‘Even extremists want peace’
* Indian peace delegation leaves Pakistan for India
By Waqar Gillani
LAHORE: Seven Indian parliamentarians on a peace mission to Pakistan returned home on Wednesday, happy with the impact they had during their stay and convinced that momentum was gathering for peace in the subcontinent.
“I think we had a fine impact here. We noticed a visible change in the behaviour of all kinds of people in Pakistan, as they now talk of peace and prosperous relations,” said Kuldip Nayar, a member of the Rajia Sabha and head of the peace delegation. “Even the people considered extremists have said they want all issues to be dealt with through dialogue, showing that peace is their priority, too.”
“We don’t want a freeze on any issues between Pakistan and India, we want to end the mistrust and suspicion of people on both sides,” Mr Nayar said at a Meet the Press programme in the Lahore Press Club.
He said there was no solution possible to the Kashmir issue until it was discussed bilaterally and peacefully. “However, the solution to this issue should never be made on the basis of religion, as it will result in another partition leaving Indian Muslims in misery.”
Mr Nayar also referred to the situation in Tibet, saying the Tibetan people were willing to live in China but autonomously, implying perhaps a similar solution could be reached with Kashmir in India.
Mr Nayar said during his stay in Pakistan he had seen in “people’s body language and faces” a desire for peace and friendship with India, adding that he had not expected even members of the Jamaat-e-Islami to say they want good relations.
The Indian MP said they planned an exchange of 100 parliamentarians each from New Delhi and Islamabad to increase people-to-people contact and witness the depth of feeling for peace in both countries. “There will be a standing committee and joint parliamentary forum that will be strengthened once we return to India by involving more members in this peace process,” he said.
Mr Nayar called for a relaxation of both countries’ visa policies. He said an office should be established at Wagah and another at Atari side to assist visitors. He said when Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was foreign minister in 1977, he had talked about ‘soft borders’.
MK Khan of the Congress Party said recent developments in South Asia, especially Mr Vajpayee’s visit to China and New Delhi’s acceptance of Tibet as part of China, showed that India now wanted good relations with all its neighbours. He condemned the arms race between India and Pakistan. Shahid Siddiqui, Abdur Rashid, Pawan Kumar Bansal and the other Indian MPs also called for peace between India and Pakistan.
After talking to the press, the delegation crossed into India through Wagah at 3.00pm. Members of the Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy were present on both sides of the border to say farewell and welcome back the delegation. The people gathered at the Indian side chanted ‘Long live Pak-India friendship’ as the MPs crossed over.