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 countries.
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