Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Pakistan, India must set up counterterrorism centres

The two-day strategic seminar organized under Aman Ki Asha concluded here on Wednesday with the conclusion that war is not an option for India and Pakistan.

The seminar was organized under the Aman Ki Asha initiative of the Jang Group and the Times of India for devising ways and means of reducing the acrimony that has thus far marked relations between the two countries and turn a new leaf in the ties for the mutual benefit of the people of the two countries.

The two-day seminar deliberated on a plethora of issues which promised lots of positive developments. The seminar was marked by lectures and closed sessions to discuss various issues like trade, counter-terrorism, and others. At the end of the conference, recommendations were made for starting a new chapter in the ties, which are listed below:

Conclusions and recommendations

1. War is not an option. The two sides should formulate policies, which should make war impossible.

2. Terrorism is a common enemy of the people of India and Pakistan. The governments of Pakistan and India must coordinate to combat terrorism and in this context, a joint mechanism agreed to in Havana needs to be strengthened by establishing Counter Terrorism Centres (CTC).

a) It is proposed that CTCs be established in New Delhi and Islamabad as a way to institutionalise cooperation against terrorism.

b) The mandate of CTCs would include regular communication, early warning, exchange of actionable Intelligence, monitoring of terrorist organisations, joint training in counter-terrorism and potentially joint responses/operations.

c) The CTCs would be headed by a secretary-level officer and include senior officers from all the intelligence and criminal investigation agencies.

d) There would be a dedicated hotline between the CTCs and there would be monthly meetings between the heads alternatively in Islamabad and New Delhi.

3. To promote stability and peace in the region there is a need to implement all the confidence building measures, which have already been agreed to between Islamabad and New Delhi.

4. The Pakistan and Indian governments should move ahead for the resolution of the pending issues like Sir Creek and Siachen Glacier.

5. Jammu & Kashmir remains one of the critical issues between the two countries and they should work for its early resolution, taking into account the wishes of the people of Jammu & Kashmir.

6. Back channel needs to be revived at the earliest date.

7. There is a need for more civil society-led peace initiatives, like Aman Ki Asha, which would build public opinion and strengthen the hands of the two governments to resolve all outstanding issues.

8. The Indus Water Treaty has stood the test of time for more than five decades. There is value to utilising the existing provisions of the treaty for more optimal use of the water resources of the Indus River Basin.

9. The challenges of water scarcity and environment degradation must be addressed at the regional level.

These recommendations were accepted unanimously.

10. There is a need to develop an integrated energy plan for the provision of electricity and natural gas for South Asia.

11. The two countries should provide a level playing field to one another to boost trade and economic ties. For this, Islamabad should work to give most favored nation status to India, while New Delhi should remove the non-tariff barriers that will ensure a multi-fold increase in mutually beneficial trade.

12. There is a need to take bold initiatives in order to liberalise visa regime between the two countries. Practices like police reporting and city-specific visas should be done away with.

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