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Parliamentary friendship

Opinion

February 1, 2019

It is a matter of great privilege that National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser has acknowledged my selfless struggle to promote regional peace and interfaith harmony by appointing me as the convener of the recently-established Pakistan-India Parliamentary Friendship Group.

The purpose of such informal groups is to strengthen the bonds of friendship, expand the scope of cooperation and foster closer relations with parliamentarians from countries that are diplomatically recognised by Pakistan. I have been given the noble task to establish cordial relations with Indian parliamentarians.

Despite the undeniable fact that the people of Pakistan and India share many socio-cultural values, both countries are considered to be rivals in the eyes of the international community. Pakistan and India also have a rich common history of successful freedom struggles against British imperialism.

However, after the demise of Quaid-e-Azam and Mahatma Gandhi soon after Independence, both countries have deviated from their real vision and engaged in blame games and the politics of confrontation. It is quite unfortunate that even after seven decades both countries are still struggling to achieve peace and prosperity. Even wars and the weapons race have brought no hope to solve bilateral conflicts. If the leadership of both countries analyse the reasons for this, they will obviously find that their hostile attitude is an actual hurdle in this regard.

There are no permanent enemies or friends in international politics. Mutual interests bring both countries closer. We must not forget that European countries, which now stand united within the EU, once fought horrific wars with each other. Similarly, both Koreas were also worst enemies. Although China considers Taiwan a rebel province, it still maintains trade relations with the state. The wise leadership understands that any victory obtained through the use of force is temporary and dialogue is the only sustainable solution to address all forms of conflicts.

According to the official website of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, India’s policy towards Pakistan focuses on three areas: (i) all issues can be resolved through dialogue; (ii) there are only two parties to this dialogue: India and Pakistan; and (iii) terror and talks cannot go together. If India truly considers terrorism a major issue, then it must be acknowledged that Pakistan is the only regional country that faced huge losses in terms of curbing terrorism. Even today, the brave armed forces are offering sacrifices to maintain peace.

Instead of closing the doors to dialogue, we must cooperate with each other in the common struggle against terrorism. Unwanted elements and non-state actors, which are present on both sides in a rather limited number, must not be empowered to sabotage the entire peace process.

Our incumbent government is in favour of establishing cordial relations with neighbouring countries. Prime Minister Imran Khan mentioned the need for peaceful relations with India in his first address to the nation. The opening of the Kartarpur Corridor by Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa showed the commitment to bring people of both countries closer. Similarly, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi emphasised the importance of dialogue to resolve disputed issues in his first press conference as foreign minister.

As the convener of the Pakistan-India Parliamentary Friendship Group, I believe that the active support of the Indian high commissioner can play a pivotal role in connecting Pakistani parliamentarians with their counterparts on the other side of the border. Therefore, I requested the Foreign Office to arrange the high commissioner’s visit to Parliament House. If the Indian high commissioner interacts with Pakistani parliamentarians, it will definitely break the ice and offer new opportunities to build trust between both countries.

India is considered to be the world’s largest democracy and the next general elections in the country are scheduled for May. Unfortunately, an anti-Pakistan narrative for political campaigns is on the rise. Therefore, I would also like to take a delegation comprising parliamentarians, members of the business community, the civil society and the media to India before the election. The delegation will visit the Indian parliament, the Indian Supreme Court, the Taj Mahal and the Ajmer Sharif Dargah, and hold meetings with the Indian prime minister, the foreign minister, the opposition leader, the speaker of the Rajya Sabha, and other prominent personalities.

If the Pakistan-India Parliamentary Friendship Group becomes part of the next Indian elections as election observers, it will help to closely monitor the entire process to constitute the 17th Lok Sabha and convey a goodwill message from the people of Pakistan. In this way, the anti-Pakistan propaganda can also be replaced with the message of peace during the election campaigns.

Through the platform of the Pakistan-India Parliamentary Friendship Group, I sincerely hope to explore opportunities to organise seminars, exchange programmes and other activities, with the active cooperation of other like-minded organisations and individuals to promote people-to-people contact. Let peace prevails in both countries.

The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani

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