Restore peace process: Indian peace delegation to Pakistan

Fresh from their visit to Pakistan, members of the Indian Peace Delegation addressed a press conference at the Indian Women’s Press Corps on Friday. A 13-member team led by veteran journalist and former diplomat Kuldip Nair had left for the neighbouring country on 22nd February.

The four-day visit was organized by South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) and included other eminent personalities like film maker Mahesh Bhatt, president of World Council of Arya Samaj Swami Agnivesh, prominent historian K.N. Panikkar, social activists Sandeep Pandey, Hanif Lakdawala and Sabnam Hashmi, former diplomat Salman Haider, Human Right Activist and Educationist Kamal Mitra Chenoy, Peace Activist Ramesh Yadav, Social Scientist Kamla Bhasin and well-known journalist Seema Mustafa.

After the Mumbai attacks, the peace process between India and Pakistan has come almost to a standstill, remarked Kuldip Nair. “We had gone in response to the visit of the Pakistani delegation to India so that the peace process between the two countries is restored at the earliest,” he said.

What came out again and again from the people of Pakistan is that they wanted peace with India. They said that they were non-state actors and should not be denied visas by the Indian Government, said the members who had gathered at 5, Windsor Place.

Swami Agnivesh pointed out that in his visits to the neighbouring country before 26/11, there could be no talks beyond Kashmir. People always said, first resolve the Kashmir issue and then talk about anything else. “After the Mumbai attacks, there is hardly any mention of Kashmir. They want to get back to composite dialogue between the two countries,” he said. “They told us that their country is a greater victim of terrorism. You support us and help.”

Asked if the response of the Pakistani government was the same as that of members of the civil society, the delegation said that they had gone as part of the civil society and met similar people there. “The ministers in the Government that we informally met also wanted restoration of dialogue and peace with India. We stressed that action by the Pakistan government on the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack should be taken to its logical conclusion.”

Security in Pakistan has deteriorated to a large extent, in the wake of recent terrorist attacks in the country. This was felt by the peace delegation too. “For the first time when we went to Lahore, we were accompanied by armed guards,” remarked Prof. Chinoy who was also part of the delegation.

The five members of the Peace Delegation who had gathered for the Press Conference recommended that people to people contact and cultural and sports exchanges between the two countries were necessary in these “difficult times”. The Indian Government had cancelled India’s cricket tour of Pakistan in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks and the series between the two countries was called off. The cancellation of the tour has put a question mark on the sporting ties between the two countries.

Dipu Shaw