New Delhi: Two formers Congress ministers Mani Shankar Aiyar and Salman Khurshid were part of the Indian delegation that included senior journalist Dr Ved Pratap Vaidik to attend the bilateral dialogue seminar held in Islamabad last month.
The other Indian delegates wree Ambassador N. N. Jha, journalists Dileep Padgaonkar, Siddharth Varadarajan, Sanjeev Ahluwalia, Barkha Dutt, Amit Baruah, Aakar Patel, Anil Padmanabhan, former adviser to Vajpayee Sudheendra Kulkarni, and Dr Zoya Hasan.
The Pakistani delegation to the seminar was led by former foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, Gen. (retd) Ehsan Ul Haq, co-chairperson, Regional Peace Institute, Raoof Hasan, executive director, Dr Hafiz Pasha, Shahnaz Wazirali, Riaz H Khokhar, Bushra Gohar, Farhat Ali, Aziz Ahmed Khan, Shahid Malik, Lt Gen (retd) Asad Durrani, M Ziauddin Ahmad, Arif Nizami and Dr Moeed Pirzada.
At the end of the seminar, a statement was issued urging both India and Pakistan to reopen consulates in Karachi and Mumbai respectively. The participants also urged easing and simplification of visa procedures, introducing automatic visas for many categories, to enable a wide range of professionals as well as tourists to travel from one country to the other.
The statement said: “India and Pakistan need to fight two fights: the one within and the one without. The fight within relates to addressing the fear factor and the fight without is to engage with each other in an irreversible and interrupted dialogue that encompasses all areas of contention.”
The participants appreciated the positive tone and content of the meeting between Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi and hoped that the proposed meeting of the foreign secretaries will lead to a resumption of the bilateral dialogue, suspended for over five years now.
“This could bring about an extremely meaningful change in the atmosphere in our two countries as well as the entire region”, the statement said. The participants expressed a strong desire for both countries to “free themselves from the bitter legacy of tension and acrimony” and stressed the need for “peace with justice and equity” for both sides.
The seminar was supported by the Hans Seidel Foundation. It was organized by the Regional Peace Institute on June 14.
It was after the seminar that most of the Indian participants returned home, but Dr Vaidik and a few others stayed back in Pakistan for nearly a month.