stakes in peace. The process has so far led to six rounds of dialogue and is now in its third year. The dialogue is primarily meant to give an opportunity to members of the policy and media communities and other groups in India and Pakistan to interact with each other on a sustained basis.
The Chaophraya Dialogue has encouraged participants to share the conclusions of each round with their respective governments. It has also provided a useful forum when the official dialogue process between India and Pakistan has been frozen. This was witnessed after the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. During this period, when the official talks between the two countries were suspended, the Chaophraya Dialogue managed to bring together senior interlocutors from the two countries in Bangkok multiple times. One of its successes is the inclusion of Track II .
Role Of Media In Bilateral Relations
Newspapers, periodicals and news magazines from India and Pakistan should be freely available in both countries;
- News channels from India and Pakistan should be accessible in both countries;
Indian and Pakistani publishers should be allowed unfettered access to each other’s country to be able to offer readers in both countries their publications at affordable prices;
Journalists, academics, researchers, students and publishers from India and Pakistan should be given multi-entry, long-term visas by both countries without city restrictions and police reporting;
There should be no limit on the number of correspondents that media organizations are allowed to post in each other’s country.
The Issue Of Jammu And Kashmir
Non-Kashmiri media persons should also be allowed access to both sides of Jammu and Kashmir and be included in the categories currently permitted on cross-LoC buses;
The dialogue on Jammu and Kashmir – official and backchannel – should be vigorously pursued and efforts should be made to record and archive all details of previous and current discussions with a view to declassifying them at an appropriate date in future;
Jammu and Kashmir remains the principal issue between India and Pakistan and renewed endeavours are required to address the issue;
The existing roadblocks in cross-LoC trade and travel (including banking and telecommunications) should be removed;
Media persons should be encouraged to use value-neutral nomenclatures when referring to Jammu and Kashmir such as “Indian-Administered Jammu and Kashmir” and “Pakistan-administered Jammu and Kashmir”;
Media and civil society in both countries should be encouraged to enhance their coverage and discussion about human rights violations and cross border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.
Terrorism And Extremism
Terrorism is a regional and international menace and empirical evidence suggests that states need to cooperate in order to fight it comprehensively. South Asia has been impacted by terrorism in the past two decades in ways no other region has been affected. This necessitates that states develop joint responses and strategies to fight it;
The two sides should expedite the process of normalisation to reduce incentives for policies that have created non-state groups that now threaten peace;
Parliamentary committees dealing with national security should meet bilaterally for exchange of information and views;
Both sides should bring their legislation in conformity with the SAARC Additional Protocol on Terrorism. This would assist in creating a legitimate framework for mutual legal assistance;
They should strengthen and institutionalize current military and non-military CBMs and related hotlines for defusing tensions.
- A stable and peaceful Afghanistan is in the interest of India and Pakistan;
- The people of Afghanistan need to move towards peace without outside interference;
While recognising each other’s security concerns, a bilateral consultative framework needs to be developed to address such issues;
- Afghanistan should not become an arena of conflict for India and Pakistan.
Trade And Economic Integration
A liberal visa regime with multiple entries for a minimum period of 5 years for businessmen is a prerequisite to facilitate trade and commerce. Visas should be granted on basis of certification from government-recognized trade bodies;
Both countries need to enhance their transport links through land, air and sea to facilitate landing and movement of each other’s goods. They should also increase the frequency of direct flights between their key cities. Indian carriers are encouraged to complement the fight services currently being offered only by PIA;
Efforts should be made to sign mutually recognized agreements (MRAs) for the harmonization of standards in chemical, pharmaceutical, horticulture, textile, cement, food products etc.;
Direct imports of machinery, components, spare parts, commodities and eliminating all positive and negative lists should be allowed;
Financial institutions in both countries should be allowed to provide banking facilities and related services in the other country in order to facilitate trade and commerce. Normal foreign investment laws should be applied on a non-discriminatory basis.