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Forum urges India, Pakistan to take peace process ahead

* PIPFPD calls upon India government to reciprocate and release Pakistani fishermen in jails and boats in its custody

NEW DELHI: The Pakistan India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) has welcomed the decision of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Indian prime minister-designate Narendra Modi on Monday (today).
A statement issued by the forum says presence of Nawaz Sharif along with leaders of other SAARC countries will send a positive and strong message that only consistent dialogue processes can bring peace and prosperity in South Asia. “We hope that in the middle of hectic political activities, the SAARC leaders will be able to interact with each other and address the challenges they are faced with,” the statement read.
“We take this opportunity to urge Indian and Pakistani leadership to resume the paused composite dialogue. The release of 151 Indian prisoners from Pakistan, out of which 150 are fishermen, is an extremely significant positive step in the peace process and this is what various fishworkers and citizens groups have been working for since decades,” it said. 
The forum urged both Indian and Pakistani governments to take ahead various positive processes like these and at this point as a reciprocal measure. It called upon the Indian government to release the fishworkers belonging to Pakistan who are in Indian jails along with their boats. “Fishworkers have consistently raised demands for a ‘No Arrest Policy’, which would be a significant confidence building measure and we appeal to the government of India to take ahead the demand for a joint fishing zone and an economic co-operation agreement by both countries that would aim at shared marine resources which will benefit both governments and fisher people in both areas,” the statement said.
“These are efforts that strengthen people-to-people contacts and we believe that peace processes must pertain to issues that concern the common people of the two countries. We say all this in order to also point out that the recent expulsion of two Indian journalists from Pakistan, an act for which no reason was given, is disappointing and shocking since the journalist community has for decades been one of the strongest threads that has continued to enhance peace processes between the two countries,” it said, and added that intolerance in both countries has been on the rise and there is a need for the two governments to not just talk of peace but engage with the issues that the common people in both countries are facing. 
Issues concerning soldiers on the border belonging to either of the two countries; the effects of militarisation on people living in border areas; extensive procedures for visa and bizarre visa restrictions; the creation of borders in the middle of the sea and arresting fishermen; soldiers of both countries dying due to severe weather conditions in Siachen rather than bullets, are just some of the many issues that need to be addressed, the forum pointed out.
“This is a crucial time in both countries and it is important to understand the fact that there is a need for genuine political will and commitment to working for the people of the two countries.”

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