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 7th rounds of the Chaophraya Dialogue from 16-17th 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 language in official statements in the Pakistani narrative.
India Pakistan Bilateral Dialogue
- They noted with satisfaction the series of bilateral exchanges that have taken place over the last few months that have resulted in several new CBMs;
- They welcomed the announcement by Pakistan to grant MFN status to India;
- They noted the meeting of Defence Secretaries, where non-papers were exchanged over Siachen, and expressed hope that efforts will be made to reach an early agreement;
- They expressed hope that Sir Creek will be resolved at the next round of talks;
- They urged review of existing CBMs and their effective implementation in letter and spirit. Particular attention needs to be paid to the restrictive visa regime. Procedures for visas should be simplified and expedited for visits, particularly by academics, scholars, media-persons, artists, tourists, medical patients and pilgrims. In this context they welcomed steps taken to ease the visa regimes for businesspersons on both sides;
- They recommended that new CBMs be concluded on areas of bilateral engagement, in particular to facilitate telecommunication links. Restrictions on the access of electronic and print media should be lifted;
- They recommended that under the Peace and Security section of the dialogue, the two sides should explore nuclear and conventional CBMs;
- They recommended that high level exchanges between the armed forces and intelligence agencies of both countries should be institutionalized;
- While welcoming the progress made, they noted with concern that the dialogue is still vulnerable to untoward episodes and systemic changes are necessary to sustain the gains made. In this context, it was felt that the visit of the Prime Minister of India to Pakistan could afford an opportunity to achieve this change.
The Issue Of Jammu And Kashmir
- They observed that Jammu and Kashmir remains a principal issue in India and Pakistan relations, and therefore called for renewed endeavours to address the issue;
- They noted that India and Pakistan are beginning to move forward on Jammu and Kashmir but underscored the need to look beyond the traditional security-centric approach and implement the agreed CBMs in letter and spirit;
- They recommended that the dialogue – official and back channel – should vigorously be pursued keeping in mind the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir who should not be sidelined.
Terrorism And Extremism
- They recognized that terrorism is a common threat to peace and security in the region for both India and Pakistan and that the issue needs to be addressed immediately;
- They felt that the transnational nature of terrorism demands that India and Pakistan share resources and make a combined effort to combat this menace;
- They called upon both sides to exchange intelligence and related information on all groups known to use terror as an instrument against states;
- They observed that the routine response to terrorism by both countries has been episodic and that India and Pakistan need to formulate comprehensive counter-terrorism policies. Knowledge, information and lessons learned by each should be shared with the other;
- They recommended that an agreement such as a Joint Anti-terror Mechanism needs to be resurrected, refined and implemented as an avenue to formalize a cooperative relationship;
- They recommended that engagement between parliamentary committees on security should be instituted.
- Both sides commended the establishment of a joint working group on Afghanistan to discuss mutual security concerns and address issues bilateral and regional cooperation;
- They felt it was imperative for TAPI signatories to push for an early implementation of the agreement as energy security is critical for regional development and economic integration;
- They expressed hope that conditions will be created for an Afghan-driven process of national reconciliation.
Trade And Economic Integration
- They recognized that economic cooperation held the key to transforming India Pakistan bilateral relations. They urged that the report of the South Asian Eminent Persons’ Panel, established in 1998 under SAARC, be acted upon for greater economic integration of South Asia, particularly the Panel’s recommendation towards a South Asian Economic Union, Customs Unions and Monetary Union;
- They observed that both countries needed to modernize their arbitration and commercial laws to enable promotion of trade through ease of movement of people and goods; a liberal visa regime for businessmen; and elimination of bureaucratic delays and procedures;
- While acknowledging the need to provide stimuli for direct trade across the border, they recommended that infrastructure for movement of goods across the border be improved, as well as permission given for ports in both countries to manage each other’s cargo. Furthermore, both countries need to work towards facilitating regional and intercontinental trade routes on the lines of the Southern Silk Route;
- They recommended that in order to facilitate trade and commerce, financial institutions in both countries should be allowed to provide banking facilities and related services in the other country. Furthermore, bureau standards should have a common code and accept each other’s certificates;
- They recommended that efforts be made to coordinate the pharmaceutical registration process and administration between both countries. Similarly, telecom accessibility and cooperation need to be explored further. Both these sectors have great potential for mutual benefit;
- They recognized the strong complementarity in the IT sector which should jointly be explored and its potential fully realized. Likewise, there is great potential for cooperation and outsourcing in the automobile industry which needs to be harnessed;
- They felt the need for closer coordination and cooperation for South Asian energy requirements. In this regard, they recommended that both countries need to work together on climate change and explore alternatives in renewable, clean and green energy sources, including solar and wind power;
- They strongly felt that both countries should work towards food and water security and recommended that cooperation in agricultural research and development should be explored to improve yields and for intensive cultivation.
Amitabh Mattoo, Director Australia India Institute
Siddharth Varadarajan, author and Strategic Affairs Editor, The Hindu
G Parthasarathy, former Ambassador
A S Dulat, former Chief, Research and Analysis Wing
Radhavinod Raju, former Director General, National Investigation Agency
Ajay Darshan Behera, Reader, Academy of Third World Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia
Baijayant Panda, Member Lok Sabha
Dipankar Banerjee, Director, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies New Delhi
Kapil Kak, former Air Vice Marshal
B Mungekar, Member Rajya Sabha
Happymon Jacob, Assistant Professor, Centre of International Politics, Organisation and Disarmament, JNU
Mallika Joseph, Director of Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies
Shubha Kamala Prasad
Sherry Rehman, President Jinnah Institute and Member National Assembly
Aziz Ahmed Khan, former Ambassador
Syed Rifaat Hussain, Chair Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, QAU
Nasim Zehra, Director Current Affairs, Dunya TV
Ahsan Iqbal, Member National Assembly
Shahzad Chaudhry, former Air Vice Marshal
Tanvir Ahmad Khan, former Foreign Secretary
Humayun Khan, former Foreign Secretary
Arif Kamal, former Ambassador
Arif Ayub, former Ambassador
Salman Zaidi, Security Analyst, Jinnah Institute
Mishael Ali Khan, Program Coordinator, Jinnah Institute