- Right) Mr. Saleem Safi,
Television Anchor & Senior Columnist, Geo TV, Pakistan; Mr.
Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, President, PILDAT; Mr. Sudheendra
Kulkarni, Chairman, Observer Research Foundation, India;
Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Chairman, Senate Standing
Committee on Defence, Pakistan; Mr. Riaz Hussain Khokhar,
Former Foreign Secretary, Pakistan)
February 16: The participation of India in
the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Project could usher in a new era
for prosperity and change in the face of South Asia. Mr. Sudheendra
Kulkarni, Chairman, Observer Research Foundation, India,
shared these views at the panel discussion on Pakistan-India Peace
Process and the Sharing of Experiences on Governance and Democracy hosted
by PILDAT in Islamabad on February 16. Mr. Kulkarni was joined
by Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Chairman, Senate Standing
Committee on Defence, Pakistan Mr. Riaz Hussain Khokhar,
Former Foreign Secretary, Pakistanand Mr. Saleem Safi, Television
Anchor & Senior Columnist, Geo TV, Pakistan; in discussing the current
state of Pakistan-India ties and options for future cooperation.
In his address, Mr. Kulkarni spoke of the
CPEC as an economic miracle, one whose dividends would multiply if India were
also to participate in the venture. Infrastructure connecting the CPEC to
the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Project across Northern India
could transform the face of the region and usher in a new era of economic
cooperation. However, he said that China and Pakistan needed to address Indian
concerns on the CPEC project before this could happen.
On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of
the 1947 Partition, both countries needed to renew efforts to normalize bi-lateral
ties and evaluate their positions by putting themselves in the other country’s
shoes. In the context of Kashmir, while India had focused on the issue of
terrorism, Pakistan had always stressed upon Kashmir as a political issue.
He impressed upon the audience the importance of thinking anew on the problems
that had strained Pakistan-India ties in the past, saying that good statesmanship
in both countries would depend upon the ability to set aside older grudges.
He spoke of many of the initiatives that he had been apart of, chief among
which was the campaign that he steered in India called the“Kuch
Naya Karein” programme.
Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, while discussing
the theme, spoke about how the idea of a multilateral cooperative framework
or a confederation was a pipe dream: Pakistan and India needed to engage on
a bi-lateral level before any regional endeavor could be attempted. He also
proposed that both nations needed to open the doors for back-channel diplomacy.
Speaking on the issue of Kashmir, he said that the people of Kashmir had spoken:
the uprising after July 2016 was in fact a de facto plebiscite. He stressed
on taking forward the recommendations of the report prepared by the commission
led by Mr. Yashwant Sinha, Former Minster of External Affairs, India, on Kashmir
for a meaningful framework for the process of peace building between both
Mr. Riaz Hussain Khokhar in his remarks pointed
out that the distrust between Pakistan and India currently was at an all time
high. Any sort of regional cooperation attempted with India could not meet
the same fate as the SAARC Conferences, in which the largest member country
had neutralized the multi-lateral forum by boycotting its proceedings. Mr.
Khokhar agreed with Mr. Kulkarni on the fact that there was a need for forward
thinking, however it could not be at the cost of ignoring ground realities
in Kashmir or on the diplomatic front.
Mr. Saleem Safi said that Pakistan had already
taken a step forward diplomatically by engaging with India in the Heart of
Asia Conferences and other smaller conferences. For India to call into question
Pakistan’s commitment to eradicating terrorism at the time when the
country was suffering heavily and attempting to right past wrongs in using
proxies to fight its battles was unjust.
The Panel Discussion was attended by members
of the media and civil society including: Senator Lt Gen (Retd) Abdul
Qayyum, PML-N, Senator Jehanzeb Jamaldini,
BNP-M, Senator Usman Khan Kakar, PMAP,
Senator Azam Musakhel, PMAP, Ms. Aisha,
MNA, JI, Ms. Amra Khan, MNA, PML-N, Ms.
Aasiya Naz Tanoli, MNA, PML-N, Ms. Shakila Luqman,
MNA, PML-N, Major General (Retd) Mr. Mahmud Ali Durrani,
Former National Security Advisor, Mr. Ayaz Wazir,
Former Ambassador, Mr. Wazir Jogezai, Former
Deputy Speaker National Assembly, Mr. Ashraf Jehangir Qazi,
Former Ambassador, Mr. Tahir Khalil, Bureau
Chief-Islamabad, Jang, Mr. Amjad Mahmood, DG-Islamabad,
NIM, Dr. Muhammad Faisal, DG (South Asia and SAARC),
MOFA, Mr. Avinash Kumar Singh, Second
Secretary Political, IHC, Lt Gen (Retd) Mr. Talat Masood,
Former Secretary Defence Production, Mr. Afrasiab Khattak,
Former Senator, Mr. Javed Hafeez, Former Ambassador,
Ms. Laura Dix, BHC, Mr. Murtaza Solangi,
Senior Anchor/Director Public Outreach, Capital TV and Mr.
Sultan Hali, Senior Anchor, PTV.
Earlier Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, President,
PILDAT in his opening remarks had spoken about how PILDAT since 2004, had
been facilitating Dialogues and other initiatives between Legislators and
Subject-Experts of Pakistan and India at the National and Sub-National level
with the objective to improving bilateral relations. The experiences of these
exchanges confirmed that there existed a tremendous opportunity, need and
requirement to provide avenues for a structured exchange of views and good
practices on areas of governance and democracy between India and Pakistan.
PILDAT was therefore, pleased to continue the exchange through a panel discussion
by a visiting Indian scholar, Mr. Sudheendra Kulkarni, Chairman, Observer
Research Foundation, India on the subject.
Though Mr. Kulkarni has actively spoken for
several years about Pakistan-India relations, on October 12, 2015, hours before
the launch of Mr. Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri’s, book “Neither a Hawk,
Nor a Dove: An Insider Account of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy” Mr.
Kulkarni fell victim to an assault by the activist of the Indian Political
Party Shiv Sena. Despite threats and physical assault, Mr. Kulkarni stood
by his commitment to host the book launch.
(Mr. Sudheendra Kulkarni,
Chairman, Observer Research Foundation, making his opening remarks about
the Pakistan-India Peace Process and Sharing of Experiences on Governance
(Members of the Parliament and Civil Society
at the Panel Discussion hosted by PILDAT)