Senators call for backchannel talks India


Senators call for backchannel talks India ISLAMABAD: The Senate Committee of the Whole House, which had been constituted to formulate policy guidelines for the government on Pakistan-India relations with particular reference to the Kashmir issue, finalised 22 recommendations on Wednesday, including restoration of backchannel talks between the two countries.

“Keeping in view the need, efficacy and usefulness of backchannel talks between India and Pakistan, the talks should be restored. The bilateral and Kashmir-related confidence-building measures need to be restored and expanded,” said one of the recommendations approved by the committee during its in-camera meeting presided over by Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani.

The senators stressed the need for working “towards bringing about a climate in which both Pakistan and India can implement politically difficult decisions to build mutual trust and confidence, leading towards an honourable and amicable settlement of Jammu and Kashmir as well as peace and stability and the welfare of the people”.

The committee called for setting up an international fact-finding commission to investigate the Uri incident and human rights violations in India-held Kashmir.

22-point Senate guidelines on Kashmir for govt

Mr Rabbani had referred the issue to the committee, comprising all members of the house, following escalation of tension between the two countries after the latest wave of uprising in India-held Kashmir and New Delhi’s accusations about involvement of Pakistan in the Sept 18 attack on the Indian Army Brigade Headquarters in Uri.

Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar was scheduled to give a briefing to the members, but he did not attend the meeting owing to some other pressing engagements related to the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) against terrorism.

Sources told Dawn that Mr Rabbani had informed the members about the absence of the ISI chief, stating that the head of the premier intelligence agency had informed the Senate Secretariat in advance about his “other engagements”.

The members later decided to finalise their recommendations without the briefing.

However, the sources said that since the committee would continue to take up the issue even after finalisation of the recommendations, the ISI director general would be asked to brief the members in the coming days.

The house approved the recommendations which had been prepared by a 13-member drafting committee, headed by Mushahid Hussain of the PML-Q.

The recommendations will now be put before the Senate for adoption.

Besides calling for restoration of backchannel talks, the committee recommended that the two nuclear-armed neighbours “should prompt a serious caution and restraint when faced with over-provocation”.

Task force

It suggested constitution of a task force on Kashmir, comprising heads of the committees of both the houses of parliament on defence and foreign affairs and representatives of the Foreign Office, Ministry of Defence and intelligence agencies. The task force will be required to formulate a “doable and sustainable” Kashmir policy.

The senators recommended formation of a media coordination committee to prepare fact sheets and a counter-propaganda campaign against India, and to design and promote a media strategy for continually highlighting the Kashmir freedom struggle.

The government was asked to hire the services of international lobbyists and strategic communication firms to highlight the issue.

The members called for a comprehensive outreach to those segments of Indian public opinion which were opposed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s extremism and his anti-Pakistan policies.

The senators want a loud and clear message sent all across the world that Pakistan is fighting the largest inland war against terrorism and violent extremism and there is no room for non-state actors, and that “Pakistan’s soil should not be allowed to be used by violent non-state actors”.

The Senate committee urged the government to take a firm stance on the Indus Waters Treaty and expose India’s credibility if it unilaterally abrogated its international treaty obligations.

“Given the constant natures of continual emerging situations, it would be appropriate to appoint a full-time foreign minister,” one of the recommendations said.

Besides this, the senators urged the government to raise the blatant interference of India in various parts of Pakistan, especially in Balo­chistan, and terrorist financing at all international forums.

They regretted the stand taken by Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan of staying away from the planned summit in Islamabad of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation and called upon the government to adopt a proactive policy to engage with these countries.

The members also expressed their concerns over growing military ties between the United States and India, saying that this was promoting Indian hegemony in the region and was set to spark a new ‘cold war’ in South Asia.


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