Published: Express Tribune – September 8, 2012
LAHORE: Dialogue between Pakistan and India must not stop, no matter what the outcome of the ongoing talks between the two countries is, said Institute of Peace and Secular Studies (IPSS) Director Saeeda Diep on Friday.
She was addressing a press conference at the Lahore Press Club.
Diep said that only enhanced people to people contact could remove the negative perceptions Indians and Pakistanis have of each other.
Diep also read out a petition addressed to prime ministers of both the countries and that asks that the visa regime be relaxed. She said that more than 85,000 Pakistanis had signed the petition in the last eight months.
Diep said the campaign in Lahore, Multan, Pakpattan, Faisalabad and Okara had shown that an overwhelming majority wanted peace with India and supported dialogue to resolve all outstanding issues.
She said a relaxed visa regime is a “basic right” of people with families across the border, adding that it was in the interest of both the countries as well as South Asia.
Diep said she had learnt that the two governments were thinking of agreeing on a relaxed visa policy for senior citizens, businessmen and group activists. “This is a step in the right direction but it is not enough as current visa application requirements make the visa process extremely burdensome,” she said.
Dipe also announced on the occasion that the IPSS will hold Signatories of Peace Convention in Lahore on September 22, which will be attended by parliamentarians, journalists, activists and dignitaries from both Pakistan and India.
She said the IPSS would present the petition with 85,000 signatures and the convention resolution to the prime minister. “I will also try to present a copy of the petition to Indian Foreign Minister SM Krishna,” she said.
Text of the petition
We, the undersigned, being citizens of Pakistan/India, rightfully acknowledge that Pakistan and India are neighbouring nations and should exist as friendly neighbours, not as enemies.
We recognise that initiatives of peace between the two nations are essential, especially keeping in view that both countries have lived under the shadow of war for long and realise that the threat of war has undermined the potential of the region and its people, hampering initiatives for poverty alleviation and sustainable development.
In a world where coexistence, cooperation and dialogue between neighbouring nations are the norm, the pangs of mutual distrust and conflict can be minimised, we believe, through greater confidence building measures which can play a positive role in cordially resolving our long outstanding issues as well as addressing future issues.
Therefore, through this petition, we advocate easing of restrictions in Pakistan-India visa policy and desire to see concrete steps taken in this regard that can pave the way for continued peace and harmony in the region through greater trade, tourism, collaboration in education and healthcare sectors and renewed people-to-people contact.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 8th, 2012.