Kashmir issue must be resolved bilaterally, say retired soldiers
1 December 2005
The Daily Times
Lahore: Lt Gen (r) Nasir Akhtar, president of India-Pakistan Soldiers Initiative for Peace (IPSI), Pakistan chapter - a group of retired Pakistani and Indian army officials - has ruled out third party involvement to resolve the Kashmir issue and demilitarise the Valley. The group called for giving no role to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) forces to monitor the ongoing efforts for Kashmir resolution or help resolve the issue and urged Pakistani and Indian governments to resolve disputes bilaterally. 'There is need for a South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) role in resolving regional issues instead of NATO's or other forces,' Akhtar told Daily Times at Wagah Border on Thursday. Akhtar said that NATO had no role to play in the Indo-Pak peace process, Kashmir dispute and post-earthquake scenario in Kashmir. 'We must focus on SAARC instead,' he added. IPSI Pakistan Coordinator Brig (r) Rao Abid Hamid and member Colonel (r) Tahir Hussain Kardar were also present. Akhtar called for demilitarisation of Kashmir with Pakistan and India's consent and without help from any external force. He said the two neighbours should not depend on others to resolve their issues. About proposed self-rule and sovereignty to Kashmir, Akhtar said the proposal of self-rule in Kashmir must be implemented in a couple of years. He urged Kashmiri leaders not to ask any external force for help. The IPSI Pakistan chief said they welcomed the opening of Line of Control (LoC) at various points. 'We are for opening the LoC and allowing people to move freely across it,' he said, adding, 'We hope that these points will remain open permanently.' He stressed the need for enhanced people-to-people contacts between the two countries and free movement across the border. He said that people-to-people contact would boost trade and economy of the two countries. He said that Pakistan and India should promote transit trade through Afghanistan. He said the confidence building measures (CBMs) between Pakistan and India would bring peace and development to the region and he urged Pakistan and India to open the Sialkot-Jammu and Kasur- Ferozpur borders to improve people-to-people contact. Military establishments on both sides of the border have changed their minds to resolve the Kashmir dispute, Akhtar said, adding that there were retired army officers in Pakistan and India calling for peace. He stressed the need for seeing the Hindu-Muslim relations in the subcontinent in the British era context. 'We should not focus only on Partition, we must study history to improve our relations.' He said that peace could help Pakistan and India cut their armies' size. Akhtar said the IPSI had been trying for peace in Pakistan and India for the last seven years and added that it was also taking part in the earthquake relief effort. He said that the Indian chapter of IPSI would send some trucks of relief goods to Pakistan today. An IPSI delegation, led by Major General (r) KS Bajwa, will accompany the relief goods. Rajiya Sabha member Nirmila Deshpande is included in the delegation.